Competition or Not for Ventriloquists

climb the ladder competition


I have been keeping up with the thread on Worldvents concerning having competition at the ConVENTion. I did not respond on Worldvents but I certainly have my opinion. I believe that competition has a good place in all sectors of show business.

I feel that those that sign up for a competition feel they have what it takes to do a good job with their craft and want to try and gain the recognition for their efforts. Many don’t think this is a fair practice because all that sign up are not good enough to compete but if the individual feels he or she is why should anyone say no. It certainly makes you try harder.

I have a son, Jason, who I have mentioned before is a pro close up magician and he currently works in 4 different restaurants doing table magic. He was always rather gifted and he entered competitions here in New England for close up magic. He entered the New England Close Up competition 3 years in a row.

The first year at age 13 he placed 4th against all adults. The next year he placed 3rd against all adults and then the next year, at age 15 he won the competition, against all adult performers. He was the youngest to ever win the close up competition. Was it wrong to have him compete? I don’t think so because he spent many many months honing his routines and finally took the top prize.

Jason did go on to compete in other magic conventions but unfortunately not all competitions and judges are fair. In Florida at a SAM convention he did a flawless routine but was given second place even though the winner had made a couple errors in his routine. The winner was from the hosting chapter so there was bias. Jason was paid a great praise by Bill Malone, one of the world’s finest close up magicians, saying to Jason that his routine was killer and he should have won. That praise by another pro was enough for Jason.

I think if a competition was to be re instituted at ConVENTion and rules, time limits and numbers that compete were laid down and stuck to, it would be a good thing. Those that just want to do open mike can do that but those that have that competitive desire would still be able to see who is best.

These are just some thoughts of a collector that loves the art of ventriloquism.

What are your thoughts???



Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. He created the Ventriloquist Central Collection. It now has over 100 ventriloquist figures and over 50 of them are Frank Marshall figures. Because of his love for the art of ventriloquism, Mr. Willinger created the website Ventriloquist Central. For more information about the website, go to:

Copyright 2011 by Dan Willinger

NOTE: You may use this blog article provided you run it with the bio box intact. Please email a copy of your publication with the blog article in it to:

This entry was posted in ConVENTion, Magic, Ventriloquism/Ventriloquist, Ventriloquist Central and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Competition or Not for Ventriloquists

  1. Bill Smith says:

    I myself would probably never enter, but i’ve wondered why they stopped doing the competitions myself. They were fun to watch, & most contestants didn’t seem to have an ego problem. & i agree that it makes a performer hone material more, as you said, like at the magic conventions {By the way Dan, i LOVE Bill Malone!!!}. It would also pick up some of the dead time when there’s no workshops, etc. going on. I’ve also wondered why they named the open mike after Cecil Carpenter after he passed, only to stop using his name on it a few years later. Just some thoughts from another who loves this art, even though “non-practicing” at this time. Happy venting

  2. Competition is a good thing. As makers we are judged on EVERY charactor we put out. Some of the judgment is subjective and can be chalked up to the fact that some like chocolate and some like vanilla, while some is brutally honest, but in every case it is good because if forces us to stay on the top of our toes to try and always put out the best we can do and then improve on that. To get content is to begin the downward slide.

  3. David Thrasher says:

    Competition isn’t a bad thing if you have developed skills enough to compete. It can push you past where you’ve become comfortable and make you do things you didn’t know you had in you. However if you are just starting out it is possible that it can kill your desire before you’ve had a chance to see what you can do.

    An open mic session is a great idea for the convention for those who just want to perform. A competition wouldn’t be a bad idea for those who want to push themselves harder.

  4. LeeDean says:

    I think competition is a good thing. Look at Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio congressman, an accomplished ventriloquist and too bad he does not have a Marshall figure because if he had one he would compete to be a winner.

  5. Philip Grecian says:

    I think it’s a good idea, particularly with more than one award. I don’t mean “everybody gets a ribbon.” I mean…well, for instance, Bergen would have lost “lip control,” but won on “characterization.” Wences would have lost on “clarity” but won on “creativity of use.”
    So maybe there’s an award for the written material, one for lip control, one for characterization, one for physical handling (keeping it alive) and one for overall performance. Maybe the judging panel is more than three (after all, there are more than three people on the Supreme Court), in order to dilute whatever politics (or blame!) there may be. Maybe the award is an actual trophy (For films: Oscar. For television: Emmy. For music: Grammy. For vent: ??) instead of just a certificate. Adds prestige. Just talking off the top of my head here. And you will notice that, as I was talking, my lips didn’t move a bit.

  6. Keith Suranna says:

    Generally speaking, I do not think having a competition at a vent convention is a bad thing, if it is focused on helping and encouraging the performers to develop, learn, and improve. I was in the junior competition at Vent Haven in 1983. I was so excited and I prepared and practiced all year. I ended up coming in 2nd, and I was pleased to have placed. What was even more exciting was that after my performance, I received valuable feedback from the judges, Jeff Dunham, Alan Semok (I think), and some other pros. This was an amazing experience for me as a young vent, and I still remember some of the advice the judges gave me. I also remember Arty Frieda telling me afterward that he enjoyed my performance. This all meant a lot to a young vent.

    So, as long as the competition is focused on helping vents to become better by offering helpful advice, and not making them feel they are being brutally judged, I think competition would be a good thing. Hell, I’d probably enter again (alas, not at the junior level anymore)!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *