I found this email to me to be most interesting and thought I would share it with all of my readers. The author asked to remain anonymous but was a student of The Great Lester.
“Dan, you are dedicated to art of ventriloquism as shown by your Marshall collection, and interest in his influences, one of whom was Great Lester and another W.S. Berger, who like yourself was dedicated to the art as a fine art.
I notice that Gepetto’s Workshop is making a clone of Bob Albano and of Dan Willinger, it should be interesting to see the finished products. I further read that Steve Barry, of Gepetto’s workshop, was on Paul Winchell’s show and that Paul Winchell taught clench teeth. After reading this it brought back some of my own memories and I thought I would share these with you.
In 1955 , Paul Winchell’s book Ventriloquism for Fun and Profit came out, and I had copy, and learned to clench teeth in my practicing of ventriloquism. I attended the 1955 IBV convention in Pittsburgh and quickly learned from The Great Lester that this was not acceptable and not the Lester method. Edgar Bergen as student of Lester did it right but failed to lock the jaw for still lip and jaw. Lester taught to pull the jaw down and back for taught jaw muscles, thus by freezing the jaw also froze the lips. This method allows you to still use a smile to non-smile motion which did not constitute moving lips so long as lips did not come together.
Now 50 years later I think it is a good time to stress the Great Lester’s method for still lip and jaw to make sure young vents starting out do it right and not as teeth clenchers.”
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Re: Lip control, Winch vs Lester
No one technique is the only right way. There are many approaches to lip control. Which one works best for a particular ventriloquist depends on several variables. Our faces are not alike. Our teeth, tongues, lips, jaw muscles, etc., are unique.
I encourage aspiring ventriloquists to learn about and try all the various ways that lip control is taught, find the one that works best, and not prematurely lock in on one specific technique just because it works well for someone else, irrespective of that person’s fame or technical prowess.
Winch’s lip control was as good as it gets. It would be foolish to ignore his teachings.
When I was a younster, I originally learned Paul Winchell’s technique, which served me very well for decades. The “gentle clench” (also well used by Shari Lewis, btw). It “fit” my mouth.
Then I got dentures!
Suddenly, trying to use the “gentle clench” with a hockey puck filling my mouth was a ridiculously impossible endeavor.
So I spent time relearning lip and jaw control via Lester’s “jaw locking” technique, with excellent results.
Thus, my experience is that the “right” technique is the one that “fits” your individual mouth’s shape (including interior space).