Sunday, December 18, 2011

Maher Studios Workshop Pro Figures - 30 Years Ago

I received my first set of Maher Studios Workshop figure catalogs around 1979. At the time, CJ (Craig) Lovik was the Director and creator of the professional figures offered by Maher Studios. His workshop was in California. I can recall spending hours looking over these catalogs and reading the descriptions of each dummy.

I thought you might like to see the catalogs and the available characters at that time...both the "composition" and basswood offerings.

Both complete catalogs are shown here...and check out the price list at the end! Wow!

I purchased an "Archie" figure and still have one to this day.

And NO, Maher Workshop is no longer in business. Don't call the number!

You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Making Your Puppet Look Alive - Part 1

I'd like to cover some tips on puppet manipulation.

"Manipulation" is making the puppet, figure, dummy(same thing) look alive.

This is harder than itseems. Especially for new ventriloquists. It takes a fair amount of practice to be able to "think" for at least 2 characters at same time - you and your puppet. It is very easy to forget to keep the figure "alive" when you are saying your lines.

The biggest mistake vents make is that while they are speaking, the dummy sits unmoving. It then comes to life when he says his lines and then is still again when the vent speaks. You do NOT want this to be you. You need to keep your puppet "alive" at all times! You want to be able to work the figure almost without thinking about it.

If you drive, you probably had a hard time remembering how to watch the road, steer, work the gas pedal and the brake, use the turn signals, etc...all at the same time, when you were first learning. However, after a short while you were able to do all of this, plus talk on your cell phone (not recommended), eat a sandwich and drive without even thinking about it.

Again, probably not a great idea, but you subconsciously are now able to perform all of these driving tasks as a result of practice.

That's the same for ventriloquism. You need to practice puppet manipulation until it becomes second nature to you.

Here are a few specific tips to help you with yourpuppet manipulation:

1.) Keep your figure moving at all times, especially when you are saying your lines. Now don't go overboard and have your puppet whipping his head around or making really big movements. But, have him look gently at you and the audience as you are talking. Do NOT have the figure sit still like a dead piece of wood. He needs to have some degree of life at all times.

2.) Use a video camera and record yourself practicing. Watch the video and you will probably be shocked at how often your puppet is "lifeless." Use the video camera to help you see how you can improve the manipulation of your puppet.

3.) To make your figure laugh, open his mouth and then"bob" the head up and down while you use your vent voice to make him laugh.

4.) Watch other ventriloquists on video, TV, etc...and turn the sound down on your TV as you watch. Pay attention to just the manipulation of the puppet(s) without sound. Is the vent able to make the puppet look alive, even with no sound?

5.) Practice. Practice. Practice!

More on this on my next blog post.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Vent Haven ConVENTion 2011 Recap and Photos!

Annie Roberts has posted a great write-up of the 2011 Vent Haven ConVENTion and posted a lot of terrific photos.

You can read and see everything here:

This was the 35th convention and had the biggest turnout ever - over 500 attendees. And I know the main reason for the huge crowd was because of it being a celebration of legendary ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson's 70 years in show business.

It was the best convention I've been to over the course of 30 years that I've attended.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Dummy Shoppe - Puppets by JET

At the Vent Haven international ventriloquist convention in July it was my great pleasure to have my dealer's table right next to The Dummy Shoppe - Puppets by JET table.

The following comments are not any type of paid testimonial. These are opinions I formed after spending 4 days working alongside JET and getting a really good idea of how they conduct their business.

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I got to spend a lot of time looking at the wonderful assortment of great characters and to chat with the owners.

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The Dummy Shoppe - Puppets by JET is sort of the "new kid on the block" when it comes to professional (and I do mean professional) soft sculpted puppets. But they are fast becoming a force in the world of puppet makers.

Many of the professional vents at the convention spent a lot of time at the Dummy Shoppe table trying out the selection.

Each made-by-hand puppet is custom and no two are alike. If a performer purchases a puppet, the pattern for that puppet (if purchased directly from The Dummy Shoppe) gets filed away so if a duplicate puppet is required by the original purchaser, one can be made. But identical copies of the puppet are not made and offered to any new purchasers. For the modest price paid (for a professional puppet), that is a really great benefit.

While JET does offer an ever changing inventory of puppets which have already been made and are available from their website:

they also love to work one-on-one with clients to create unique customized characters.

Part of The Dummy Shoppe's mission statement reads:

"We want each of our friends to have unique puppets that set them apart from all other vents, so that when they perform, the audience knows ahead of time that they are in for a special entertaining treat. We want every puppet we create to be constructed in such a way that their quality alone sets them apart from all other puppets in the market."

And again, I can attest to the quality of these puppets.

In my opinion (and I've been a ventriloquist and around puppets for over 40 years), JET's puppets are in the same league as the amazing soft sculpted puppet makers Verna Finley and Mary Ann Taylor. (and I love Verna and MAT puppets).

I handled many of the puppets while at the convention and immediately noticed the high quality craftsmanship in each one. The faces have a lot of detail and the puppets are very roomy and comfortable to operate. Many of you know I'm a pretty big guy at 6' 9" and my hand fit easily in all of the puppets I tried out.

I have always been a traditional "hard figure" user, but I really was interested in a couple of these really nice characters.

So, I ended up just having to purchase this fantastic "Professor" puppet. Doesn't that face make you laugh just looking at it?

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I have an idea in mind for the personality of this puppet that was easy to come up with just based on it's look. That rarely happens so effortlessly.

Please visit The Dummy Shoppe website - even if you're not in the market right now for a new puppet. You'll have a LOT of fun just looking at all of the photos on the website.

If you are looking for a truly professional, unique character soft puppet, consider The Dummy Shoppe. They not only make great puppets at great prices, but they are ethical, honest and deliver when they say they will.

I highly recommend The Dummy Shoppe - Puppets by JET.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Brand New Book from Pro Al Stevens!

My good friend Al Stevens has just released a great new book on the subject of ventriloquism.

It's called "Ventriloquism: Art, Craft and Profession." It's nearly 300 pages packed with everything you could think of in becoming not just a great ventriloquist, but also a first rate performer.

Al has been a working pro for over 50 years and covers topics never before seen in any other book on the subject.

I consider this one of the finest books on the art of vent and the "business" of show business I've ever read.

You can read a complete review on my website HERE.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Great Advice from Professional Vent Ken Groves


A Note to the Client:

When you hire an entertainer, your image and maybe your job is on the line. I want to make you look good. These five things will make you look great!

1. Hire Professional Entertainers
Professional entertainers use contracts to protect you and them. Professional entertainment increases your attendance. Increased attendance pays for the professional entertainer. Entertainment should be the "icing on the cake" of a great event.

2. Entertainer is not a Babysitter
Nothing will ruin your event quicker than having the kids come down front so they can see. Please keep families together and the show will be a success. Set the room up correctly and everyone will be able to see the entertainer.

3. Set up the Room for a Great Show
You must take control of this and have the room set up correctly. The hotel/convention center will have no clue how to do this.

The audience must be able to SEE the entertainer. Never put tables behind an entertainer. Never leave an open dance floor or buffet tables in front of an entertainer. If you have to have a dance floor in front of an entertainer, please put chairs on it and then remove the chairs for dancing.

The audience must be able to see the entertainer. The audience must be able to hear the entertainer. This is very different from a band.

4. Introduce the Show
It's your job to get the audience's attention and get them all to focus on the show area.

DO NOT give the audience a restroom break before the show, many people will leave, making you look bad. All you have to do is get their attention. WAIT for the chatter to subside ... thank them for coming out to the event. Now just read the introduction provided by the entertainer. Then sit back and enjoy the show!

5. Know What the Entertainer Needs
Have a spot for the entertainer to park so they are not schlepping equipment from two blocks away in the rain. Make sure of: time, date, day, location and directions, show length, dollar amount, type of payment. Be crystal clear on all of this so there is no reason for panic on your big day.

Have a place for the entertainer to change in and get ready for show -- not a public restroom. The entertainment can make you money. People only remember the food and the entertainment. Have a great show!

I send this out to the people I contract with for a show. It really helps most of the time. Feel free to improve on it. **********************************************************************************
This information is also included in Ken's great teaching course: "Breaking Down the Brick Walls of Show Biz" program. You can find out all of the details here:

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Wisdom from Bill DeMar - Breath Control and Ventriloquism

Here is some great advice from my good friend and professional ventriloquist for over 60 years, Bill DeMar:

As a working ventriloquist, you should have a large lung capacity. A vent should be able to
give a lot of power to the figures voice. A vent should NOT have to take a breath in the middle of a word OR sentence.

Find out what your lung capacity is right now. You can do that simply by timing how long you can hold your breath.

Then, do a physically demanding exercise, like deep knee bends, followed by pushups, for example. Do these exercises back to back until you’re panting and out of breath. Then rest. Then do it again.

After a few weeks, test how long you can hold your breath again. I'll bet it will be longer than the first time you tried. And the longer you can hold your breath, the more lung capacity you have.

As I said last year or the year before....comedy is not whispered or mumbled, it's presented loud and bold.

Watch and listen to any cartoon show or sitcom and you can't help but notice that it's LOUD, CLEAR AND DISTINCT. PUNCH those punch lines, don't let them fade and fall on the floor like so many people that I hear.

I'll bet you Terry Fator can hold his breath longer than you can and can hold a note longer then you can and make his figure talk louder than yours.

How long can YOU hold your breath? 20 seconds? 35 seconds? 60 seconds? More?

I'm so out of shape it's not funny. I haven't done anything, and I mean anything for several years. I can only hold for 70 seconds. (on the first try)

When I was younger and did vent on a regular basis, I had the capacity to swim under water for long periods of time.