UnknownI sometimes get forlorn looking at advertisements featuring ventriloquists. It seems that many are playing “follow the follower” when it comes to picking a vent partner. I will elaborate.

I have always been a performer that took the time to have unusual or unique figures or puppets. I either dressed the puppet differently if it was a boy character, or had custom made characters that no one else was using. Even if your puppet is a stock puppet, you can make it your own by adding your own unique touches. That includes dressing he puppet differently, using hats, glasses, different wigs, or having the puppet maker / figure maker add some different touches to your character that makes it uniquely your own.

This is not anything new. Looking back through old issues of the “Grapevine News” and later “The Oracle” (newsletter for the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists), it looked like a constant duplication of Edgar Bergen’s “Charlie McCarthy”. Everyone had a “Charlie” look alike, complete with red hair and a smart aleck attitude.

I once heard a booking agent say, “It’s all “McCarthy” all over again…this is old, and has been done to death!”. Maybe that’s why we didn’t see vent in many performance situations. For a number of years we didn’t grow because we failed to break out of the mold of using cute boy figures.

Now some might say, “but my boy figure is different!!”, but is it really? To the average audience member, they can’t distinguish between them. They all look alike to them, therefore they feel our acts must also be all the same.

Who stands out today? Look at Jeff Dunham’s characters. COMPLETELY different from the norm of “more Charlie”. Dan Horn, Nina Conti, David Strassman, and many others (me included) use different characters. Isn’t it time you do something to break out of the mold, to venture into something new and exciting?

To contact Mark Wade: kidshowvent@gmail.com

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