This column isn’t for everyone, but everyone may get something out of it. I just felt this needed to be said, and it is meant as an offering of friendship. I hope those who need it, actually read it.
Ventriloquists are some of the nicest people I know.
I’ve been to magic conventions and felt out of place. Even though at the time, I was a professional magician, working full time.
The problem was, no one at the convention knew that. I didn’t hang out with other magicians. I was too busy working.
So when I went to the convention, I was a stranger. And magicians are a secretive bunch. They tend to form cliques. A small circle of friends or peers that go off to “discuss the latest techniques.”
You don’t dare go into one of those either. You’ll know right away you aren’t welcome. Sometimes even if you are brought in by another who knows you, you still are not a part of their circle.
At the time, that hurt. I was a pro. I knew as much if not more than these guys. Plus I was fairly sure I was performing more.
My ego said, “How dare they not respect me!”
“I don’t need to be here! I don’t need this. It is their loss!”
Ventriloquism on the other hand is not a secretive society.
We talk while trying not to move our lips. We need to manipulate a puppet so it remains life-like. We change our voices rapidly back and forth. We need to be funny and we have to engage the audience.
There are about 1,000 things going on and like a juggler, we don’t want to drop the ball on any of them.
But that is just practice and skill. Not a secret.
So ventriloquists for the most part, tend to get along.
That is one reason I love the International Ventriloquist ConVENTion.
Almost everyone is friendly.
(I’ll clarify that in a minute …)
The conVENTion is all about teaching and helping others. And we all learn and grow. Even the pros. That is because you are immersed in the art with like-minded people. The conversations spawn ideas and inspire us.
Ventriloquists tend to walk away with a spring in their step and excited to experiment and play.
But in every art, there are some who refuse to leave their ego at the door.
They don’t feel respected by others. They have a jealousy that rises when they see another performer’s success. They secretly wish they were the ones on stage and that people should be applauding them.
They wonder: Why aren’t they getting any respect from the community?
Do you ever feel that way?
Do you feel like other entertainers look down on you? Maybe you don’t feel like you have any friends in the business.
That is the ego my friend. It is a tricky little S.O.B.
I know, because I had to defeat my own.
The ego forms when you go onstage and listen to the laughs and relish in the applause. We are supposed to accept that from our audiences. And do so graciously.
Our minds say, that was a great show. And sometimes entertainers start to believe others who say “You are better than Jeff Dunham, or that ventriloquist who won America’s Got Talent.”
We should accept that praise and move on. Allow it to be there for when we are feeling down about something. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that in your back pocket to make you think – I’m better than this – and pull you out of the doldrums.
But some don’t move on. They don’t put that praise in their back pocket and continue to work hard.
They start to believe their own press.
They want to believe their own hype.
And that ego starts to manifest in ways you don’t expect.
Now you end up in a group of your peers.
Don’t they know who you are? How much you’ve done? How much your audiences love you?
I’m sorry ego, we don’t know. We’ve been busy doing our own things.
We aren’t trying to be rude. We just don’t know.
But you can’t tell us either.
That becomes bragging. No one likes a braggart.
So how does this situation get resolved?
You know you are good. Do NOT try and impress others with your knowledge. Don’t show us your fancy puppet or figure and talk about how great it is. Do not talk about your shows and how you always get standing ovations.
We’ve seen it. We’ve done it. We’ve got knowledge and puppets and standing ovations too.
We are peers, remember?
If you want respect from peers, be human.
Offer to pitch in and help with something. If you meet someone that you’ve seen online, tell them something you like about them.
Drop the ego.
Talk about them. Learn about what they are doing. It will come around to you soon enough.
Don’t offer advice at the start.
That is not a good way to start a relationship. Although if you see someone looking for ideas you might ask if they’d like a suggestion.
And when you see someone being successful, congratulate them. You saw what they are doing. They may not be up to date with your career.
So initiate that contact and focus on others.
Don’t let your ego expect them to praise you.
My friend Bob Rumba asked me once “Where did you come from?”
He explained that I seemed to suddenly show up and now I’m everywhere. How did I achieve so much in such a short amount of time?
I tried my best to help others.
When they needed a sound person at the conVENTion, I jumped in. I’d arrive early to help load in equipment and set up. During meals I would be in the showroom helping lecturers and acts tech their sets.
On Saturday nights, when everyone else was having fun and saying their goodbyes, I would help pack down the showroom and load out the equipment.
I worked my butt off.
I wanted to help make the conVENTion a success. To do that, I had to help the people on stage look and sound good. It wasn’t about me, it was about them and the attendees.
My online course has been a success thanks to so many of you. I only created it, it takes your love of the art to make it work.
I had worked so hard at becoming a vent, it was my hope the course would shorten your learning curve. It was a way to help others.
When Mark Wade asked me to join Maher Studios, I helped form the online direction.
That was about saving the history of Maher and reopening a legendary business that had closed years earlier.
When we started the I.V.S. it was because people had been asking for an association. We wanted you to have what you wanted.
And I am constantly stepping up and trying to top what has come before because I want it to be a success for our members.
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When Mark Wade needed more help with the conVENTion, I was there to assist. I now handle the VHC website and create many of the graphics Mark releases to promote the conVENTion.
He talks to me on the phone almost daily, running ideas by me for my opinion. Our goals match – we want the conVENTion to be a success.
Through it all, my visibility has risen within the community.
But none of it is about me. It is about what I try to do to help others.
You can’t simply wish and have things happen. You have to work for it.
So let’s get back to the ego.
Years ago as a professional magician, it really bothered me that other magicians didn’t respect me.
People would tell me – they don’t hire you. Don’t worry about them. It shouldn’t bother you.
But it did.
I’m going to tell you the same thing.
And my guess is, if the problem affects you, it won’t help you either.
But there are some of you out there, who know I am talking directly to them.
I respect you. I see what you are doing. I’ve been there and understand what you are going through. But shows and fame aren’t going to change anything.
If you want to be respected by your peers, put your ego aside.
Don’t tell them how great you are.
Show them how much you can help them and others will see the light.
Be stars my friends!