The other day I was surfing around the Internet and came across an article published by the New York Times on January 2, 2000.
It’s title: The Lives They Lived: Questions for Tim Robbins; Body Double
The reporter asked some questions that I found interesting.
“Your new film includes an aging ventriloquist. What accounted for the heyday of that now-overlooked genre? Did ventriloquism ever have a heyday?”
During the 1980’s and 90’s, there was not a lot of visibility for ventriloquists. Jay Johnson had starred on Soap in the late 70’s, but that show ended in 1981.
Willie Tyler had done some television guest appearances and commercials.
Ronn Lucas had done some guest spots on Night Court and L.A. Law in the late 80’s and 90’s. Most of his television exposure was in the U.K. though.
Ventriloquists were guest spots at best.
I can understand how she considered it an over-looked genre in the year 2,000.
But yes, ventriloquism had a heyday! Edgar Bergen was one of the biggest stars of his time. Paul Winchell was a genius at bringing ventriloquism to life through the medium of television.
We had Jimmy Nelson, Shari Lewis and Senor Wences.
All of them were household names and many in the public remember them to this day.
Tim Robbins’ answer accredited it to the puppet having a high disregard toward the ventriloquist. A mischievousness directed toward the vent.
I believe it was more than that.
The characters created by the great vents had amazing depth. It was more than just a bunch of jokes. It was the history between the two.
This led to the reporter’s next question:
“Why don’t ventriloquists seem that funny anymore? Is it because they seem dated?”
Tim’s answer was:
It’s that relationship between the dummy and the ventriloquist that I think very few people have gotten to the core of. Personally I’ve seen maybe two funny ventriloquists.
Here Tim redeemed himself for the first answer. He acknowledge the relationship. He was also aware that many vents of the time hadn’t gotten to the core of that relationship.
During this period, ventriloquism was popular, just rarely seen on television. It was a hobby or a side line for most.
Hobbyists relied on dialog books rather than try to write their own material. It became a time of hack jokes and no real characters.
Mark Wade & Ken Groves tried to combat that image by developing the Vent Haven ConVENTion into an educational event. Over the years they have done an amazing job. I am honored to be a part of Mark’s team.
Following a conVENTion, you will hear vents talk about how inspired they were. They mention how much they learned. They leave Kentucky with the momentum and knowledge to improve their talents.
And it has worked.
Over the last decade vents have improved.
Jeff Dunham, who always takes the time to lecture and inspire vents at the conVENTion, has achieved gobal fame.
Darcy Lynne has inspired a whole new generation of children.
There are as many famous ventriloquists now as there were at any time in our history.
And ventriloquism is respected.
Ventriloquists have upped their game. We are no longer considered dated. And we all owe it to each other to continue to improve.
Where can you improve?
Think about it and take some steps toward a better you.
One way to improve is to attend the Vent Haven International Ventriloquist ConVENTion. Are you going?
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