Funniest Convention Open Mic Act
Cecil Carpenter's first act at Vent Haven's Convention was the funniest ventriloquist act (per se) I've ever seen. Why? The nervousness of this humble man came through and he really got voices, lines and timing confused with his figure. How do I know this for a fact? Cecil called me into his room that night and wanted to talk to me. He wanted pointers from me to get his act better. I replied, "What pointers my friend?.......you have the funniest act I've ever seen!"
I really advised him to leave the act as is, as it was a specialty act in the truest sense now. He was the "Carl Ballantine (comedy magician) act of ventriloquism." We had the pros.....now we had the natural belly laugh maker. We were set as this was the first truly comedy ventriloquist act I've seen.
One has to remember that Cecil slept in his car at his first convention because he had no money for a room. He was a humble man.....his heart was pure and his act hilarious. What more could one ask for?
*Cecil Carpenter and Alex pictured above at the 1981 Vent Haven ConVENTion.
The first time I saw Cecil Carpenter's act was at the 1979 ConVENTion. It was during the Senior Contest and we had sat through a number of very good acts, but nothing could prepare us for what was about to transpire. "Cecil and Alex" took the stage and proceeded to bring the audience literally to tears. We laughed 'til it hurt! In fact, I cannot remember when I laughed so hard at another vent act. Here was this gentle giant stammering clumsily through a routine that should have gone smoothly. I remember looking at Alan Semok and asking, "Is this for real?"
Cecil would goof a line, then Alex would goof a line. Then Cecil would say, "Well, that's just fine Alex." And we would all double over with laughter. His version of the Cinderella fairy tale was also a classic in comedy done in the Archie Campbell (of Hee Haw fame) style of Rindercella and she slopped her dripper. He also did the timeless "Who's On First?" like it's never been done. For this performance, and subsequent convention performances, he received a standing ovation. The following year the Cecil Award was born.
I asked him how he came upon his deliberate style goofing up on stage and he told me. "Well...when I first started to perform, I tried to do it straight. But I just wasn't funny. Then one night, I messed up my routine and it got a laugh, so I figured I might as well go for the laughs any way I could get 'em, so I just kept messin' up."
*Pictured above right Alan Semok, Cecil Carpenter, and John Arvites at the 1982 ConVENTion.
"Who's On First?" was one of Cecil Carpenter's most requested routines. During every presentation chaos overcame Cecil when his accomplice, Alex became confused. Cecil attempted numerous times, without success, to rerail their routine.
Cecil: Then what happened, Alex?
Cecil: That's just great, Alex. (pause) Wasn't that my line?
Alex: It doesn't really matter, does it?
Or Alex forgot to open his mouth. They forgot their cues and left the other one waiting. Tension grew as they plowed through their rupturing routine. Then, wave-after-wave of laughs and howls cleansed the audience with release and relief. Pros and amateurs laughed until they cried. The truth was they had watched a master comedian tailor a well-thoughtout routine to best fit the audience. Everything was planned. Cecil had discovered on his own that audiences respond to comedy, not technique. He wanted laughs!
*Pictured above left Cecil Carpenter and Alex from the 1984 ConVENTion.
*Pete Michaels' and David Erskine's excerpts reprinted with permission from Dialogue magazine Volume 8, Number 4 (Fall 1989 Issue).
Senior Showcase 2005
An important element of the Vent Haven ConVENTion is giving the ConVENTioneers a chance to perform and get valuable feedback from their peers and a panel of professional vents. Each performer receives a videotape of the performance to view later and analyze, and critique sheets from three pro vents with comments and suggestions from the ones who know best. This is a great chance to help improve each performance. Below are the participants in the 2005 Vent Haven Senior Open Mic session. Way to go!
Nancy Ambrose, Framingham, MA
Let's see.......what to say....I work full time with my husband who is a veterinarian. But my passion has always been puppets and ventriloquism. When I was a kid I always played with puppets and entertained kids that I babysat for with puppets. When I went to college for education, I did programs educating children in different areas, and I always used a vent figure or a puppet. So it's always been a hobby. When I got my Master's Degree as a Child Life Specialist and worked in pediatric wards, I used puppets all the time to help kids understand their illness. Now that I work for my husband, I volunteer three days a week at a hospital oncology ward entertaining in small groups or one on one, or doing educational play for a child, using vent figures or soft puppets. I've also gone into classrooms to help the child who is re-entering the school after being diagnosed with cancer, to help the class understand what the child has gone through and how to treat the child. Many of the kids are quiet when first diagnosed but really come out of their shell with puppets (especially with Axtells' Turtle!!). I also try to buy small puppets with mouth movement to give to the kids so they can talk back to my puppets if they don't feel like talking!. It's very rewarding. The parents always thank me and ask me to come back. I get to know the kids really well and get to know which puppet is their favorite. Even the doctors and nurses have their own favorite puppets!
Lari Henley, Marietta, GA
Lou Zocchi, Biloxi, MS
Ed Casey, Westminster, CO
Ed writes, "Eye yam a graduate of the Maher Home Course of Ventriloquism. I make use of my skills on a daily basis. I developed a safety show designed for younger elementary school students which debuted in Fall 2000. I have attended and performed at the Vent Haven Ventriloquist Convention annually since 1994. I am a participating member of ENTERTAINERS UNLIMITED (an assembly of clowns, magicians, etc.) who specialize in bringing any object to life. I perform at elementary schools, libraries, and walkarounds."
David Crone, Columbus, OH
I've been performing magic and vent since 1972. A few years ago I returned to vent after taking some time off from active performing (been focused on raising my kids and working too many hours in my day job). My focus has been on the regional show with emphasis on civic organizations and churches. In my act I do a mix of ventriloquism with parlor magic and close-up with the occasional large-scale illusion if the venue warrants it. My goal is to provide light, fun entertainment.
Donald Woodford, Valrico, FL
Growing up in the 50's and 60's I was thrilled by the likes of Paul Winchell and Shari Lewis. In the 70's-90's along came Jeff Dunham, Ronn Lucas, and David Strassman to further entertain and thrill me. During all this time I though you had to have that special talent to be able to perform as they and others do. In 2000, I saw a friend do a short routine at a social gathering (I didn't know he performed). It got me started on this wonderful ride. Books, videos, websites, and my fellow vents gave me the instructional training and encouragement I needed. It took me a year and a half to feel comfortable performing before a real social gathering. With every performance I continue to enhance my skills. It was a thrill for my wife and I to attend our first Vent Haven Convention (it will be an annual trek). I couldn't ask for a better reception or camaraderie. I truly felt welcome.
Luke Hummel, Greer, SC
I started in college in 1978. I was part of an evangelistic team one member of whom was a vent. Over the course of the next year starting with a block of white pine wood, I built my first figure, Hiram, who is now 28 years old. He no longer performs, but is a chancellor of sorts allowing his accumulated wisdom to flow down to those side kicks who follow in his stead, i.e. Gilbert, Wilson, Aristotle, and (coming soon to a theater near you) Thorton. I have done, and/or do, Christian School Chapels, Church programs, banquets, parties, Retirement Homes, and week long Vacation Bible Schools. I've been in Haiti twice and in Mexico doing shows in orphanages and hope to be in Brazil in November or early next year in an orphanage as well as in a local public school. I have a Child Evangelism After School Program (150 plus kids) coming up in April, have recently been asked to perform throughout the day at an annual Children's Festival held here locally in May, and will be in Gettysburg, PA for a 50th Wedding Anniversary in July prior to a Church in Baltimore, Ohio on the way to Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky for this years Vent Haven ConVENTion. I am starting a non-profit organization called, 'Dummies' n Dialogue Productions, the goal of which is to perform within public school systems doing programs on peer pressure, drug abuse, gangs, and other such social issues. I hope to have a website up and running shortly. Other than that, I have very little to say.
Tom Wozniak, Kenosha, WI
I really started as an amateur magician as a kid in the 50's. I grew up on Paul Winchell and Shari Lewis and around the age of 8, I got my first Jerry Mahoney figure. I'd take him to school and do little routines and also had some hand puppets I'd take to school and perform with. In my teens and early 20's I was just doing a few magic shows a year like Christmas parties or scouting dinners. During this time I got two Craig Lovik figures and incorporated them into my act. Obviously, performing is just a small part of my magic/vent hobby. Mostly I enjoy going to shows and conventions and watching and taping TV specials. I loved Edgar and Charlie and a few years ago got my Charlie figure from Tim Selberg. I made up my mind that I would attempt a Bergen routine on open mike in front of the toughest audience possible and I guess I pulled it off. This July will be my 5th vent convention and I look forward to it. See you all there!
Virginia Petersen, Marietta, GA
I started learning ventriloquism in the summer of 2001 after attending I-Fest. I perform with the Georgia Classic Club, a group of women ages 60-100. We perform two to three times a week at luncheons, assisted living homes, senior centers, and churches. My first puppets were the soft type puppets. My first hard figure, Gracie, was made by Tim Cowles. Gracie is a 32" red-haired girl who loves to shop at K-Mart and Wal-Mart. I also adopted a thirty-year-old Lovik hard figure, Cory. Let's not forget my Axtell puppets, always a favorite with everyone.
It was difficult to get in touch with everyone to collect biographical information; however, if yours is missing and you would like it added, I would be happy to do so at anytime. Contact Annie Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First Convention Memories
by David Crone
first convention was over 10 years ago. The most profound memory I
have is meeting Jimmy Nelson. Like many others, I learned this crazy
thing from a record and Danny O'Day figure my parents purchased through
the JC Penney catalog 30+ years ago. It was an honor to meet Jimmy
and talk with him. I was overwhelmed by what a nice guy he is.
I don't know what I was expecting, maybe more of a prima-donna or
Sam Caron, Sierra Vista, AZ
I started vent at age six when my aunt gave me a Jerry Mahoney puppet, and I've been venting on and off ever since. Besides being a ventriloquist, I am a child psychologist. I use ventriloquism, magic and balloon sculpting to help me work with children.
by Al Stevens
My first VH Convention was in 1999. I had been away
Now, ventriloquism is a major part of my work as a jazz musician and
Pictures That Talk
Carol Greene and Reginald Rabbit
Carol has used her puppets in a variety of ways: education, stage shows, church, walk-arounds, and many community events. She aspires to be different, and she tries to create unusual acts. Carol composes much of the music that her characters sing, and she plays the glockenspiel with her left hand while manipulating a figure with the right. She performs most often for adult audiences, yet her material is suitable for families. In 2004, she spent a month in Japan touring with Ryoko Utsunomiya as official ambassador of good will from the Santa Cruz Mountain community. She finds performing in other countries exhilarating!
Val Hilliker and Pedro
Her puppets speak the language of the
Virtues TM. and accentuate the positive to eliminate the negative.
Her puppets speak the language of the Virtues TM. and accentuate the positive to eliminate the negative.
Through the awesome art of Ventriloquism
she is engaging audiences throughout North America,
Through the awesome art of Ventriloquism she is engaging audiences throughout North America,
with her zany style.
with her zany style.
Val is a graduate of several comedy and acting workshops and classes including: the Cheers Project, Judy Carter's Stand-up Comedy Workshop, SCTV comedian/actor Joe Flaherty's Improvisation Workshop, Therapeutic Puppetry and Ventriloquism. She is a licensed World Laughter Leader.
Spellbound students laugh, listen and learn Val's tricks to empowerment called the Chill skills through two programs, Sticks and Stones and Success. This is just way too much fun for Val who has been a ventriloquist for 30 years.
Copyright 2007 Vent
Haven ConVENTion, Inc.
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