This page is devoted to
ventriloquism for teens and under! From learning the basics to buying a
puppet to nailing that performance, this page will tell you how.
I Want to
Learn Ventriloquism! How Do I Get Started?
Ventriloquism is an amazing art that anyone can learn
how to do. All it takes is time and practice. Learning vent (short
for ventriloquism) is not quite like learning to play the piano, although
both take a lot of time and practice. There are ventriloquists all
over the world, but probably not down the street from your house.
You can't just walk a couple of blocks and take lessons from a
professional vent. So the best way
to learn the basic skill of talking without moving your lips is through a
home study course. With the use of email and the internet, you can get
help and advice from professionals who are all across
Here are some links to some different resources and
home study courses that will help you get started:
Expressions offers free
ventriloquism lessons online. This is a good
place to get started before you delve into a more in-depth course of
*The Dummy Works offers the Maher
Home Study Course. This has been a tried and true way to learn
ventriloquism. Many of today's ventriloquists got their start on
*Lee Cornell offers
101. This a video course teaching the basics of ventriloquism.
You can also get Ventriloquism 101 plus the Maher Home Study Course
*Pete Michaels offers the first Home-Study
Course on Video. It's step-by-step instructions on a high
The best place to learn is with other
ventriloquists. Plan to attend the largest ventriloquist gathering in
the world...the Vent Haven ConVENTion in Ft. Mitchell, KY July
16-19, 2008. Spend four jam-packed days with over 400 ventriloquists, from
beginners to pros, kids to adults.
New this year is the
Vent University at the ConVENTion just for kids 16 years and
under. Two workshop sessions will focus on topics like vent
basics, stage techniques, writing scripts, finding performances, and
developing characters. Each session will be taught be three
professional ventriloquists. Plus young vents will get a chance to
do some brief performing for their peers. This will be a great
opportunity to spend one on one time with the Pros!
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Buying a Puppet
Ventriloquism sounds cool and unique. You're
ready to dive in and want to get a puppet or figure to get started.
Check out some of these places that sell figures just right for someone
who is just beginning.
Dummy Works offers a page of lowcost puppets ranging in price
from $19.95 to $39.95. These are inexpensive starter figures perfect
in size and weight for a junior performer.
Expressions is often known for its latex bird puppets but they offer
more animals than you can imagine and people puppets too. Animals
to woods to pet shop to wacky, there are lots of choices of puppets
Way Street also offers a wide range of puppets including a page of
puppets under $50. They have people, animal, and special puppets,
plus a group of puppets just for ventriloquism.
Dummy Shop has critters, birds, and people puppets from which to
choose. This figure maker offers free shipping through DHL on
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on Tips and Other Payment Options
by Hannah, Urbana,
ventriloquists face a multitude of problems when it comes to being paid
for a show. At least in my
experience, there is often the question, “Do you want to be paid and, if
so, how much?” and I always feel strange answering.
Who wouldn’t want to be paid? But the way they ask makes it seem
like you should answer, “No, it’s okay. I guess I don’t need
to be paid.” You may not
feel that you’re worthy enough because you’re not an adult depending
on ventriloquism to make a living. However,
if you are being asked for your time and your skill as an entertainer,
then being paid should go along with that, no matter what age you are.
People who ask you to perform shouldn’t have a problem with
paying you if you can meet their expectations for performers.
You also shouldn’t feel bad if you’re really talented. Your
prices may seem a little high because people are used to paying teenage
babysitters $8 per hour. Almost
anyone can babysit, however; you need to have special talent, training and
people skills to do ventriloquism. If they want your skill, they should be
willing to pay for it.
The next question is “how much
should you ask for?” My
advice is to be realistic. Don’t ask for an outrageous amount so that
you never get hired but also don’t sell yourself short.
Maybe you can have a variable price range, so for big events you
can charge a lot but for a
small birthday party you can knock down the price a few notches.
If you do more than just ventriloquism, you can charge more.
When I also do balloon animals as part of a gig, for example, I
charge more because I have to invest more time, more effort, and more
material. Also, don’t get
greedy. If you’re not very
good, don’t charge very much or you may be asked for a refund!
(Note—this is not part of my experience!)
There are times when it’s okay not
to be paid, and in fact you shouldn’t expect to be paid.
If you’re asked to do a show for a charitable or nonprofit
organization with limited funds, don’t ask for money because they
don’t have it. You don’t
want to make these organizations take money away from sick kids or
homeless puppies just to pay you! These
jobs are important, though; you get to practice, and they’re good for
networking. Always bring your business cards to every gig because there
may be people in the audience who will hire you for a future
performance—and pay you for it!
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The following excerpts were taken from
Creating a Character by Ken Groves. This is just a
sampling of the useful information found in his book.
What is the difference between a
puppet and a character? "A puppet is a tool to create laughter
or to get a message out...A character comes from within the
performer. The character is a defined personality [with] its own attitudes, gestures, phrases, and appearance.
A character is developed over time with experience and hard work, trial
and error...Characters are created when there is a noticeable difference
between the puppet and ventriloquist."
"You need differences in
If I am strong; they are weak.
If I am nervous; they are calm or laid back.
If I'm normal; they're neurotic.
If I'm dumb; they're real smart.
your personality on stage and then set and define the character's
personality, making sure there is a big difference. From this
difference you can find humor." Use the following questionnaire
to help you create your puppet's character.
this link to download a PDF version of the questionnaire below. You
can open it and print it using Adobe Reader.
Type: (weight, physical type):
Type & characteristics (high/low):
physical characteristics (first thing noticed):
and good habits (whistles, laughs too loud, etc.)
and least favorite games:
originally from and where live now:
with who or what people (people, pets etc.):
like or dislike:
say hello and goodbye:
expression (always says):
esteem (how character feels about himself):
do others like about this character:
do others dislike:
most proud of:
can't seem to do at all:
is funny to this person? Makes him cry? Angry? Jealous?
is idolized and who is despised:
exciting thing ever happened to:
embarrassing, most frightening:
big event in life:
want to go and be:
car and wish car:
lie ever told:
mood and how does it affect all else:
character you create, the material needs to fit the character. If
the puppet is going to be a teenager, then jokes about a husband or wife
don't work. You should find that as you develop the character,
material and dialogue will emerge.
it's time to give the puppet a voice that fits who he or she is. Be
sure the puppet's voice is different than your own. This is
called Voice Clarity. "Voice Clarity is important to make a
character believable. If there is no difference between your voice and the
puppet's voice, how can you possibly make people think there are two
different personalities on stage?...The voices must be different, strong,
clear, and enunciated."
are also important in the vent's and the puppet's appearance.
"If you and the puppet dress alike, it's hard to separate you and the
puppet into distinct personalities. And it's looks corny!...What can
you create to make your character memorable or peculiar? Can gestures make
your character memorable or unique?"
as your character begins to emerge and dialogues are being developed,
avoid two common stereotypes that have a negative impact. "The
first is always correcting your puppet or talking down to it. Never
be the authority figure over the puppet. You and the puppet are a
'comedy team' -- you are equals." Avoid dialogue like "'Quit
that. What's the matter with you?' Watch people in
conversation -- learn from them. When you talk to your friends, do you
keep telling them to 'Quit that,' 'Stop that,' 'Be good,' 'You dummy,'
'Behave,' 'Straighten up'? If you do, you need a different set of
second big mistake is repeating the puppet. Why do you do
that? Maybe you have no voice clarity and your audience can't
understand the puppet. Maybe you only have ten minutes of material
and by repeating everything you now think you have twenty minutes.
Maybe it's a nervous habit you need to work on....When you talk to your
friends do you repeat everything they say? So get busy breaking bad habits
or never letting them form in the first place, like talking down to your
puppet, always correcting your puppet; constantly repeating your puppet;
always pulling, adjusting, or touching the puppet."
you get that character defined and your stage personality defined, you've
made a huge step forward in the world of ventriloquism.
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help from a professional ventriloquist? Do you have a question that
you need expert advice about? This is the place for you. Each
month a professional ventriloquist will available to answer your questions
by email. Check back each month to see
Mark Wade is available to answer your
questions. Prof. Wade is the Executive Director of the Vent Haven
ConVENTion, putting together great conventions every year including this
year's Junior Vent University. He's also America's Foremost
Children's Ventriloquist and performs over 500 a shows a year. He
educates and entertains kids across the country and is the author of the
best-selling book on performing for youngsters called Kidshow
to send your question to Professor Mark Wade.
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Junior Vent Feature
Meghan C.: Making People Laugh
exposure to puppets started literally at birth when her ventriloquist
father Ed had a puppet on hand in the hospital room making people laugh,
on that joyous first day of Meghan’s life.
But it wasn’t until she was five years old that Meghan realized
her dad was making the puppet talk…talk without moving his lips, that
is. That’s when she
really started learning the art of ventriloquism by copying her dad, and
he went on to show her the basics. Meghan
says, “I got interested in being a vent because of my dad always
bringing puppets to life around me. He
always made me laugh, and I found I liked to do the same for others.”
Now at thirteen years old, Meghan is a
“certified” ventriloquist. This
means that she has completed the Maher Studios Home Study Course,
including a certificate. “I
took the course and practiced a bunch,” she reports, and now performs at
schools, libraries, talent shows, country clubs, birthday parties, the
Denver Children’s Museum, and even the Vent Haven International
Ventriloquist Convention. Her
first performance in front of a large audience was at the convention’s
Junior Open Mic. “I was
really nervous before I started my show.
Once I got going, I no longer had butterflies.”
asked what her friends think about her unique talent, Meghan says, “My
friends think that my ventriloquism abilities are really cool because it
is not something you see every day. A
lot of people think it is a special gift that you are born with when
actually it can be learned and then perfected with lots and lots of
practice.” Meghan’s main
puppet is named Willie Mac that she’s had for two years.
Willie Mac is equipped with moving eyes and eyebrows.
She also uses an Axtell bird puppet named Charolete, but between
Meghan and her dad they have 22 professional puppets in their repertoire.
Meghan doesn’t necessarily want to be a
professional ventriloquist but is considering careers where she could
incorporate her talents. “Maybe
I’ll be a doctor that works with kids.
I could use my puppet characters to make the kids more comfortable.
It’s sort of scary for little kids when they go to the doctor.
Also, I have always liked the weather science field (meteorology).
I could present the weather forecast with a talking cloud, tornado,
lightning bolts or sunshine. I
know I could make it really fun for ALL ages.”
She doesn’t have to make career choices yet.
For now, Meghan can just enjoy being a ventriloquist, performing in
front of an audience – small or large – having fun, and making people
*Meghan is pictured above with
Candice Bergen, correpondent for 60 Minutes II, at the 2004 VH
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Crontrol for the Young Vent
by Hannah, Urbana,
you’ve probably heard of many tips and tricks on how to deal with
hecklers and unruly crowds but it’s different if you’re only five
years older than they are. If
you’re a kid ventriloquist, you’re most likely not doing corporate
hot-shot banquet gigs; most likely, you’re doing birthday parties, Cub
Scout meetings, church gatherings, and, basically, any kind of event where
there are a lot of children. Usually,
children know how to behave and sit there sweetly, but once they get into
your routine and your puppets, there’s a chance they’ll get carried
What most adults do would be to set up a barrier or
arrange for other adults to watch the children, but if you’re not that
much older than the kids are, they just see you as another kid.
Adults (like the parents in charge) often don’t seem to notice
you might need help with the kids because they don’t see you as an
authority figure either. What
I prefer to do is to set up with a bit of space between me and the
audience so we’re not next to each other like best friends. That
way, if they start jumping up
I have some time to react. Instead
of making fun of them like adults might do with other adults who are
annoying, I first ask them to sit down because they’re intimidating my
friend (the puppet). Sometimes that doesn’t work because they’re so
enthralled with the puppet, so I then let the puppet talk to them and they
usually listen better to the puppet because they’re so entranced by it.
If the kids are too talkative, I might have the puppet stop talking
or ignore the problem kids. If the kids get too “handsy”
oftentimes I’ll just have the puppet hide until the kids are back in
So, remember, even if the kids are incredibly
touchy-feely and annoying all it really means is that they really like you
and your puppet and, in the end, that’s a good thing!
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suggestions, comments, tips, techniques to Annie Roberts at email@example.com
Copyright 2007 Vent
Haven ConVENTion, Inc.
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