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Ventriloquism Guide

Updated on June 28, 2016

All You Need To Know About Ventriloquism

Most people, when they hear the word ventriloquism, think of an entertainer, usually with a puppet or dummy on his knee. However, this conception of ventriloquism is a relatively recent one, having originated in the early nineteenth century.

Today, ventriloquism is a form of entertainment that a lot of people want to learn, and as the number of those queuing up to do so increases, so too does the number of those providing lessons on the subject.

If you desire to learn ventriloquism either as a hobby or profession, there are a few things to keep in mind. As with every other art form, it is essential to master the basics, Including lip control. Many performing arts institutions offer lessons in ventriloquism and you can either take advantage of these or learn the art of ventriloquism online.

There are a number of exercises that can aid you in learning ventriloquism, including reciting the alphabet with the lips held still and various exercises of the diaphragm that will help in creating different voices.

One of the most important aspects of ventriloquism is your dummy or puppet. He should have a distinct character and personality that will captivate your audience.

It is a good idea not to stick to one dummy or figure, since, by doing so, you tend to learn and improve only the nuances and voice variations relevant to that particular character. Working with various characters can also challenge your creativity and help you to come up with different personalities.

After you have mastered ventriloquism and started performing professionally, you can either become known for one character with its own unique personality or work with a multitude of different personas. It is up to you!

Ventriloquism has a rich history

...that dates back to ancient Greece and beyond, where it was a religious practice and means of communicating with the gods. When Apollo was a deity, the priestess of the Oracle of Delphi used ventriloquism as a means to communicate with the spirit world.

laugh, laughter comedy ventriloquism
laugh, laughter comedy ventriloquism

Ventriloquism - The True Key To Success

Being a successful ventriloquist is about more than merely knowing the techniques of ventriloquism or synchronizing your figure's movements with your words, but in ensuring that you are, well, funny. To be an entertaining ventriloquist, you must have a ready wit, a knack for comedy and some good, prepared jokes and punchlines.

This is not something that anybody can teach you in any how-to video or guidebook. This is an aspect of the art that will really test your mettle.

Those who are born with a talent for making people laugh may not find this difficult, but for others it will require conscious effort and will take up a great deal of time and energy. This is one area that the guides and videos on how to be a ventriloquist may not be able to provide much assistance on.

Some of the greatest names in the art have faced difficulties in trying to come up with good material and have gone into performance only to discover that the jokes that they had prepared so painstakingly were not working on the night of the performance.

Do not be discouraged if humor does not come easily. Just be persistent.

Ventriloquism Guide - Basics

It is not easy to learn how to become a ventriloquist. It requires voice manipulation so as to make it appear to be coming from a source other than the speaker and simultaneous synchronization of the dummy or figure.

Voice manipulation includes both lip control and making it appear as if the voice comes from a source other than the ventriloquist. This is known as "throwing one's voice."

There are several free videos online that explain the basics of ventriloquism and they can be found by entering the phrase "how to be a ventriloquist" into the search box (I've done this for you below).

Some videos provide step-by-step instructions on how to make the various sounds without moving your lips, possibly the most difficult hurdle for the aspiring ventriloquist. Some of the videos focus on more advanced techniques such as how to pronounce the difficult letters like B, F, M, V, P and W, practice exercises and even how to develop the ventriloquial voice.

There are also books on the market that provide step-by-step instruction in ventriloquism with details on how to understand the mechanical engineering behind the figures so as to maneuver them effectively. Some even teach you how to build your own figure (a much more advanced technique).

They will also teach effective ways to manipulate the figure's movements and gestures to give him a lifelike appearance and to ensure that he is the focus of the performance. The best guides provide illustrations and advanced techniques that may not be freely available online.

A labial letter

is one that is, by definition, pronounced by touching the lips together. These include B, F, M, P, V and W. You get around this by substituting a letter for the labial that sounds similar and by various other tricks.

Here is a powerful trick

for effectively substituting labial letters: Think one letter, say the other letter. That is, when you use a substitute for the labial, convince yourself that you are saying the actual letter! It sounds weird, but you will be amazed at how it increases your effectiveness!

Is Ventriloquism Dead?

I'm sure you've heard it, and if you haven't, you will: the popularity of ventriloquism is dying out.

I've come across this claim many times. In fact, I encountered it in doing the research for this page! This claim is not recent; in fact, it's decades (if not centuries) old!

The reality is that ventriloquism is alive and well! As ventriloquist Tom Crowl says, "Ventriloquism is the hottest form of variety entertainment around today! Jeff Dunham sells out arenas throughout the world. Terry Fator headlines his own theatre in Las Vegas. Jay Johnson won a Tony Award for his Broadway show."

There is something truly magical about someone who puts a little Pinocchio-like character on his knee and then seems to bring that character to life. Everyone enjoys suspending disbelief for just a while and imagining that character is truly alive.

Check out a list of the most watched videos on YouTube OF ALL TIME and you will find Jeff Dunham's routine with Achmed the Dead Terrorist in the top ten! Yes, that's right, in the top ten!

The fact is that people love to laugh! If a ventriloquist can succeed in making people laugh, then that ventriloquist will be popular, and this is a fact that will never change!

The two types of puppets

...used by ventriloquists are "hard puppets" and "soft puppets." Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Hard puppets do not wear out but they can break! Soft puppets do not break but they wear out! Busy vents who use soft puppets have to replace them from time to time.

Professional Ventriloquist Figures on eBay

"Ventriloquist Figure" is the preferred term for the ventriloquist's little wooden partner.

Which is Better: Soft Puppets or Hard? - What kind of ventriloquial partner is the best?

Hard puppets (the traditional "dummies" most people are familiar with) have a long history going back to when the first ventriloquists started throwing their voice into an onstage character, but the soft, foam and cloth puppets tend to be more popular with professional ventriloquists these days. Jeff Dunham's Achmed and Walter are "hard puppets" but his "Peanut" is a soft figure. Speak out about which is best here:

Which is better: the traditional ventriloquial "dummy" or the soft puppet?

I'm no dummy! Give me the traditional mechanical figure any day!

I'm no dummy! Give me the traditional mechanical figure any day!

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    • Timothy Arends 4 years ago from Chicago area

      I prefer hard figures myself for the tradition, but I have both kinds.

    Let's be flexible! Soft puppets are more hip, modern and manipulable!

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      Collectible Ventriloquist Dummies on eBay

      These are mainly collectible ventriloquist figures that fall into the "toy" category.

      Amateur ventriloquists

      ...vastly outnumber the professionals. The most popular place for amateur ventriloquist to perform is in church or Sunday school. The second most popular place is in school, either by teachers or students.

      Learning Ventriloquism

      There are two basic reasons why people wish to learn ventriloquism: as a hobby and as a profession. No matter what your goal may be, you should enlist the aid of the right people in teaching you this art form.

      Your instructor should be well-versed in the art of ventriloquism and you should avoid any scammers who are only interested in getting your hard-earned money.

      These days, one of the best ways to find those who are well-versed on the subject is in cyberspace. There is more than enough information online to get you on the road to mastering this unique and fascinating art.

      Finding Good Ventriloquial Instruction

      As with everything else, there is a ton of information online on the subject of ventriloquism. Before you delve further into this art form, however, you should do some basic research.

      While most of us are acquainted with ventriloquism as a form of entertainment, it actually has a rich history that spans many centuries.

      While ventriloquism was shrouded in mystery and superstition for ages, today it has come to be appreciated for its comedy and entertainment value.

      Over the years, there has been a great deal of interest in the subject of ventriloquism as well as those who wish to learn to do it themselves. Ventriloquism is also an excellent tool for making comments of a social or political nature.

      There are two levels that you may strive to attain: to learn ventriloquism as a hobby or to attain expertise and become a professional.

      There are many schools and professional services that can aid you in either task. If you wish to learn the art form, be sure to get a hold of a qualified professional who is well-versed in the art.

      No matter how you choose to pursue ventriloquism, you should ensure that you obtain the best resources to accomplish that task and to engage the services of professionals who are well-versed in the subject.

      You do not need an expensive dummy

      ...or puppet to be a ventriloquist. Famed ventriloquists Jay Marshall and Senor Wences were best known for their work with inexpensive glove puppets. It is the ventriloquist who endows the puppet with life!

      Video of the Author

      10 Amazingly Funny Ventriloquist Acts on Got Talent

      "Meet Little Ugly Jeff" | Jeff Dunham: Controlled Chaos

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