The ventriloquism convention

Channel 4 like to produce documentaries that shed light on darker sides of societies. I’ve enjoyed laughing away at numerous oddballs over the years and a series about unusual conventions around the world that aired about ten years ago was no exception. One particular episode featured a peek into a ventriloquism convention held in the states. It was portrayed to be slightly odd and unusual with quite a one sided journalistic perspective. It was evident the production team went in with the objective of showing it in a ‘freak show’ type fashion. I certainly remember seeing it in my early twenties thinking that these we’re a load of oddballs. I’d like to think now I had been a victim of bad journalism. Well guess where I travelled three hours to go to last month in excited anticipation? Yes, a ventriloquist convention!

I’m hoping to improve on ventriloquism so was keen to get some tips from the best in the business. To my delight the best in the business where indeed here. We had the privilege of Mark Wade attending who offered a power packed seminar. Mark is one of the world most renowned vent acts so to have him sharing his wisdom was indeed a privilege. The guy was so fluid and a pleasure to watch in action and he came all the way from the states to be with us. I found his performance to be an even bigger thrill as I have never even seen a real ventriloquist perform in the flesh. Seeing this art form in front of me certainly beats seeing it on the tv. One has a greater appreciation and fascination with seeing it live.

The other star of the event was ventriloquist Jimmy Tamley. Jimmy is famous for being on New Faces in the 80’s and is a very busy act performing all the time. He gave a great talk about being in the business and an insight into his world as a busy performer. I was genuinely inspired by Jimmy and more so when I was able to speak to the man on a one to one basis after his talk. I’ve never before considered the idea of performing vent on the cabaret circuit but now a little seed has been planted.

Another highlight of the conference was a display of very old puppets from a private collector. Some of these dated back as far as the early 1800’s! The detail in these were immaculate and it was a real joy to see such a historic collection. I’ve enclosed a few pictures below of these figurines.

Coming away from the convention I’ve a new sense of commitment towards learning the art of ventriloquism. I had been loosely practicing on and off but my technique had been poor and was just not up to standard. There’s something about being in a room of other like minded folk that has almost given me a newfound identity. Think of it like someone trying to learn to play the guitar on their own but then joining a group of beginners to practice. There’s a new level of enthusiasm and stronger awareness of what you are tying to achieve.

The plan now is to really work this on this area of my show and nail it. It’s not easy but my view is that if someone else can do it then so can I. So begins the long painful journey of talking to myself for hours on end in the mirror without trying to move my lips and having entertaining conversations with what is essentially my hand. The wife is going to love this.

I’m occasionally asked by parents what games I do in my parties and it’s always a bit of a mouth full to explain so I have wrote this for greater clarity. To begin with, none of my games are elimination based which means no one is ever ‘out’. This ensures all the children are engaged throughout and are not going to become bored which is very important to me. On to the games!

Character statues
I tell the children to dance and when the music stops to freeze and impersonate a well known character (superheroes, Disney princesses etc). I’ll pick the most creative one each time ensuring that everyone wins. If there are a lot of children, I’ll pick multiple winners each time so by the end they have all won.
Why it’s good
– The children enjoy being on their feet, if they don’t want to pretend to be a character they will usually just  freeze normally so they still feel involved. It’s  easy to understand and we can play it instantly. The children are never bored in this game and are always riveted throughout. It’s been so good over the years.