Ventriloquist Organizations – A History Of The Ventriloquism Community

Ventriloquist Organizations – A History Of The Ventriloquism Community

The longest running ventriloquism organization was the North American Association of Ventriloquists. North American Association of Ventriloquists - N.A.A.V. - NAAVThe NAAV was originally founded around 1936 by Fred Maher. Fred searched for a way to build the ventriloquism community. He taught ventriloquists through his mail order course, and brought them into the organization. It also allowed him to stay in touch with his clients, while promoting his figures and products. Clinton & Adelia Detweiler purchased Maher Studios from Fred’s widow in 1969. Clinton made the NAAV more visible and turned it into more of an organization, although he still promoted Maher Studios products. Newsy Vents was the official periodical of the NAAV. Clinton closed the NAAV in 2004 due to lack of support from the vent community. In an effort to create a more complete profile of ventriloquist organizations, I reached out to John Arvites. John was a friend of W.S. Berger, founder of the Vent Haven Museum and the head of the now defunct Ventriloquists’ Guild. I started with the above because the N.A.A.V. was not mentioned in the information John sent me. The following information was pulled and re-written from John’s publication. According to the Ventriloquists’ Guild Journal, Volume 3, No. 2-3 (1990): The ventriloquism community as we know it today was founded in 1939.

Ventriloquism was becoming a popular art form.

Bob Neller was the first ventriloquist to appear on the new medium of television. Edgar Bergen appeared on the big screen in the movie: You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man. Max Terhune, the cowboy ventriloquist was appearing in B Westerns. Plus, Bergen was the king of radio. It was the first time that a ventriloquist was one of the most popular entertainers in America.

The public’s interest in ventriloquism was high.

This brought forth young and old ventriloquists hoping to become the next Bergen. It was time for ventriloquists to try and unite like magicians had years earlier. In the spring of 1939, ventriloquial figure maker Frank Marshall tried to organize a meeting of ventriloquists. His hope was to start a club. This meeting was to take place at the Society of American Magicians convention in New York. Only 2 – 3 people showed up, and Frank abandoned the idea. The first official meeting of ventriloquists happened on June 16, 1939. Grace Larsen, known as Madame Pinxy was attending the International Brotherhood of Magicians convention in Battle Creek, MI. Together with ventriloquists Ralph DeShong and Claude Burke, they decided to try and organize a vent “jam session.” Magician Jay Marshall, who also did some ventriloquism helped spread the word. That gathering drew 57 people. As part of the session, they discussed creating a fraternal organization of ventriloquists. Fred Maher (of Maher Studios) spoke in favor of the proposal. Ventriloquist John Ellwood pitched the vent magazine “Double Talk” which had been started by Revello Pettee two years earlier. It was then that the group created an organizational committee for the organization and “Double Talk” became the official magazine of the group.

IBV - International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists

29 members signed up that day.

At the 1940 I.B.M. convention, the ventriloquists held their first business meeting. They officially adopted the name: The International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists. William Garrison was elected the I.B.V.’s first president. Revello Pettee soon folded his magazine and gave his mailing list to the new I.B.V. In June of 1941, the I.B.V. elected a full slate of officers. Judge Frank W. Carter became President, W.S. Berger of Vent haven fame became V.P., Grace Larsen became Secretary and John Ellwood was named Treasurer. It was that year that the Grapevine News was named the official magazine of the I.B.V. The organization had 62 members that year. By October of 1942, the number of members had grown to 138 and by 1943, the I.B.V. had over 200 ventriloquists in their ranks. It wasn’t until 1948 that W.S. Berger was elected President of the I.B.V. He held that position until the club folded in 1960. In 1950, the Grapevine News changed its name to The Oracle. The magazine usually consisted of between 12 to 28 pages. At the height of the I.B.V. in the mid-1950’s, the organization boasted over 1,400 members. Most of the membership was in contact only through the magazine. I.B.V. meetings were still connected to the I.B.M. convention and drew between 20 – 60 people. The club officially closed in1960.

International Ventriloquists' Association - I.V.A. - IVA

The I.V.A.

Gregory & Walter Berlin started the International Ventriloquists’ Association. W.S. Berger provided them with a mailing list. The brothers published the Vent-O-Gram, a mimeographed magazine, from 1963 – 1967. In 1968 – 1969, the Vent-O-Gram was printed, but the Berlins ceased publishing at the end of 1969. Jim Stukel took over the Vent-O-Gram and continued mimeographed editions for a few more years.

The S.A.V.

In 1976, Mark Wade founded the Society of American Ventriloquists. Mark published The New Oracle as the organization’s official magazine. The organization existed for ten years before Mark had to close the doors.

The V.G.

In 1986, the same year the S.A.V. closed, John Arvites started The Ventriloquists’ Guild. The official magazine was The Ventriloquists’ Guild Journal. Without the mailing lists associated with earlier organizations or Vent Haven, the Ventriloquists’ Guild had a tough start. It was thanks to Jay Marshall and Magic, Inc. that the Guild was able to publish their magazine.

International Ventriloquist Association - Ventriloquist Organization

Birth of the I.V.S.

At the end of 2013, Mark Wade, Ken Groves and Tom Crowl re-opened Maher Ventriloquist Studios. The three decided to relaunch the old North American Association of Ventriloquists. Deciding to make it an international organization, the N.A.A.V. was renamed: the International Ventriloquist Society. In November of that year, the International Ventriloquist Society started accepting members. The first Spotlight newsletter was published online December 15, 2013. In 2016, Mark & Ken decided to step down from Maher Studios. Tom took over the reigns of Maher and the I.V.S. The I.V.S. Spotlight continues to grow and additional perks continue to be added for the members.

Let Us Know:

  • Tell us about what ventriloquist organizations you have been a part of.
  • What does a vent organization mean to you?
  • How can we continue to promote and serve the ventriloquism community?
Please comment below:
Questions About Ventriloquism

Questions About Ventriloquism

At the International Ventriloquist Society, Maher Studios, Learn-Ventriloquism and my Comedy Ventriloquist websites, I get a lot emails with questions about ventriloquism.

Today I’m going to answer some:

Questions About Ventriloquism

So in the future, I can just send a link …


Question 1:

Is Jeff Dunham a member of the International Ventriloquist Society?

Yes, he was made a lifetime member shortly after the society was founded.


Question 2:

Can I meet Jeff Dunham or can you tell me how to get in touch with him?

I can not give out any contact information for any of our members. There are privacy acts that prevent this. Even if there weren’t, I respect the privacy of others.

Can you meet Jeff? Possibly. He attends the Vent Haven International Ventriloquist ConVENTion every year. Some years he is in a hurry, stopping by to lecture and then headed right back out for shows. Other years you may pass him in the hallway or be able to get an autograph or picture with him. Jeff’s a very nice guy.


Question 3:

What is your real job?

This is it. I’m a professional ventriloquist. Between my shows, my online activities for the I.V.S., Maher Studios and Learn-Ventriloquism – plus handling the VH ConVENTion website and helping with the convention – I have no time for anything else.


Question 4:

How do ventriloquists talk without moving their lips?

Practice. You must learn to hold your mouth in the ventriloquist’s mouth position. The teeth and lips are slightly separated. This allows a clear path for your voice to emerge and makes your puppet’s voice clearer. There is no magic trick to this technique. It requires a lot of practice.

We have a few tutorials here on the International Ventriloquist Society website:

Jeff Dunham’s Ventriloquism Videos

A Beginner’s Guide To Ventriloquism Tutorial

and you will find additional information on:
How To Do Ventriloquism (With Pictures and Video)

Plus five free lessons on the foundational skills of ventriloquism on:


Question 5:

How do ventriloquists throw their voices?

They don’t really. The voice continues to come from the ventriloquist. Ventriloquism is actually an illusion. By varying your voice’s level and modulation, a skilled performer can make it sound like the voice is further away. For more on how ventriloquists appear to throw their voices, refer to the links in the question above.


Question 6:

How do you become a ventriloquist?

Practice. (I’ve said that before haven’t I?) Ventriloquism is the illusion of life. To be a ventriloquist you must master:

  • How to talk without moving your lips.
  • How to create a different voice for your puppet.
  • How to keep your puppet alive through manipulation.
  • How to hold a believable conversation with your puppet.


Question 7:

How do you talk with your mouth closed?

You don’t. This is a common assumption and it is completely wrong. Your lips and teeth must be slightly parted or the voice will not be intelligible. If your mouth is closed, you will be mumbling and no one will understand you. Refer to Question 4!


Question 8:

What does it mean to throw your voice?

I refer you to Question 5 above. The voice can’t really be thrown. It is an illusion achieved through vocal levels and modulation. Throwing your voice is really creating the illusion that your voice is coming from somewhere else.

I once had someone say they tried it and it didn’t work. Understand that proper training is needed to create the illusion. There are some links above that will take you to ventriloquism tutorials. Check them out!


Question 9:

Who is the most famous ventriloquist?

That depends on who you ask. People you’ve never heard of can be famous.

There are many famous ventriloquists. Today’s most popular ventriloquists include Jeff Dunham, Terry Fator, Darci Lynne, Nina Conti, and the list goes on.

Some of the most famous ventriloquists of all time include: Edgar Bergen, Ray Alan, The Great Lester, Paul Winchell, Jimmy Nelson, Senor Wences, Shari Lewis and again, the list goes on.

I recommend you do some searches for these all time greats and if you find any video, study it! They were greats for a reason.


Question 10:

What does ventriloquy mean?

Ventriloquy is another term for ventriloquism. It is a skill in which the ventriloquist changes his or her voice and makes it appear someone else is talking. That someone could be a puppet or even a “person” offstage or in a trunk.

Ventriloquy is derived from the Latin words: venter – which means belly, and loqui – which means to speak. That is why ventriloquists are also called “Bellytalkers.”


Question 11:

Who invented ventriloquism?

His name was Randolph Ralph and he was born in 1861 … no wait, that is the wrong answer.

Ventriloquism has been around for a LONG time. No one knows exactly who “invented” it. It is said the Greek “Oracles” was actually a ventriloquist who created the voices from the Gods. For a long time, ventriloquism was considered witchcraft or demonic. You have to remember that inanimate objects didn’t speak. At that time there were no voice recorders, radio or television. People felt that voices were proof of life.


Question 12:

Who was the ventriloquist on the TV show SOAP?

That is my friend Jay Johnson. He got the role of Chuck Campbell and the show created the figure Bob to be his sidekick. Today, Jay still performs with Bob. In 2007 Jay won a Tony Award for his Broadway Play “The Two And Only.” You can purchase the recorded show here. It is highly recommended.


What if my ventriloquism question isn’t answered here?

Contact the International Ventriloquist Society – or even better, join us and ask your questions in our member’s forum!

How Long Does It Take To Learn Ventriloquism?

How Long Does It Take To Learn Ventriloquism?

Asking how long does it take to learn ventriloquism is like asking how long does it take to learn to play a piano.

It depends on how well you want to do either.

Learning the basics of ventriloquism or the piano is fairly simple.

The questions is: Do you want to play Chop Sticks? Or are you hoping to play Beethoven’s Fifth?

How long does it take to learn ventriloquism?

With minimal instruction, perhaps even self-taught, you could likely pick out chop sticks. And you could likely do the very basics of ventriloquism, or at least pretend to be a ventriloquist.

I’m often confused about why people think they can just “do” ventriloquism with little to no practice. Yet they would never think the same of playing an instrument or even the art of juggling.

It may have something to do with the fact a good ventriloquist makes it appear so easy.

That is the ventriloquist’s job.

The puppet is supposed to look as if it is alive and separate from the ventriloquist. If the ventriloquist looks as if he or she is operating the puppet or struggling with any aspect of the act, it would destroy the illusion.


Some people believe to learn ventriloquism, all you must do is master how to talk without moving your lips.

That is not true. Lip control is only one aspect of ventriloquism.

But lets get back to the original question:

How Long Does It Take To Learn Ventriloquism?

Everyone has different abilities. Some are quick studies and can learn faster than others. Some may struggle with different techniques.

One thing you don’t want to do is rush the learning process.

Ventriloquism is a lot like building a house. You need a solid foundation or the structure will fail.

The foundation of ventriloquism is and understanding of how our diaphram, lungs, voice box, vocal cords, uvula, throat, nasal passages, mouth structure and tongue work together to create sound.

You can learn how to do ventriloquism in a few weeks. Some people even begin to entertain their family & friends after a few weeks.

But to become a proficient ventriloquist it can take years.

Professional ventriloquists like Jeff Dunham, Terry Fator, Dan Horn and many others rehearse daily to maintain their skill.

If you are looking for an easy talent that works right away, ventriloquism may not be for you.

But if you enjoy a challenge and like to make people laugh, ventriloquism is the perfect art to consider!

If you would like to learn how to do ventriloquism, consider checking out our free ventriloquism tutorial here on

Jeff Dunham has also created some simple ventriloquism video lessons that are available by clicking here.

Finally, if you wish to get some advanced training, the International Ventriloquist Society recommends:

The Maher Course Of Ventriloquism


Tom Crowl’s Learn-Ventriloquism

Today’s Hottest Ventriloquists

Today’s Hottest Ventriloquists

Today’s hottest ventriloquists are superstars in the world of entertainment. Thanks to social media, they have eclipsed their wildest expectations. So who are these talented vents? We’ve created an infographic below. The ventriloquists are in no particular order and this is not a list of top ventriloquists. It is simply a share of some of the best known by the public and ventriloquism community alike.


Hottest Ventriloquists Today Infographic


We invite you to share this colorful infographic with your friends and social network. To download, simply right click the image above and save. Or use a sharing button to post this article to your social media.

If you are a ventriloquist or a fan of one of these talented vents, consider joining the International Ventriloquist Society. You will learn about ventriloquism around the world, get the latest tour schedules from the pros and there are plenty of other benefits to being a member.

Join today!

Let us know in the comments below:

Did we miss someone? Who in your opinion are the most popular ventriloquists of today?


Who would be on your list for the most popular ventriloquists of yesteryear?

Who would be on your list for the most talented ventriloquists of all time?

Tell us below because those infographics will be coming soon!


First Annual IVS Script Writing Contest To Launch In September

First Annual IVS Script Writing Contest To Launch In September

IVS Script Writing Contest Announced!

Tim Fisher, a new member of the I.V.S., offered a great idea in the comments section of issue #23 of the Spotlight.

He suggested the I.V.S. hold an annual (or bi-annual) script competition. Members could post a script and we can all vote for the best.

This reminded me of something Chuck Lyons and I had discussed in the past.

Chuck told me that Clinton Detweiler used to have members of the NAAV (North American Association of Ventriloquists) submit scripts.

IVS Script Writing Contest follows in the tradition of the NAAV

Clinton would compile the scripts into a book and publish it under the NAAV banner.

Tim mentioned that this could be used to build up a library in the members only area. New ventriloquists (and some who have been around awhile) always want new scripts.

True dat!

Plus the script area could be an enticement to join the Society.

Again – great idea Tim!

So in the September issue of the Spotlight, we will be launching our first annual IVS Script Writing Contest.

If you are an I.V.S. member, start sharpening your pencil and your jokes! We’d love to have as many of you as possible enter this competition.

If you aren’t a full member of the I.V.S. yet, now is the time to join!

Oh! And there will be a prize. We will announce that in the Spotlight!

Tim’s idea is a great example of how you can help the I.V.S.

How would you improve the organization?

What would benefit you and other ventriloquists?

Feel free to comment in the forum, or email me with your ideas.

Together, we can make the I.V.S. a stronger community that will help everyone.

Thanks for being a member (or even a future member!)