Ventarama Is Here

Ventarama Is Here

Ventarama is today and the I.V.S. wanted to take a moment to congratulate everyone who attended.

For those of you not familiar with Ventarama, it is a one day mini-convention held in the United Kingdom. Hosted by Shane West and Alex Powell, the one day event features some of the best working vents in the U.K. This year they had a special performance by Trish Dunn, formerly of the U.S. now living in England. In the past, they have had guests like Mark Wade who taught the attendees about performing for children.

Ventarama is the United Kingdom's one day Ventriloquist Convention.

Shane West has attended the Vent Haven International Ventriloquist ConVENTion several times. He has both performed and lectured at the event. Without a doubt, he has gotten ideas that have translated well for Ventarama. I know that Shane wants everyone to have a great time and to that end he is always looking to improve the event.

Your day at Ventarama includes lectures, open mics and a show. (You even get lunch!) Ventriloquists and those who would like to learn the art are welcome. It gives you the chance to learn, get critiques to help you improve, make new friends and grow in ventriloquism and the community. There is nothing like being with a group of like minded individuals. You leave inspired and eager to experiment and improve.

Although I have yet to attend, I hear nothing but great comments about the event. It isn’t easy to host a convention and the I.V.S. takes it’s hat off to Shane and Alex for doing all the work required to create an amazing time for the vents who attend.

If you’d like to attend Ventarama in 2019, keep their website address handy:

You may also want to check out their FaceBook Group

For everyone who attended, congrats on getting out there to learn and grow. Congrats on diving in and becoming a part of the ventriloquist community.

If you attended Ventarama, please take a moment to tell us about your experience in the comments section below!

IVS Radio: ConVENTion Recap

IVS Radio: ConVENTion Recap

Good news I.V.S. members! Maher IVS Radio is coming back! I intend to release a new episode once a month exclusively to the I.V.S. membership. This episode is open to all, but from here on out – you’ll need to be a member to listen. Not a member? Click here and join. You won’t believe how much you are missing!

In this episode I sit down with my good friend Ken Groves to talk about the Vent Haven International Ventriloquist ConVENTion. It is a behind the scenes look and a discussion of 2018. Enjoy!

2018 ConVENTion Recap with Ken Groves

by Maher I.V.S. Radio

Don’t have time to listen now? Download this episode to your computer, tablet or phone and listen on the go!

Right Click & Save To Download This Episode


Take a moment to leave a note and share your thoughts in the comment section below:

Lisa Laird and Pockets Full of Fun!

Lisa Laird and Pockets Full of Fun!

I like to say that my decision to become a ventriloquist is all my children’s fault!!“

Lisa Laird s a professional who, with her puppets, entertains, educates and encourages her young audiences and their parents as POCKETS FULL OF FUN!

In 2000, Lisa began using puppets in her preschool classroom and in 2005 she added ventriloquism to enhance the educational value of the puppets.. Retiring in 2008, She became a full time entertainer and she says that traveling the Midwest to perform has been a wonderful and unexpected adventure.

Lisa acquired her initial ventriloquial education via the Maher Ventriloquism Course. Refining her skills through three levels of the Ventriloquist in Training program offered by Creative Ministry Solutions, she further honed those skills with private training from Stephen Knowles, Ken Groves, and Mark Wade.

Lisa enjoys challenging herself. She has earned four Gold awards from Creative Ministry Solutions and a first place in the 2013 Axtel Video Contest. She was a featured performer at the Vent Haven Ventriloquist ConVENTion in 2014 and 2018.

The Iowa Public TV show PBS Kids Club featured her in an episode, and now she has the thrill of being recognized by children who have seen her on TV.

More recently, she branched out with programs for senior citizens and women’s groups. She works as a library’s children’s outreach director, using her puppets for story times in schools, preschools, day cares and a special intergenerational story time at a nursing home.

Lisa reports that some of the most joyful and heartwarming experiences she has had are when the children remember what her puppets have said in weeks past, and when parents of severely handicapped children share that their children respond to her puppets and how they are more open after those visits.

This article was written by I.V.S. Member and contributor Ann Seeton.

Ventriloquism – What & Why?

Ventriloquism – What Is It?

Ventriloquism or ventriloquy is an illusion of sound. A ventriloquist uses misdirection to create the impression a voice is coming from somewhere else. Ventriloquism is often called “voice throwing.” (Although that is not technically accurate.)

Ventriloquize: to speak or create sound in the manner of a ventriloquist.

Depiction of the Oracle Of Delphi

Ventriloquism comes from the Latin words Venter meaning belly, and Loqui meaning to speak. The early Greeks called the art gastromancy. This is why ventriloquists are also known as belly talkers.

The voices ventriloquists created were thought to be the dead. People believed the deceased took up residence in the ventriloquist’s stomach. Ventriloquists would “interpret” the voices as though they could talk to the dead or the Gods. The Oracle of Delphi in Greek history is believed to have been a ventriloquist.

Other cultures also have a history of ventriloquism used in ritual and religious practices.

In the middle ages, ventriloquism was considered spiritualism. Ventriloquists were considered in league with the devil and associated with witchcraft.

In the eighteenth century, ventriloquism along magic, began the shift from spiritualism to entertainment. Performances became more commonplace at traveling fairs and circuses.

By the end of the century, ventriloquism was an established form of entertainment in England. History tells us most ventriloquist performances during this period featured “distant ventriloquism.”

Distant Ventriloquism

Distant ventriloquism involves the modulation of the ventriloquist’s voice. This creates the illusion the voice originates much further away from the ventriloquist. (Another reason for the common phrase: Throwing The Voice.)

In performances of distant ventriloquism, the ventriloquist would “talk” to invisible entities. The illusion was enhanced by the ventriloquist’s acting skills. He or she would need to act accordingly to convince the audience a voice was coming from a different area.

Near Ventriloquism

Some ventriloquists began to incorporate dolls into their acts. They would “throw their voice” into the doll and have conversations. Irishman James Burne is said to be one of the early adopters of this form known as “near ventriloquism.”

In near ventriloquism, the voice appears to emanate from a puppet located near the ventriloquist.

Fred Russell & Coster Joe

Ventriloquism – As Entertainment

Although several ventriloquists were using puppets and dolls prior to 1886, that is the year Fred Russell began performing at the Palace Theatre in London.

Russell worked with a cheeky-boy figure or dummy called “Coster Joe.” The banter of back and forth dialog has influenced ventriloquists ever since. For this reason, Fred Russell is known as the father of modern ventriloquism.

Following the comedy team format of Fred Russell, British ventriloquist Arthur Prince worked with his figure Sailor Jim. Mr. Prince became one of the highest paid entertainers on the music hall circuit.

The Great Lester

The Great Lester & Frank Byron, Jr.

In the United States, a ventriloquist, The Great Lester became a famous performing with his figure, Frank Byron Jr.

A student of the Great Lester who went on to achieve even greater fame was Edgar Bergen. Together with his character Charlie McCarthy, Bergen appeared in movies and was also a major star on the radio. Bergen was not only famous, but a saavy businessman. He licensed Charlie McCarthy to create toys and souvenirs which were snapped up by the public. A young Walt Disney got the idea to merchandise his characters based on Bergen’s success.

Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy

Paul Winchell & Jerry Mahoney

Jimmy Nelson, Danny O’Day & Farfel

Bergen’s popularity inspired many other ventriloquists. He was followed by Paul Winchell, Jimmy Nelson, Senor Wences and Shari Lewis. All of these ventriloquists appeared on television and became major stars of their day.

During the late 1960’s and 1970’s ventriloquism’s popularity waned. Ventriloquist Willie Tyler appeared in Motown concerts and later on television. Perhaps his most notable appearance was a commercial for McDonald’s, which put Willie in front of millions of viewers.

Senor Wences & Johnnie

Shari Lewis, Charlie Horse & Hush Puppy

Willie Tyler & Lester

Shari Lewis took her fame to the television screen as a children’s entertainer. Her educational programs brought millions along for “The Song That Never Ends.” Lambchop, Charlie Horse and “Hush Puppy” became the introduction to ventriloquism for a whole new generation.

Jay Johnson rose to national fame on the television series SOAP. Originally cast for a bit part, Johnson and his character Bob were such a hit, they remained a part of the show.

During this time another ventriloquist named Ronn Lucas took ventriloquism in a new direction. Ronn was working large venues and needed a puppet with a bigger mouth so it could be easily seen. His solution was a large mouth soft puppet, and Cowboy Billy was created.

Jay Johnson & Bob

Wayland Flowers – Talented Puppeteer

Ronn Lucas

Wikipedia listed Wayland Flowers as a ventriloquist, but Wayland was a very talented puppeteer. Sorry Wikipedia, you got that one wrong.

The difference between a puppeteer and a ventriloquist? The puppeteer moves their lips and doesn’t necessarily interact with the puppet.

Ventriloquism Today

Today, a new generation of ventriloquists have achieved a level of fame never considered by their predecessors.

Jeff Dunham rose to fame through comedy clubs and television appearances. His first comedy special broke viewing records on Comedy Central. Jeff followed that with the creation of Achmed The Dead Terrorist which made him famous throughout the world. According to Forbes Magazine, Jeff is the highest grossing touring comedian in the world.

Ventriloquist Terry Fator won the second season of America’s Got Talent. He then went on to sign the biggest contract ever awarded to a reality contest winner. As of this writing, he headlines his own theater at the Mirage Casino & Resort.

Following in Terry’s footsteps, two more ventriloquists have won the television competition. Paul Zerdin of the United Kingdom, and Darci Lynn of Oklahoma.

The “Got Talent” program is international in scope. Swedish ventriloquist Zillah & her monkey Totte won Sweden’s Got Talent. Zillah & Totte are now one of Sweden’s most popular family/children acts.

David Strassman

Another ventriloquist who has achieved an extremely high level of fame is David Strassman. An American, David appeared on television in Australia. The public had an instant love affair with David’s character Ted E. Bear. As a result, David now sells out auditoriums all over Australia and New Zealand with his touring show.

Nina Conti

Ventriloquist Nina Conti brought her ventriloquism to YouTube and achieved massive fame. In addition to being the rare female ventriloquist, her comedy is extraordinary.

The art of ventriloquism is currently at an all-time popularity high. The International Ventriloquist ConVENTion regularly has between 500 – 600 ventriloquists from around the world. The conVENTion is held every July near Fort Mitchell, KY., the home of the Vent Haven Ventriloquism Museum.

Online, ventriloquist and co-founder of the I.V.S., Tom Crowl offers virtual training in the art of ventriloquism. Crowl’s course may be found at:

And of course, if you are a ventriloquist or fan of ventriloquism, you should consider joining the International Ventriloquist Society. Click here for more details.