Professional Puppets & Ventriloquist Figures

Professional Puppets & Ventriloquist Figures

Professional Puppets & Ventriloquist Figures

Today I want to answer some questions I get from beginners regarding professional puppets & ventriloquist figures:

“Do I need a professional puppet?”

“I want a really funny puppet, where can I get one?”

“What type of puppet should I use?”

“Where can I buy a professional puppet?”

These are not dumb questions. A lot of beginners stress over selecting their first puppet.

Some of you may know the answers.

Some of you may think your know the answers.

Others of you may be curious.

And some who should know better, still have no clue.

How To Vent Your Expressions by Cliff Taylor

How To Vent Your Expressions is the complete guide to portraying Emotions, Expressions and Actions! Originally released in 1989, the book has not been available in print for years. Maher now releases an updated PDF format version, with easier to read text and built in links to make finding the information fast & easy. Download to read on your computer, Kindle, tablet or phone, or print for your enjoyment. For more information click here …

Let’s start with:

“Do I need a professional puppet?”


If you are starting, you need to learn the skills. You need to learn how to entertain an audience. But you do not need a professional puppet.

I’ve seen Ronn Lucas pull a sock off his foot and entertain an audience for 15 to 20 minutes with it.

I’ve seen other ventriloquists pull out a tennis ball and have their audience laughing hysterically.

The quality of your puppet has nothing to do with the entertainment value of your act.

A professional puppet doesn’t improve your skill.

Just because you have a professional puppet doesn’t mean you are good.

And if you aren’t good – you’ve wasted your money unless you like dust collectors.

This brings us to:

“I want a really funny puppet, where can I get one?”

No puppet is funny.

I’ve never had a puppet tell me a joke.

They just sit there until you put them on your hand and manipulate them.

Just because you have a funny looking puppet, doesn’t mean it will be funny.

Just as:

A Professional Puppet Will Not Improve Your Skill
A Funny Puppet Will Not Improve Your Comedy.

I have a professional ventriloquist friend who is constantly looking for his next figure. The character that will take his career through the roof.

He’s bought a bunch. They don’t work out, and he sells them. Usually for less than he paid for them.

Why? It wasn’t the right character.

I’ve told this friend time and again, it is NOT the puppet.

“I know that!” he replies, “but when I get the right puppet the audiences will go wild. Look what Achmed did for Jeff!”

Here is the problem with that my friends:

Achmed is a character – not just a puppet.

Jeff didn’t just see a skeleton puppet and it started saying funny things.

Jeff created Achmed. (Actually he started with Dead Osama.)

He started with an idea and built it into a character.

That character was tested in front of audiences for years before it appeared on his TV special.

And my friend KNOWS that. Still, he is infatuated with the idea that the next puppet may be his big break.

So I will say it again –

It Is Not The Puppet
It Is What You, As The Ventriloquist Do With It!

This leads us to:

“What type of puppet should I use?”

I have no idea.

That is a personal decision.

You can use:

  • A sock puppet. (Shari Lewis built a career with one.)
  • A tennis ball.
  • An oven mitt.
  • A toy puppet.
  • An animal puppet.
  • A person puppet.
  • A “thing” puppet.

It can be a hard figure – or a soft puppet.

Before you buy a puppet …

Create a character first.

Think about what type of character you want to create.

Will it be:

  • A smart aleck?
  • A tough guy?
  • A wimpy/nervous/scared personality?
  • A baby?
  • A senior?

Think about the voice. Think about what it will do. Think about what it likes or doesn’t like.

The International Ventriloquist Society has a free Character Profile WorkBook and lesson here on the website.

The time you put in creating your character BEFORE you make, shop for or purchase a puppet, will save you time, money and frustration.

Finally, if you go through the above steps:
You have learned the skill.
You have learned to entertain.
You have created a profile,
and you are still looking for a professional puppet or ventriloquist figure …

We have a page of links to some of the best ventriloquist puppet and figure makers around. Just click here to visit!

IVS Radio – The Backup Plan

IVS Radio – The Backup Plan

IVS Radio is exclusively for IVS Members!

Today my good friend Ken Groves is my guest and we have a very interesting discussion about backup plans. With the changing entertainment market, there are a bunch of entertainers who are having trouble finding work. Ken tells us about his backup plan and makes us think about having one of our own.

If you are a pro, this is a must listen episode. If you are a hobbyist, it is a very insight look into the world of professional entertainers.

The Backup Plan with guest 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:

The Multi Faceted David Weyrick!

The Multi Faceted David Weyrick!

That fellow performing in a tuxedo (honoring Jimmy Nelson) is our own David Weyrick. David keeps his act relevant and family friendly. From the grieving goat Folkmanis, to the elderly and deaf Clyde, to the Library show on the history of puppetry, David blends education and fun.

A very young David received his first puppet at age four and by age eight had his own cardboard theater and a cast of puppet characters.

David (right – holding Mickey Mouse puppet) with his brothers – 1958

At age 10, he saw Vonda KayVan Dyke perform with Kurley Q. in the Miss America Pagent. Learning the word Ventriloquist for the first time, David fell in love with the craft. He still owns his first dummy, Joey!

David still owns and uses his first dummy, Joey.

David’s education in ventriloquism is broad: from Paul Winchell’s book, to Jimmy Nelson’s record, to a workshop by Gene Cordova at the 1990 One Way Street Puppet Festival, to the 2012 ConVENTion, and then on to the IVS and the Maher Interactive Course where he received one-on-one coaching from Ken Groves, Tom Crowl, and Mark Wade.

David with Ken Groves

Rounding out his skills, David worked on his use of arm rods with Dan Horn to bring greater life to his puppet Critter, a creation of Mary Ann Taylor. In 2015, David won second place in the Senior Open Mic People’s Choice at the ConVENTion.

David retired from full time ministry and now does shows for children, seniors, grief counseling, and the history of puppets. His various acts include stories about Critter’s home in Tennetucky and songs honoring Paul Winchell (We All Scream for Ice Cream) and Vonda Kay Van Dyke (Together Wherever We Go).

David is active in Scouting and serves as a summer chaplain using puppets at vespers and can be found in our own IVS Spotlight in his column, MORE THINGS I FIGURED OUT.

David Weyrick can be contacted at

Collectible Membership Cards

Collectible Membership Cards

Collectible membership cards for I.V.S. Members started three years ago. Today we unveil our 2019 card.

When the International Ventriloquist Society formed, one of our early members contacted me. He had been a member of the N.A.A.V. (North American Association of Ventriloquist.)

He had saved every membership card that Clinton sent him, and now had them in a frame.

The earliest membership card from the I.V.S. left a lot to be desired.

Printed full color on cardstock, the design was rather dull. Each member’s name, number and membership expiration was printed on a gold label and attached to the card.

The cost of sending the early membership packages overseas was staggering. Because of this, we decided to create PDF membership certificates and cards.

While this definitely saved postage, it didn’t provide a proper “feel” for the organization.

When Mark & Ken said they were stepping down, I decided to “Up The Game” for the I.V.S.

One of those improvements was a new plastic membership card.

The first card design included the flag of the member’s country. Below is my membership card from that year.

Members liked the new cards, and that is when I recalled my earlier conversation about the framed cards.

I decided that the I.V.S. Membership cards should be collectible. With that in mind, I created a different design for the following year.

Since the organization started in mid-November, that is the point things change over.

It is now my pleasure to unveil the next membership card.

If you are a member, be sure to hold on to your older cards. This collection is one you will be proud to own.

And who knows, I’ve seen vents sell off old N.A.A.V. cards, so someday your collection may be worth something.

If you aren’t a member of the I.V.S. – now is the time to join. While you can’t get the first two plastic cards, you can definitely get in on the future editions!

Collectible membership cards – just one more reason to join ventriloquism’s only international organization.

How To Throw Your Voice

How To Throw Your Voice

How To Throw Your Voice

Maher Studios gets a lot of email about this subject.

How can I throw my voice?

I do not believe you can teach me to throw my voice. In the past I have tried and I failed.

You say the voice always comes from you, but the ear can’t detect the direction of sound. I tried this and everyone knew it was me. And I did a pretty good job of not moving my lips.

How far will I be able to throw my voice?

So today we are going to talk about how to throw your voice.

If you have tried in the past and failed, it is because of improper training. (If you received any at all.)

Is Throwing Your Voice Real?


Throwing your voice is a misconception of ventriloquism. Ventriloquists do not really “throw” their voice.

People have heard the term so often, many believe it is true.

But the truth is: the voice will always come from the ventriloquist. Never from some point apart from him or her.

Throwing your voice is an illusion.

Like any good illusion, it requires misdirection.

So for my friend above, when she stood in front of people and tried to make them believe the sound was coming from somewhere else – her failure was a lack of training.

For the young man who has tried to throw his voice in the past – he either had improper or no training. Chances are he didn’t understand that the voice doesn’t actually get “thrown.”

How Does The Illusion Of Throwing Your Voice Work?

There are several steps to creating this illusion.

1. You need to understand how the human brain deals with sound.

When we hear a sound, we like to know where it is coming from.

As you watch television or a movie, the sound is actually coming from speakers.

However because your eyes see the person on the screen moving their lips, your brain links the two and you view the event as if the people on the screen are talking.

When you drive down the street and hear a siren, you look around to determine where the sound is coming from. You see the fire truck or ambulance and your mind links the two.

Throwing your voice relies on this process.

When the brain has linked the sound, the illusion is complete. But there are tricks involved to make this happen.

2. You must be able to do ventriloquism properly.

This means taking the time to learn how to do it. Studying and practicing the skill.

Not just watching a couple of YouTube videos and then thinking you can do it.

You need to understand how to pronounce and project words without moving your lips.

You must be able to change your voice for a puppet, or change, squeeze and modulate it for a “distant voice.”

There is a lot going on there – and you must be able to perform it to create the illusion of “throwing your voice.”

3. You must provide believable, appropriate misdirection.

This is where acting classes come in handy. A ventriloquist must be able to act and react as if the voice comes from another source.

In an earlier article, I shared a video of David Strassman on the Hey Hey It’s Saturday TV show. Below, I want to share a different performance on the same show.

This clip features “voice throwing.” Watch it and then we will break it down.

David “threw” his voice to Chuck when he was sitting in the chair.

As you watched it, chances are, you felt as if Chuck were actually talking.

How did this happen?

David began by introducing Chuck to the audience with a short routine.

He used several techniques during this. He was:

  • animating the puppet,
  • keeping his lips still,
  • using a different voice and
  • giving Chuck a defined personality,

By doing all of this, your brain accepted the voice was coming from Chuck.

Later, when David was working with Ted E Bare, he created the illusion of voice throwing by:

  • Using Chuck’s voice,
  • Looking in Chuck’s direction
  • Having Ted E. Bare look and interact with the Chuck figure.

While it is easy to explain, it is much harder to perform.

David Strassman has mastered all of the topics we’ve talked about in this article.

And if you learn to do ventriloquism properly, you can use these techniques to “throw your voice” too.