At one time, polyphony, imitations and sound effects were closely associated with the art of ventriloquism.

No doubt because like ventriloquism, they were an illusion of the voice. In fact, distant ventriloquism is a cross of imitation and sound effect.

Many entertainers lumped the three together under polyphony, but according to the official definition, that is not correct usage.

The Maher Course of Ventriloquism, Lesson 25, touched briefly upon this subject. It is worthy of a read, although the art truly needs a more indepth study.

I was first exposed to this art (and done properly, it is an art) in the late 1990’s. I was hired as a magician to work a banquet with two other acts: Ventriloquist Jim Teeter and Wes Harrison, known as Mr. Sound Effects.

Wes had appeared on every major talk and variety show on television. Both in the U.S. and overseas. His comedy act played the famous Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris. He even created sound effects for movies.

All using only his voice.

Wes had a hilarious act. He told stories with sound effects. I’m happy to be able to share some of these – take your time to listen/watch. You will be glad you did.

In 1984, the movie Police Academy featured comedian Michael Winslow who was also a master of the sound effect.

Winslow went on to have a successful career, appearing in all 7 Police Academy films, other movies, television and touring comedy clubs.

Today, you seldom see entertainers performing sound effects. Although a close relative is the Beatbox musician.

In the ventriloquism community, Philip Jones and Gary Owen are two of the only sound effects guys I know about.

Occasionally the Vent Haven ConVENTion would host a lecture on this topic, but it has been a few years. I’m not familiar with any other ways to learn, other than listen and mimic.

With the rarity of seeing this, it may be worthy of study by someone looking for a unique angle to their act.

Just a thought …

Do you do sound effects? Do you know a way to learn? Share your insights in the comments below:

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