FINDING THE “POSITIVE” IN YOUR ACT!
By: Mark Wade
It’s always easy to listen to the “self critic” inside each of us. Unfortunately we all have this little bugger, always listening, always having a comment of two to drop into our self conscious mind. It’s a battle each of us face because our brains are wired that way. Here’s some creative suggestions I picked up that I would like to share with you.
Why do we have this inner voice?
Actually, believe it or not, it’s a coping and safety mechanism that our brain uses to keep us from danger. But when it is over active it paints some vile pictures of negative experiences so you won’t venture out of your comfort zone and put yourself in harm’s way. But by listening to this “little inner voice” we can actually keep ourselves from using our imaginations, trying new approaches, and self-limiting ourselves (let alone making us feel terrible and depressed in the process).
How do we get past this?
You need to do some self talk in a positive way.
Give yourself a real “pep talk” , emphasizing a positive experience you had doing your show. Think back to the show when everything went as planned. The audience was fantastic, you felt great, and it all worked out smoothly, being sure that you are not exaggerating and that the experience was factual. This is a real confidence booster and should deaden that critic within.
You can also play a game with yourself wherein you think of the critic voice as speaking like a favorite character from the cartoons. How can you take this voice seriously when it sounds like Mickey Mouse or some other character?
Another method, which can be used with doing the positive talk, is to simply tell the voice to go away and mentally turn down the volume of its voice. By banishing the voice, you now can go forward in a positive and creative way, not with a depressing, nagging voice telling you all the things that are wrong.
Work at overriding your self defeating voice. Realize it was originally there to keep you safe, but you don’t need any help at this point. You’ll feel much better and your act will show improvement where before you kept defeating yourself. Be the best you can be, that’s all any of us can do.
- 7/10 – Spokane, WA.
- 7/14 – Louisville, KY.
- 8/20 – Uncasville, CT.
- 8/21 – Atlantic City, NJ.
- 9/10 – Allegan, MI.
- 9/11 – Hanmmond, IN.
- 7/30 – Newkirk, OK.
- 8/01 – Great Falls, MT.
- 9/17 – Joliet, IL.
- 9/18 – Altoona, IA.
Terry is currently performing a limited run at the New York New York Casino in Las Vegas. For details, click here …
3D CAD Printing For Figure Building
By: Kenny Croes
I recently discovered the advantages of 3D CAD design and printing. My first designs were control sticks I use in building 2T (30-32-inch-tall) figures and 4T (40-42-inch tall) figures. Prior to these designs I used PVC pipe into which I would drill holes and make slots for triggers. Now my 3D-printed control sticks come with holes and trigger slots already there. They also have grooves to accommodate brass tube-and-rod eye controls. I secure the brass tube with dabs of Magic-Sculpt.
Since the design of the control sticks. I’ve collaborated with Buzz James of Braylu Creations to create custom CAD designs of triggers, eye trays, shelves for eye trays, jaw rod slots, and even blinker parts and mechanics.
Finally, I’m about to introduce my first 3D-printed head design. Rather than build a figure directly from a 3D-printed head, I’ve had Braylu Creations use the 3D-printed head for a model from which a mold and polyurethane castings can be rendered.
CAD design and 3D-printing has improved the quality and precision of my figure-building. The learnng curve has been steep, but well worth the time and effort.
2T Control Stick (1)
2T Control Stick (2)
4T Control Stick (1)
4T Control Stick (2)
SEO for the Ventriloquist
By: Tom Crowl
If you have a website, this article is for you. If you don’t have a website, but intend to start one, this may be for you. If you don’t care about websites, feel free to jump over this information.
Having a website doesn’t mean you will get work from it. It also doesn’t mean people will ever see it. There are a ton of websites out there that no one, except for the owner, knows about!
For those who don’t know, SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization. It helps Google, Yahoo, Bing and all the other search engines figure out what your website is about. It then ranks your site for a variety of reasons. That ranking determines if you will show up when someone searches for a specific keyword or phrase.
Keywords and phrases are things people type into a search bar to try and find what they are looking for.
A lot of ventriloquists (and magicians, and musicians, and mentalists, and …) think they need to show up #1 on google for the search term: ventriloquist (or magician, or musician or mentalist or …) That doesn’t mean you will get work either. It is also thinking too broad.
If someone types in Europe types “Ventriloquist” in Google and your site shows up – but you only perform in Peoria, IL. – you’ve wastes your effort. If you show up for adult comedy in California, but you do school assemblies in Virginia, you’ve wasted your time.
Before you begin to make your website Search Engine Optimized, you need to know the focus of your site and each web page it contains.
Some entertainers use their site as a brochure. Others use it as a booking tool. Some will use it to drive traffic to their shows. Maybe you have merchandise and want to sell that.
You should select a focus.
That doesn’t mean you can’t do more than one thing – but think about this from the perspective of someone searching for something.
If I typed “birthday party ventriloquist” into Google … (highly doubtful anyone would type that…) I am probably looking for a birthday party ventriloquist. If I go to a website that shows a vent performing in comedy clubs, selling t-shirts and there is a link that says birthday parties – I would probably leave.
Why? It didn’t instantly solve my problem. I wasn’t looking for a vent that does comedy clubs, or corporate, or schools – I was looking for a vent that does birthday parties.
People get confused easy. They want quick, direct access to what they are looking for.
So to start, as basic as this sounds – you need to know what you provide and HOW people will search for what you’re offering. Next, you have to explain to the search engine “bots” why your page would be relevant for that particular search.
Then, you need to build your website – and each page on your website, to directly address what a person searching is looking for.
There are right ways and wrong ways to SEO your website and get work. In the next few issues, I will share some of the best practices I’ve used to rank on the first page of Google over the years.
Your first step – find your focus – know what you want from your website and think about what people looking for your talents would search for.
Not sure what people may be looking for? Go to Google and type in what you do … you will see Google suggestions. These are things that people have typed in, and will give you a direction.
Write them down and start thinking about each one. Ask past and current clients how they found you or what they were looking for. Ask friends for suggestions on what they people searching for entertainment would ask.
There is also a tool on SEO genius Neil Patil’s website called UberSuggest. I suggest you try that too. Get your keywords and search phrases together.
Keep in mind more people type questions than a keyword into search engines.
Once you have your detailed list – we’ll start working on getting your site to page one for these terms!
- 7/23 – Carlton, MN.
- 7/28 – Goshen, IN.
- 8/18 – Lynden, WA.
- 9/06 – St. Paul, MN.
- 9/10 – Greensboro, NC.
- 9/11 – Augusta, GA.
- 7/16 – Horseshoe At Blackpool Pleasure Beach
- 7/17 – Horseshoe At Blackpool Pleasure Beach
- 7/23 – Horseshoe At Blackpool Pleasure Beach
- 7/24 – Horseshoe At Blackpool Pleasure Beach
- 7/29 – Norwich, UK
- 7/30 – Horseshoe At Blackpool Pleasure Beach
- 7/31 – Horseshoe At Blackpool Pleasure Beach
- 8/6 – Horseshoe At Blackpool Pleasure Beach
- 8/13 – Horseshoe At Blackpool Pleasure Beach
- 8/14 – Horseshoe At Blackpool Pleasure Beach
- 8/20 – Horseshoe At Blackpool Pleasure Beach
I’ll let David start. Thanks for that Clara. I teach at a Child Development Center. Where I’ve had daily opportunities for Ventriloquism over the 2020-2021 school year. Our 2021 Summer Camp theme is One Of A Kind. I will be preforming two different thirty minute shows with three different characters for each show. My theme is that its Great to be One of a Kind. Clara your up. I was just checking the oven. Wow how busy is Spring? Not too busy to enjoy a sweet home baked treat I hope.
I hope you’ll enjoy at least one of these summer treats. Looking forward to seeing all of our friends at the July ConVENTion . Safe Travels see you soon. – Clara Crumbs & David W. Fowler
The recipe cards are full sized, 4″ x 6″ in the PDF copy of the Spotlight, which may be downloaded on page one of this issue. That will allow you to print them out to use in the kitchen!
Chester and Andrew
Andrew Sellon writes:
This past Winter, I had fun introducing my social media followers to Colin’s cousin via the same kind of name-guessing game I used to introduce Colin back in 2019. Followers were allowed one guess per day, and clues were given to enhance the fun. Some great names were suggested–I might use some if I add more dummy buddies to our household! I was delighted when the correct guess was made by a little girl with autism who loves watching the video clips I make with my guys. She took one look at him and informed her mother matter-of-factly: “His name is Chester.” Chester and I posted a congratulatory video clip which delighted both the child and her mom. And in observance of the 1-year anniversary of the pandemic (or as I call it, the #pandemiversary), I reposted a humorous video clip of Colin and me delivering a poem about the importance of masking up–along with some crazy outtakes where one or the other of us (okay, usually me) flubbed something. I had a mild case of covid in April 2020 and wanted to do something to encourage people to take precautions. You can follow my antics with the guys on my Instagram or Twitter (@AndrewSellon) or Facebook (Andrew Sellon). We’ll be glad to see you there!
PS: As you might guess by his adorable face, Chester is a Lovik figure. I purchased him online from Steve Toegel, who originally purchased this little guy from Clinton Detweiler. I persuaded the wonderful Dan Lavender (who created Colin for me) to redo Chester’s dated control stick to work the same organic way Colin’s does. So glad I did–and as a bonus Chester’s eyebrows have more movement than they ever had before!
Colin and Andrew
In May, Colin and I made a special appearance at a Zoom performance hosted by the Lewis Carroll Society of North America (of which I am a member and former president). Colin joined me to help deliver a short humorous poem by Lewis Carroll about a child exasperated with constantly being told all the things they can’t do!
Mike Niehaus writes:
Well Hey from Mehlville, Missouri!
It looks like things are finally returning to normal. It’s going to be a daisy of a summer, my show schedule finally filled up, and I’m ready to do shows. I decided it might be a good idea to make sure my bib-overalls didn’t shrink during the last couple of months. To my surprise, I’m fixin to write a strong “Letter of Disappointment,” to a specific bib-overall company. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
I am just a simple hillbilly from Missouri who barely graduated high school with a 1.68 GPA. My understanding of psychological principles is limited to only about fifty college classes. But I believe with all my heart, that the world is waiting to vicariously live thru our puppets. So many people are desperate for entertainment and laughter to distract them from the problems they are facing in their lives. We have never been needed more, so lets go and bring happiness back to the world.
Clockwise around the table starting with rear left: Dirk Golden, Daniel Robison, Colin Dymond, Wendi Hart, Tommy Anderson, Trish Dunn, Dana Barnum, Carson Scott, Jared McLain, Preston Fernandez, Traci Allen, Vinnie Ewart, Ron Scherer, Lisa Arnold, Bev Bacon, Neale Bacon, Debbie Cherry, Andrea Scott, Chuck Lyons, Eddie Siller, Felicia Siller, Shane West, Duane Echols, Lori Bruner
Eddie & Felicia Siller write:Are you going to the 2021 Vent Haven ConVENTion? Well Felicia and I are really looking forward to going. We have not been able to have our Southwest Ventriloquist Club Get Together, here in Arizona, since 2019, so we are so ready to be with our vent family again. We are sad to hear that some of our International friends won’t be there. They will definitely be missed. We are looking forward to the lectures, workshops, open mic and of course,the shows. It will be nice to be able to finally sit face to face and chat with all our friends and hope to meet people we haven’t yet met in person. Let’s all have a great time in July! We will see you soon!
Mark Berryman writes:
You could call my journey thus far an on-again, off-again, on-again love affair with the art. Life got in the way during the “off-again” part but I am now practicing daily and starting to see some improvement.
I attended the Vent Haven ConVENTion in 2018 and was like most beginner vents, I was pretty star-struck by seeing many of those I had seen on TV, YouTube and in the lessons I had taken. I learned a lot, met some great people, had a great time and was even included in the New York Times article published about that convention.
I was determined to return within a couple of years and registered for the 2020 ConVENTion. We all know what happened in 2020, so I’ll just leave it at that.
Things started to get back to normal in 2021 (at least in the parts of the country I was in and I was still committed to attending.
Then I took a new job in Montana. With the new job I wasn’t sure whether it would work out or not. I finally got around to asking my new boss and she said, “yes” to my request.
My hotel room is booked and my flight is booked (although they keep changing my flight about every other week).
The most exciting part of this is I am one of the lucky ones who will be performing at the Senior Open Mic session. I’ll be bringing my pal Bo Daeshus.
OK, I used the word exciting to describe performing in front of not only a room full of vents but three pros who will be critiquing my performance… but maybe a better word would be nervous… or possibly a little petrified. I don’t have a lot of experience performing in public.
The good thing is my script is almost finished and I think it’s pretty good. The plan is to put the finishing touches on the script this weekend (which translates to two weeks before you actually read this). That means I have plenty of time to practice not only the script but the acting as well.
If things go badly, can I blame it on Tom Crowl, Ken Groves, Lee Cornell, Bob Rumba and Dan Horn? After all, I’m learning this stuff using their material.
No? Hey, it was worth a try.
In all honesty, I am a fan of each one of those vents and have learned a tremendous amount about the art of ventriloquism from them. I highly recommend each of their courses. (Guys, I’ll collect for the free plugn at the convention. Bring your checkbooks.)
I said all of that to say this. If you’re attending the ConVENTion, sign up for one of the regular open mic sessions. It doesn’t matter whether you think you’re ready or not. You’re probably more ready than you realize. Just get out of your comfort zone and do it. I may be be more nervous than a cat in a room full of rocking chairs about performing but I’m glad I’ve been selected to do it. I truly hope you will take the leap as well.
We (Bo and I) hope to see you at the ConVENTion!
Satyajit Padhye writes:
I am conducting a course on Ventriloquism and the timings specially suite the American audience. I am sending you a link to all the details and attaching a picture of the same.
Check my post about the course https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=10158165989511527&set=a.41745531526
Janice Hartmann writes:
In 2019 we moved to Las Vegas to help raise our grandson. It was difficult leaving my mom, of whom I cared for in our home for several years. She suffered from Dementia; we shared a lot of laughter and tears and in September of 2020 I was able to be by her side when she passed away, under the most wonderful of care in an assisted living home in Fond Du Lac, WI. I will be forever grateful to them!
I flew back to Vegas, created a beautiful video tribute for my Mother’s memorial, which I wasn’t able to attend, due to being quarantined and having to fly out again the following week with my daughter-in-law to take my grandson for a visit with his dad, my son, who’d been away doing highly critical work for our government.
Both my son and daughter-in-law worked throughout the entire pandemic, so that meant full-time work for myself as well tending to my grandson. ☺ I’m not complaining, as he’s the joy of my life, but man he’s active! Lol
Once home in late October I developed COVID 19 and survived. It left me fighting fatigue and occasionally confusion, yet thankfully, that is clearing up!
I’m sharing this for many of us share in struggling through not only trying to stay on track with our talent for entertaining other’s, but for keeping our spirits up within daily living. 😊 Life is unmistakably worth it, and if you find yourself, like me, putting your talents on hold for supporting your family during this time – hold your head high in delight and encouragement of our Ventriloquist family.
I’m extremely excited to be able to see Jay Johnson in person this June, when he performs in Las Vegas.
Be Present for other’s in their time of need, and you will be blessed. 💞
David Turner writes:
Time is really flying by this year especially when I think back to last year when time stood still. This year shows have been picking up and calls are coming in for more! Churches, birthday and anniversary parties, festivals and county and State fair season is on its way.
A first for me was virtual career day for our county school in April. I have been there in person for career day in the past so I was wondering how this would work. I must say it was a hit with the students and teachers because I got to share so much more information about the art of ventriloquism. Starting from inside my workshop showing the different stages of figure making to all the finished vent figures in my dummy room.
Jaxson, my grandson in second grade, made the school newspaper. They interviewed him and myself for the article. The story of Jaxson’s love for ventriloquism. (above)
Roenia, my wife of 41 years, is my secretary, roadie, and also helps set up and runs my sound. She couldn’t make it to one show we had booked May 7th so I had to come up with a way to run my own music while preforming. We use “SHOW CUES” app to run our music on an ipad for years. Since you can install “SHOW CUES” app on multi devices I loaded it on my iphone and made a new table top with a cut out for my iphone to drop into…..problem solved. (See Photos) Oh, by the way I would still rather have Roenia run my sound.
I made it a personal goal many years ago to bring a new figure every year to the Vent Haven Convention. So my goal was to carve one vent figure a year. Since the pandemic in 2020 , I have spent more time in workshop than ever before…. I’m happy to say I’m all set and should be able to bring a new vent figure through Vent Haven Convention 2035.
Be creative and use your imagination!
Above: the three dummies that I finished are : Frank – acrylic wash, Soul Patch guy – oil paint and Egore – wood stain!
Soft Puppets: A Great Way To Add Variety To Your Act
By: Mark Wade
Whether you are a long time professional or a “Newbie” getting started in our art, soft puppets are worth taking a look at. There are many “pluses” when it comes to these and we are going to explore a few with this column.
It’s not traditional
i love the hard professional figures but I also found a place for soft puppets in a vent act. For one thing there are advantages to these characters, like the cost factor . You can buy two or three soft puppets at the price of one vent figure, which makes having a backup puppet or two a reality . Another factor is that using soft puppets is a non-traditional way to go for an aspiring ventriloquist. Some audiences think they are going to get a vent act like many other vent acts, with a traditional ‘Charlie McCarthy” looking puppet. They sit up and the notice when a talking dog, bird, or soft puppet person appears. It’s not the usual norm and that helps the act along.
Ease In Packing And Transporting
Soft puppets are also easy to transport on an airplane. The may bounce around in the travel case but are ready to go within a few seconds. A hair brush is all that’s required Also you don’t have to worry about a figure being damaged during the flight. There’s nothing worse that trying to fix a crack or skinned paint job after traveling a long distance with a vent figure.
You Can Add Variety By Blending in Both Types Of Puppets
They say variety is the spice of life and you can blend both nicely into your act. A vent can start the act with a soft puppet and finish with a hard figure, and the audience will love it. Jeff Dunham comes to mind when I write this, as he uses both beautifully in his shows.
Use your creativity when it comes to putting your show together. Maybe you could throw in a vent speciality bit with a distant voice or baby cry to around out the show, or even a magic interlude would break things up. Experiment and work on new combinations. Your audience will love you for it !
What caption did you find?
In the March issue of Spotlight I published a cartoon and your job was to find a caption for it.
The archaeologist, what does he say?
Here are the winners of the Swiss newspaper (in German):
Rang 1 Wir haben Patient 0 gefunden
Rang 2 Das also war der Fluch des Pharao
Rang 3 Wir könnten ihn umbenennen: in Tutanchimmun
And the translation, as far as possible:
Rank 1 We found patient 0
Rank 2 So that was Pharaoh’s curse
Rank 3 We could rename it: Tutanchimmun
Que voz! – What a voice!
Some interesting news from Spain. Maybe you already know and have watched it on the internet. But you can’t watch it often enough. The show of the Spanish ventrilocua Celia Muñoz in Spain’s Got Talent 2021. She is a trained opera singer and therefore has the best qualifications as a ventriloquist. A great presentation. She has absolute lip control, a very good voice on the phone and drinks in between. In addition an excellent choreography. Their shows touched me a lot and I had to watch them over and over again.
VIDEO OF THE MONTH
This isn’t a vent video! – Very wise you are. This is a lesson in comedy!
The Carol Burnett show ran from 1967 to 1978. It was a comedy variety show with an ensemble cast of characters that became extremely famous as a result of their antics. So why would I share this with you as a ventriloquist’s learning tool?
The characters portrayed by the actors and actresses were well defined. This skit’s characters, known as Momma’s Family – went on to become their own television series. So well defined characters are a must – which is important not just for your figure – but the character you portray on stage as well.
Second, study the pacing. It wasn’t rushed, but allowed to unfold “naturally”(?). The timing allowed the audience to laugh – lines were never “stepped on.” As the laughs started to die, Tim Conway would pick up and deliver another laugh line that started things rolling again.
You may think this whole thing was planned – and to a degree, it was. However Carol and the others were warned before going on that the elephant story had changed from their rehearsal. So these laughs were genuine, because they didn’t expect what Tim was going to say.
The fact the actors couldn’t keep a straight face and were having so much fun, intensified the audience’s reactions. Genuinely laughing with the comedy can endear you to the audience. It has to be really funny to do this – or they will sit and stare at you. Don’t be the only one in the room laughing, but if it is intense, playing along can increase the experience.
This was portrayed in the vent world when Jeff Dunham & Guitar Guy started laughing at something Achmed said in their Christmas special. That wasn’t the first time they had used that line or laughed at that joke. I saw it during the live show as they were rehearsing for the taping of the Christmas special. The way they did it was so natural – you couldn’t help but laugh. So LEARN the art of being natural onstage and you will see your audience connection increase dramatically.
Finally – with a recall to character – Momma was a cranky old lady. Vicki Lawrence’s comment at the end of the video not only stayed in character – (and was bleeped by the network) – but it climaxed the entire skit and stole the show.
So watch this clip and study the delivery, watch the reactions, listen to the laughter and timing … and learn!
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