Too old for Kid Shows?

Question: I have a odd question for you... I'm 40 years old, do you think its too late for me to get into the kid show business with ventriloquism?
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Answer: Absolutely not. If you have an age appropriate entertaining kid program, YOUR age is NOT a factor. You will want to purchase Mark Wade's excellent DVD, The Art Of The Kid Show. Clinton

Paw-Paw D. and Jaci

How can it be possible that our son, Kevin, is now a Grandpa?! It seems only yesterday he was that young grade school kid always at my side in my shop. Somewhere along this amazing road of life we all travel, I must have blinked!


"Conversion" dolls

Question: Would you please tell me what a Conversion figure is? I am fascinated with all the different vent figures I see on the net. And the more I see the more intrigued I become. The features on some of these figures are really hilarious. Very Interesting! Donna
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Answer: Usually the term "conversion" or "up grade" when used in a description of a ventriloquist doll means that a commercial doll (such as Charlie McCarthy or Howdy Doody, etc.) has been taken and changed (converted) into another character. There's a number of ways this can be done.

Or, a commercial doll may be "up graded" from a stuffed body doll into one with more professional features such as hollow body, headpost, moving eyes, etc. Clinton
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Yes. Here's the link: http://www.maherstudios.blogspot.com

Magical Puppet?

What a fun novelty puppet with which to add variety to a magic show! "Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I have brought with me for this show a brand new box of "Tricks" (Trix)! With the ability to close his eye, "Trix" could be used for some sort of comedy "mind reading" feat, too, as suggested in Bill Andersen's book: Mental Magic For Ventriloquists.

I gave my first official magic show when I was in the 8th grade. I built many of the effects myself, following instructions found in the magic "how-to" books checked out of our local public library. What fun I could have had with this puppet! Of course, "Trix" had not yet been cooked up in 1949. Maybe I could have created a puppet from "Shredded Wheat"!


Mark Wade Writes


One of the biggest mistakes school show vents (or any kind of ventriloquist for that matter!) can make is to arrive at the venue just minutes before show time. Although the vent may only need 10 - 15 minutes to set up the act (and still have time in advance), it's much more than that. It's the "comfort level" of the principal or buyer of your show that matters at this point. Every principal I have dealt with over the years has a horror story about the act that didn't show up - or showed up very late. The principal had all the kids in the auditorium, they were getting noisy and restless, the teachers were upset for taking valuable time out of the classroom, and no performer! I have found that arriving 45 minutes ahead is just perfect for these types of shows. It gives you, the performer, time to look over the show area, decide where to set up, and the principal is relaxed knowing YOU are on the job. The same holds true for other types of shows as well. Even agent-driven bookings require you to be there early so you can make their client feel good about booking you. Remember - it's not always about us or about the act - it's often about the "comfort level" of the people that are booking us.

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I often hear performers banter over the importance of contracts, especially if they are in the kidshow field. Somehow some of these well intentioned folks feel that since it's "just a kidshow" that paperwork in the form of a contract isn't necessary. Not true! I say, "ALWAYS have some sort of a paper trail, especially a contract, to be sure you get things right and get paid in a timely fashion." If you are doing school shows and libraries, it is very important to get contracts into the hands of the customers. If there is a descrepency on what time the show is to begin, the contract that both you and the customer signed is the determining factor. Also in the contract, you can spell out how long the show will be, once again avoiding any problems. And the BEST thing about the contract, it will help you get paid on time. If the customer signs the contract and it says that you will be paid the day of the show, there is no misunderstanding, no waiting for a check to be sent weeks after the performance. Contracts don't need to be elaborate, in fact, they can be in a letter form, as long as there is a place for both you and your customer to sign, and each of you gets a copy of the document. Once you have everything in "black and white" there are no hidden surprises, and it DOES make you more professional. Remember, kidshows are as important as any other type of performing. Please don't treat it as "second rate". You are as professional as the paperwork you choose to send out.

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Many performers do not realize the importance of keeping audience members seated closely together during a performance. It's true! This one thing can often determine the difference between a great show and a mediocre performance (or even a bad show). I've learned over the years that laughter is contagious and when you get part of the audience laughing it soon spreads to others quickly. Especially when doing school shows I have to remind the principal that I do not need an aisle that is a half a gym floor wide. The teachers want to make short rows (to get to their kids) but also want to leave a huge center opening that they feel is the appropriate aisle that is needed. Not true! The kids and I only need an aisle about 24-28 inches wide. This still allows the kids to exit the show in case of an emergency but is also close enough to make the audience feel they are one group. As I told a principal the other day "When you have an aisle so wide that you can land a Boeing 747 between the two sections of kids, it's not good for me or anyone." (I said this with a smile on my face and did it kiddingly.) "When there is a large amount of dividing space," I continued, "I have two audiences instead of one! I'll have to constantly turn from side to side because I have no audience directly in front of me!" The principal got what I was saying, shifted the kids so that I had a much smaller aisle, and the show was a huge success. This fact is also true when you have the first row of kids too far away from you. Set them up so the first row is only about 6-10 feet away from the performance area. Once again the fact remains that comedy, especially kidshow comedy, works well with the audience being close.

Newsy Vents 11/05


From Fred Anderson: "Fortunately my licence plate holder is still withstanding the test of our hot summers and very cold winters. Like Jeff, I get a chuckle from the looks on faces of people behind me when they read my plate frame. They also get a big smile on their faces when they figure out that my personalized plate DMY MAN means Dummy Man."


Comment: Hello, Clinton. Nice to see that "great minds" not only think alike but also drive alike. I've had three PT Cruisers. Judging from the latest news, I guess we'd better take good care of the ones we have as there may not be any more! PS --Your cases, lined up placed on end, fit perfectly in the back cargo area. (I, of course, make sure the figures' heads are "up.")Steve Engle
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Reply: Steve: Of all the vehicles I've owned in my lifetime, the PT Cruiser is the first I've really enjoyed. (This is my second.) And now, like you, I've heard on the news Chrysler will discontinue them. Well, I'm going to drive this one I have until the only appropriate place left to drive it is in parades with the local vintage Cruiser Club! As for hauling cases, with the back seat folded up, I've had 12 cases in mine at one time and there was still room for a couple more. Love that car! Clinton

Historical Figure For Sale!

Our daughter, Joy Scheuerman, owned Maher Studios for three years (2003-2006). Shortly before operations were closed in 2006, Joy commissioned Keith Lovik to build a ventriloquist figure for her personal collection of Maher Memorabilia. What a fun character "Cody, Jr." was! (right). He is 35" tall and is signed by Keith and dated with his completion date of 4/14/06, just two days prior to the official closing of Maher Studios (4/16/06).

Keith shipped the figure to Joy who asked me to add raising eyebrows to the figure, which I did. So why do I consider this to be an "historical" piece? Of the hundreds of Lovik World figures sold over a period of over 30 years, this is the FINAL Knee Pal built for Maher Studios by a member of the Lovik family! Truly a rare part of Maher Studios' history. It has been kept in careful storage since its completion and has never been used. Mint condition. Joy has now decided to sell, so I have it listed now on eBay, for sale at auction with no reserve and FREE shipping (USA). One-of-kind chance-of-a-lifetime: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=260418352479

I have also listed a new Custom Carrying Case which is the perfect size for this figure (or any figure 35"-38" tall): http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=260418361821ViewItem&item=260418361821

Eye change?

Question: Clinton, I was thinking of getting a pair of highly realistic eyes in brown for my female Col. Bill Boley figure. If I order them, can you install them in her and repaint her?

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Answer: Normally I do not advise an eye change in a figure because the mechanics have to be totally rebuilt. But since this figure has no other extra effects, it could be a job that is cost effective. Can I give you a bit of personal advice? Avoid selecting a pair of eyes that are too human in appearance unless you intend to "freak out" some of our friends and audience. When a vent figure becomes too humanly realistic it will make some people uncomfortable. Part of the magic of ventriloquism is the fact that something obviously a puppet can be made to act in a lifelike manner. You don't want to lose that "magic". (I avoid eyes with veins in the white portion of the eyeball.)

To answer your question: Yes, I can install the eyes and repaint her, but to give you an exact price, I need to see her and the new eyes you select first hand. And, I'll have a few additional questions for you. When I have an idea of the time that will be required for the job I can quote you an exact price. You'll be under no obligation to me (other than the cost of return shipping) if you decide not to proceed.

The eyes have it

This fellow came to me with a request only to touch up the eyelid paint and add new eyelashes. Small details; HUGE improvement. They say people can speak volumes with their eyes. I'm convinced the same is true of ventriloquist figures!


License Frames

Question: Clinton, Does that wonderful storage shed of yours happen to have any more of the ventriloquist license plate frames left in it? The one I received from the "grab bag" boxes you sold a few years back was attacked by a runaway grocery cart and broke. It was good advertising. I actually had fun reading people's lips through the rear view mirror as we sat at red lights as they read ventriloquist! Jeff Scott

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Answer: Dr. Jeff, The "Grab Bag" boxes we sold in 2003 & 2006 contained the last of my supply of ventriloquist License frames. Sorry! Mine got broken, too, a number of years ago, and I can only wish it had been a runaway grocery cart that was the cause rather than a "bumper-to-bumper" event! The frames you refer to were made of plastic and came in a choice of colors. But way back in the 1970s we had some made of metal with the wording, "N.A.A.V. Ventriloquist". They were nice. But years of weather and road wear and tear finally forced me to discard mine. Clinton

Distant Ventriloquism

Question: Dear Sir, Myself, Abhijeet, a resident of India (Age 22). I'm an amature ventriloquism student, performing since last 4 years. I'm crazy about everything which is related to ventriloquism. While searching on Net on this subject I came across to your blog. I need some help in distance ventriloquism. I can't do distance ventriloquism. Will you please give me instructions on this? And how to use it on stage shows. I'll be thankful if you help me. I apologise for mistakes. Waiting for your response. Thank you. Regards.
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Answer: Hello, Abhijeet. I'm excited to hear of your enthusiasm for ventriloquism! Your question concerning Distant Ventriloquism is one I receive often. I will give you a very brief answer here. Distant Ventriloquism is always an illusion. No one can physically "throw" or produce their voice from some point distant from themselves. It is always an illusion. The secret is to produce a voice that sounds as if it is coming from some distant point, and through acting, prepare the listener to expect a voice from that point. When these two things are combed and presented skillfully, the listener will actually be convinced they hear the voice coming from that distant point! For a more detailed explanation and DEMONSTRATION on this subject, I suggest Mark Wade's DVD "Advanced Ventriloquism". For sale here

Stuffed animal to vent puppet conversion

Clinton: Thank you for the wonderful information you have shared with all of us in the past 4 years. I am sure that there will be much more to share. I have a question - I have some stuffed animals I would like to turn into puppets, do you know anyone who has the capabilities to do it or is it really worth the endeavor. One is a mid size brown 100th anniversary bear and the other is a large duck, both will need to have the mouth opened and made to work, and I guess some stuffing would need to be removed and the body relined. Hope you or someone you know has some ideas as to how to go about it.
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Answer: To answer this question properly would take more details than I have at hand, but generally speaking, it is not cost effective to convert a stuffed animal into a vent puppet if you have to pay someone to do it. But if you can do it yourself, then that's a different story. I say this because from experience I know I can build a couple ventriloquist figures (such as those you can see here ) in less time than it would take me to convert a stuffed animal into a vent figure. But, I can't expect anyone to pay the cost of two figures for one stuffed animal conversion. So, while I've done it for my own pleasure, I don't offer such a service. Nor, unfortunately, do I know anyone who does. Clinton


PT versatility

One of the problems with selling lined and padded custom carrying cases is SPACE. This week I have orders for four cases in three sizes. Only my garage has the room I need to roll out foam and fabric (on an unseen table to the left) when cutting to size. On this day I was using my car as a place to lay the pieces until I set up a mini-spray booth so I could glue the fabric to the foam. Adelia laughed when she happened to step through the door, took in the sight, and commented, "Now there's a picture for your blog!" I replied, "Well, get the camera." She did - and now you see part of what I have to go through to prep materials for lining a case.

It was exactly a year ago this week when David Pendleton asked me about the possibility of getting some more cases for his figures. I thought I had retired from that facet of my career since my shop is far too small to handle such jobs. But I decided to temporarily bring the cases back and use my garage as workspace. I thought it would only be for a couple weeks. Now, here I am - one year later, still unable to park but one vehicle in my garage due to my case "workshop". If it could talk, even the PT would complain. I told Adelia this morning I think it's about time consider the wisdom of re-retiring from that portion of my shop career!

Fats challenge

Hi Clinton, I have the opportunity to purchase an unpainted resin casting of the "Evil Fats" Ventriloquist head from the film "Magic". It is a casting from the original mold. What would you charge to turn it into a painted Ventriloquist figure with moving eyes and moving eyebrows? Thank You, Philip
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Philip: Well, I'm tempted because it looks like a fun challenge. But I have other "challenges" in my shop that need my immediate attention. So I'll pass on your invitation. However, there could be some figure maker reading this that would be willing to take on this job assignment If so, drop me a note. Clinton


Slots or not?

Question: Hello. I found your website and blog spot and I was wondering if you can make any figures with the "living" mouths that Maher Studios sold years ago. I have searched the internet but have yet to find anyone that makes them, or I can't get a reply from some figure makers. Thanks, Chris
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Answer: No, I do not make figures with the "living" (non-slot) mouth. Nor do I know anyone who currently does. Craig Lovik made the living mouth Storyteller figures we sold through Maher Studios in the 1970s. He told me that type of mouth is actually easier to build than the traditional slotted jaw. And a dummy without slots does have a more realistic appearance... until it starts talking.

When such figures are "talking", only the figure's lower lip moves. There is no chin/jaw movement. That is less realistic (our jaw moves as much or more than our lips when we talk) and less visible. Personally, I opt for greater visibility for the audience. Another quirk I've learned - people only mention the slots on a dummy's mouth when there are none. Clinton
These Storyteller figures were introduced in 1973. Billy (left) and Brian.

Keep it simple; do it well

Question: I have a couple of questions for you. As a ventriloquist I have had much difficulty learning the distant voice and don't have a high enough register to do the "baby cry." From what I've read, heard and seen from most "successful" vents these novelty effects are a big part of a good performance. How important are they to the credibility of a ventriloquist and getting an audience to "buy into" you as a vent? Will audiences be impressed by an act without them? Is there anything that you would suggest that could replace them? I'm just a little apprehensive about not being as "talented" as some vents. What are you thoughts and recommendations? * * * * * *
Answer: I've always advocated keeping things simple and doing them well. Always work within your ability. There's no need to try to include every form of ventriloquism in your performance just because someone else does. Every performing ventriloquist started out the same - with the basics. With practice and performance experience it will be possible for you to expand your repertoire of skills as you go along. Always have the goal of making the next show a little better than the last. You may choose to add novelty effects one by one as your shows increase in number and you increase in confidence. Never yield to the temptation of adding novelty just for the sake of demonstrating novelty, but give it purpose in your act. Some pro vents, for instance, use the baby cry in every act; others will never use it at all. A simple show performed well will leave your audience impressed.

Memorial Day 2009

"Home of the brave,
"Land of the free..."
Thank you, Veterans
and those who serve!


Details, details

Finishing off a puppet often requires an amount of time equal to that of building the complete under structure. That's true of ventriloquist figures and that's true of cereal box puppets. It takes several gluing steps to cover the wooden unit with the empty carboard box. Holes for eyes and mouth are cut with care. Here I am using a Q-tip and black paint to touch up the cut edges of the cardboard. Next I will add eyelids/brows to the eyes and close off the back of the mouth with black art foam plus add a pink tongue and white teeth. Then, and only then, the puppet will finally be complete.

Drinking while speaking

Question: I am very fascinated when I see a ventriloquist drink while his figure speaks. Is there a secret to this act? Is there a booklet on how it is done? In one of the booklets, I remember you referring to the figure drinking from a trick cup/glass, but I couldn't find anything regarding the Ventriloquist drinking while his figure spoke. Don't laugh, but I tried it and almost choked in the process. Is this truly a possible feat?
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Answer: How does a ventriloquist drink while his figure speaks? Okay, that's a loaded question for a public blog, because common sense tells us no one can drink and speak simultaneously - physically, that is impossible. So, it's safe to say the ventriloquist is creating an illusion using trickery of some sort. But if I explain here how it is done, I'll hear from fellow vents who would not approve of me exposing trade secrets. So here's what I'll do - Since you are a student of the Maher Course, I'll privately send you a brief "how-to" if you promise to tell no one other than your fellow ventriloquists. Break that promise and you will be destined to choke on any attempt at performing the "drinking bit." :-)

Sammy King DVD

Sure you can give them away...maybe put in a quick plug for them if you enjoyed them.

The direct link to Sammy King's DVD is:


It's illegal in our state to pick a Columbine flower growing in the wild. Hopefully that does not hold true when the flowers are from a plant purchased for growing in privately in one's back yard because these are clipped from my plant and are now on display in a vase on our coffee table.
Silently they lift our spirits as they radiate their delicate beauty - only the master designer of the universe could be responsible for such glory!


Book Sale

F: My uncle tried to make a new kid of car.
V: Is he an inventor?
F: He's more of a "gatherer." He took the wheels from a Ford, the radiator from a Chevy, tires from a Cadillac, and the motor from a Hummer.
V: What did he finally get?
F: Ten years in Leavenworth.
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Adapted from One For The Road, a collection of 100 Gag File Jokes by Col. Bill Boley. Now listed for eBay auction on my weekly book sale listing. See the complete list here.


Changing names

Question: I'm considering a name change for my figure. The name Dudley has worn thin with me, so I'm thinking now of other names and I wonder if any of them get your approval. They are Lenny , Henry, Clyde, Eddie, Fred, Cecil, Jack, Doug, and finally, Dougal. Do you have any thoughts?
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Answer: How long have you been using the name "Dudley" in public (if at all)? It's very hard to change the name of a figure that your repeat audiences have come to know and love. They will be very reluctant to accept that particular figure under a different name. Now, if you've only used that name in your own practice to this point, then there's no problem, other than you may find yourself using the old name from time to time initially - old habits are hard to break!

I'm going to approve of whichever name YOU select. I learned years ago not to try to name another person's kids!

Upper teeth

Hi Clinton,I just purchased a vent figure . He also needs new teeth, right now he only has lower teeth. Please let me know if this is possible and what the cost is.
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Answer: When a figure has upper teeth, the jaw unit below it has to be designed in such a manner that it has a recessed area into which the upper teeth will fit when the mouth is closed. In other words, the lower teeth need to be set back a bit with uppers having a serious overbite. As I look at the photo and the way the lower teeth are designed, it appears there is no such provision allowed. I am quite certain that is why the mouth was built without upper teeth. Generally, this is the reason certain dolls and vent figures are built without upper or lower teeth (quite common, actually).
Teeth made of a narrow strip of white art foam could possibly be crafted and placed into position to give the illusion of upper teeth. I'd be willing to try doing that for you.

"Eddie Also"

"Thanks so very much for your excellent work on Eddie's head. He looks great and I feel like we have a new person for our shows. He'll keep his name 'Eddie Also'. You see, his father name is Eddie so he is 'Eddie Also'. Some things just can't be changed. Again, thanks so much for your care and personal touch." Will Mercier (The Uncle Willy Show / Boca Raton, Florida)

Eddie "Before":

Second time a charm?

Well, it doesn't happen often, but it does happen. I sold this vent figure on eBay, but the winning bidder (azgospel51) did not pay and did not answer any of my several email communication attempts nor was there any response when a case was opened. So - once again this happy fella has been listed for sale: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=260414307219

Before you Open the Stage Door

by Steve Kissell

Five, four, three, two, one, IT'S SHOWTIME!...But wait, hold everything, have you ever observed the concert pianist rehearsing, the lead guitarist tuning an instrument, or the track star stretching before an event? They all have something in common. Can you guess what it is? PREPARATION.

Have we stretched our bodies in all areas so that if we take a spill or slip we do not injure ourselves? Have we stretched our vocal cords? To do that simply tilt your head back and sound out vowels and various words to warm up the voice box. Have you had some water to drink before the performance? Remember to bring your own bottled water.

A good entertainer will utilize recent local news along with the name of the organization sponsoring the event. Perhaps a few names can be memorized ahead of time. Jot a few down and put them in your performing case where you will be able to see them. Your audience loves a performer who can personalize an event. They will be impressed that you took the time to know where you are and that makes them feel that your performance is not a standard or stock one but a special event geared toward them. For example, you may mention the fact that the city just received an award or perhaps a new leader. Or you may want to focus on what item or event that area is famous for. Of course, sport teams and their records are always some favorites to mention. Just be sure to be kind and not too insulting.

Another important task before opening the stage door is what is called the "show glow." That is who you are and how you act before and after the performance. Are you meeting other performers and members of the audience before the presentation? "Show glow" is a simple smile or warm feeling that people observe and remember about you. They do not wish to see someone worried, rushed or abrupt to them. Chill out as they say, enjoy the journey and know that first impressions really do count. So do your best, and remember that you are always on and above all . . . the microphone is NEVER off.

Before opening the stage door, be prepared by considering the following items. * Carry a small handkerchief in case of emergencies, such as cuts, or other surprises. Include this in your entertainer emergency kit. It should contain paperclips, black markers, flesh colored adhesive strips, super glue, black tape and the like. Each of these items will come in handy in stage emergencies.

* When possible, do your homework before hand.
* Pack additional performing material. You never know when you might be asked to fill in for an unexpected or extended amount of time. Are you prepared for a well-deserved encore? Will you be ready? Just imagine what a great help and relief to the conference producer you would be!
* Do you know approximately how long each routine lasts?
* Have you practiced your timing?
* Have you checked to see if you need any extension cords?
* What kind of microphone are you using and do you know how to operate it? * Who is introducing you? Do you have your intro prepared?
* What about the lighting? Have you marked the floor where the audience will be able to see you? * What kind and color of backdrop are you performing in front of? You should be wearing a contrasting color so that you don't appear as a floating head.

Your last bit of preparation before entering the stage is to pray. Remember to thank God for the great job that you are about to do. Thank Him for the joy of laughter and wonder that you are about to bring to that very special audience! Now, open the door and break a leg!
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Reprinted by permission: www.FamilyEntertainersWorkshop.com , www.ClownJam.com and www.ClownVegas.com


Now the fun begins!

The hard part is over - these "cereal box puppets" are finished with mechanics installed and tested. Both the eyes and the mouth open and close from control levers in the back. Only now can I glue the cereal box covers into place which finishes everything off. What's all the black on their wooden faces? Just black paint to hide the fresh cut wood edges of the plywood. Much easier to paint before the unit is covered.

A Night At The Museum?

A night at the museum? Nope - just the scene in my workshop tonight when I turned out the lights at quitting time. (Who knows what goes on after I lock the door!)

Role models?!

From Joe Radle

Tammy made he debut at a lovely home in Bedford, Virginia, yesterday where a lovely luncheon was held in her honor. Many friends attended her coming out party. Just a few of the folks that came out to wish her well are pictured. There were considerably more but we couldn't fit them all in the picture.

There were the normal questions, of course, like: "Where did you come from?", "What grade are you in?", and small talk and banter. However, Tammy began pulling their leg when they asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up. She had them going for awhile, telling them, with a straight face, that she wanted to be an "Executioner! "

She went on to explain that not a lot of folks were applying for such jobs, and the pay was good, and there was a lot of time off. She told the crowd that Tyrone had built her a miniature electric chair and a guillotine, and she had been practicing her knots from the Girl Scout manual, for when hangings would be required. She had them convinced, I think, that she was serious.

These two were acting more like the children from the Adams' Family rather than cute little role model children. They both finally told everyone they were just kidding and everyone had a good laugh.

Custom Carrying Cases

Questions: I need one new Vent Case. What is the price of medium size case, and what interior colors do you have? What is the price of large size case, and what interior colors do you have? The local vents here all tell me to buy largest size case; but I've bought both the medium case from you for a Selberg figure, and one large case for a vintage figure and they fit fine. Do you think I want the medium case, and if yes, what interior colors available? What is best way for me to order this from you? Mail you order with check, or use Pay Pal or ??? Thanks again. I think your cases are first rate! Tom
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Answer: I'm going to guess you'll need the medium (#355) case, but the only way to know for certain would be to measure the folded length of the figure itself. You'll find measurements of the custom cases that I stock, with descriptions, photos, and prices here: http://maherstudios.blogspot.com/2008_11_01_archive.html#882502278915460187

Standard lining colors: red, blue, or purple. (I could provide other colors, but there would be a $15.00 surcharge.) Cost of shipping is included in the price. Check or Paypal is fine, but the quickest and easiest way to pay would be PayPal. I could send you a PayPal invoice once you've made your selection. Clinton

Lowering eyebrows

I have a request from a customer who wants his figure modified in some manner so it can appear "mean" and/or "sinister". While I'm not an enthusiastic supporter of vent characters of that type, I do know there's one animation that is perfect for portraying that emotion - eyebrows that lower. The effect is dramatic. When combined with words, the figure will take on the desired unfriendly personality. Even the permanent smile on the face (which so many figures have) seems to turn sarcastic! Quite amazing!


Puppet making equipment

I just came in from the shop where I was working on orders for two talking cereal box puppets. You can see how I spare no expense for the special equipment needed to hold the eyes in place while the glue dries!


Bear sighting!

Pest eradication? Nope - just decided as long as I was giving Mr. Wise Fellow (owl) a protective coat of marine finish, my Backyard Buddy (bear) should share in the fun. This fellow cooperates to the fullest, which is more than my Littleton neighbors to the East can say about the real life bear who meandered down from the mountains into their backyards last week! Officials made a reverse 911 call warning residents of a bear in the neighborhood, advising people stay in their homes. The result? You guessed it - so many people came outside in an attempt to see the intruder that officials also to deal with crowd control! Last I heard wildlife personnel were planning to trap the wayward animal and return him to the hills.

When I asked my backyard buddy what he thought of that exciting event, one could have predicted his response:

Basswood questions

Question: Please excuse my ignorance, but over the last few days I have been reading my ventriloquist books and one chapter of "Winch's" book talks about figure's made of "Basswood". Is it like the Balsa wood that we use to build model planes, boats and cars?
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Answer: It seems like another lifetime, but I loved working with balsa to build model airplanes. Balsa is so easy to work with. I do keep a few random pieces of Balsa in my shop as it does fill a need infrequently. But it is much lighter, softer, and more fragile than Basswood and it also has more pronounced grain. It would not be a good wood for 3-D carving.
Note: American basswood is an important timber tree, especially in the Great Lakes States. It is the northernmost basswood species. The soft, light wood has many uses as wood products. The tree is commonly planted as a shade tree in urban areas of the eastern states where it is called American Linden.

All forms of wood carving - relief, chip, wildlife, figure, and whittling - demand certain requirements. Though any wood can be carved, very few offer a grain structure that produces superb results. A woodcarver looks for wood that displays an even grain and consistent density. For the best results, you must cut with the grain. Thus, you want a straight grain. If the grain is irregular, you might not know its direction. For this reason, woods such as basswood and butternut have become woodcarvers' favorites. http://www.americanbasswoodcarving.com/

The Columbine is Colorado's state flower and this week I have a plant blooming gloriously just outside my shop door. You know how much I enjoy spending time in my shop and that would be true even if it stood alone on barren land. But being greeted each day with a bit of beauty from the hand of the Creator is a bonus blessing!


Quick change artist!

Question: Hello Clinton: I was wondering, could I purchase just the head of another figure with the lever controls and transpose it onto the body of my present figure so that it appears to the audience that I have another vent figure?
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Answer: Yes, I can sell you the head only. But the savings may not be as great as you would imagine since the majority of the work required to build a vent figure goes into the building of the head. Generally the cost of the head only is about 75% the cost of a complete figure. Interestingly enough, it has been my experience that ventriloquists more frequently purchase bodies only. I know vents who have two and three bodies for one figure (and I am one of them). The reason is quite practical, actually. It saves a great deal of time when changing clothes on a figure ... one body can be dressed formally, one casually, one in costume, etc. To change clothes, just move the head to another pre-dressed body!


"Tammy" said goodbye to my shop just a few days ago and has now arrived at the residence of Joe Radle which will become her new home and family. Joe sent this picture, telling us "Tyrone" has agreed to accept "Tammy" as his twin. I understand "Tammy" has given her qualified approval of the arrangement...seems she's insisting "Tyrone" must first comb his hair!
PS: Tammy will make her debut on Wednesday, May 20th, 2009 at a big party get together in Bedford, Virginia. Tyrone will help her along and the two should be a hit with the seniors that will be attending her coming out and welcoming party.



30+ years ago this ceramic owl was our son Kevin's gift to his mother for Mother's Day. The majestic bird has nested at our home over all those years, sometimes indoors and sometimes outdoors. As a result he was showing the passing of the years with dozens of flaked and chipped feathers. So today, a refurbishing and complete repainting of the owl was one of my shop projects. He'll receive several coats of clear marine finish over the next few days and when the job is completed he will hopefully look as though he just stepped from the pottery showroom.

For those of you thinking, "Why is Clinton working on an owl when he should be working on my order for a vent figure?", I suppose I should hasten to tell you I painted four ventriloquist figures today also!

Character sculpting

Question: Dear Sir: Does this book teach you to make ANY dummy? I want to make "Slappy".

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Answer: This book contains a complete set of plans for building a professional ventriloquist figure. Illustrated by the author. 40 pages that include diagrams for standard animations (moving mouth and side to side moving eyes, plus several extra effects (eye closers or winkers, raising eyebrows, upper lip movement, stick out tongue, wiggling ears, hair raiser, hand shaker, knee lifter, heart thumper). If you have a workshop and are handy with your hands, you’ll find this book perfect for your needs. Or, if you’re just curious as to what makes a ventriloquist figure "tick" you’ll find this an informative and fascinating read.

However, it does not teach the art of sculpting specific characters. That, in my mind, would take a separate skill in and of itself.
You will find this book for sale here: http://maherbookstore.blogspot.com/ See the Index listing under "Build It Yourself."


Question: Would Eli look okay with a slight receding hairline, being an old man with a little more hair near the back? ( I will leave it up to you.) David

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Answer: Slightly more receding, yes. However, I like to install access doors into the back of the head and I need to cover it with hair. It is possible to to make the head balding or totally bald with no door, but if a ventriloquist figure with totally sealed head has any need for inner repairs at some future date, that will result in a great deal of extra work for the "doctor" and expense for the owner. Clinton
Note: For pricing and to see more of the characters I offer: http://www.maherstudios.blogspot.com


Cookin' up comments

Just in time for the summer grilling season, here's another novelty puppet built by Kevin Detweiler. A "talking" BBQ grill! When it's showtime, let this puppet help you cook up something extra special. Rare or well done - he can provide both!

Featuring a true ventriloquist-style moving mouth, along with side to side self-centering eyes, he'll get your audience fired up from the get-go. If things get too HOT, in his right hand you will find a hose that really squirts water! (From a water bulb you squeeze within.) Your hand enters the back, where you will find (2) levers, one to operate the mouth and one for his eyes. EASY! He is ready to help you clean up! Great for all ventriloquists! Now listed on eBay auction where you can see additional pictures:

Vent Summit

July 9-12, 2009 Denver, CO

One Way Street
is pleased to announce a new event for the summer of 2009. Vent Summit will be a gathering for ventriloquists in beautiful Denver, Colorado. This will be a unique opportunity for ventriloquists to focus on their craft and how to best utilize it to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Several top Christian ventriloquists have already been confirmed as performers and presenters, including Judy Buch, Tim Cowles, Doug Nearpass, and Liz VonSeggen. Among the many workshop opportunities that will be offered will also be several opportunities for VIT (Ventriloquist In Training) members to continue working toward their next certification level. Attendees will also be challenged in their spiritual journey.


Nursery Rhymes with purpose

By Steve Engle:

I'm always pleasantly surprised as how well nursery rhymes that have a humorous twist or ending go over with an audience...even adults! I've been using several humorous ones for years. The little volume, "Mother Goose 'Say No' Nursery Rhymes is written to use nursery rhymes to teach or reinforce lessons for children on topics such as drugs, health, ecology, etc.

I call the recycled rhymes "Dialogue Vignettes" because - though they are complete in themselves - most are short. They are intended to introduce a subject, add color to a routine, or as a discussion starter. Vignettes: Humpty Dumpty, Little Miss Muffet, Jack and Jill, Old Mother Hubbard, Jack Be Nimble, Old King Cole, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Little Jack Horner.
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Note from Clinton: This book is $6.00 postpaid. mahertalk@aol.com
" Bless you, my son ... "



Question: How can I keep doing this vent without getting discouraged? Is it a common occurrence for an up and coming vent to be discouraged?
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Answer: Thanks for sharing your frustrations. I think periods of discouragement can be a common experience for beginner ventriloquists. Hopefully of short duration. I remember those days when I felt I was making little or no progress with my practice. It was at times hard motivating myself to practice after that initial excitement faded. Then I would do a show and someone would come to me afterward saying, "You're so much better than you were last time." ... what an encouragement! That's when I realized I WAS making progress even though it was not evident to me during the sometimes lonely routine day by day practice. And the motivation and excitement would return.

Best and most fun practice? Prepare for a performance.
Best way to become newly motivated? Give a performance.
Need encouragement? Volunteer a show.

It is by giving you receive.


Reader comment on "It's Just a Puppet"

From Dennis Meeks
aka Bubbles the Clown

Regarding your post ""Its just a puppet". I have found that most comments such as,"You're really talking" and "That's really a puppet" is an expression of doubt. When SKIP, my figure, looks at me and says," Why does he think that I can't talk?" and when I answer him with,"I don't know why he thinks that you can't talk", I usually get the "look" maybe I was wrong.

It IS a compliment as a ventriloquist, but I try my best NOT to spoil the illusion and seldom do I find myself challenged more than once. Never do I solicit another opinion or open a dialogue with the child, it just becomes a conversation between me and SKIP about him.

A magician doesn't tell the secret of his magic illusion, should we as ventriloquists? There my be no secret in ventriloquism but there is illusion. In his own mind, the child could always think,"See, I was right!" but never says it.

Twice Recycled!

It was during the late 1970's when Dale Brown asked me to build him a figure with open and close eyes. He planned to use it for a short bit at a banquet. The bit was such a hit he continued to use the figure off and on for a period of time, until his daughter, Lauren, decided to try her hand at ventriloquism. At that point Dale had me rewig the figure, changing it to a female. Thus, recycled once, the figure took on new life through the hands of its second owner.

But as is sometimes the case over passing years, and Lauren's interests changed, the dummy ended up sitting in a closet, unused. Until last year when it was time for yet another change. Several, in fact.

Dale is on the marketing board of their local civic theatre and the theatre's artistic's director's daughter, who was nine, really wanted a dummy and wants to learn ventriloquism. So her Dad, with Dale, conspired to give the figure (with Lauren's permission) as a birthday gift to what would become its third owner. Only she wanted a boy, not a girl.

So once again the dummy came back to me for a wig change. I also gave it new springs/strings and paint job. Along with a new boy's wig. (photos here) Once again it has been "recycled", totally happy with himself, no loss of identity - no therapy necessary. (But the story of his recycled "life" could leave others a bit confused!)



The Knee Pal character, "Clipper", has always been one of my favorites. So when this one (right) came to me for a "do-over" it was a pleasure. I installed self-centering mechanics to the eyes, repainted the head, and added a new wig (left) per the owner's instructions.
Today he will begin his journey home. Travel safe, my friend!