Twain & Will Rogers

Customer Comment: I'm full of eager anticipation of the moment when I'll see the finished product (customized Corky). Then it will be my job to give him his voice and personality and put him to work. I've been reading a lot of Mark Twain, Will Rogers, and Stephen Leacock and trying to get his character formulated in my mind. Then, I'll have to keep my arthritic old fingers limbered so that his mouth works with the words as it should. I'm sure he'll brighten many dinner hours when he takes up residence with me here. Thank you. John
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From Clinton: I did the initial resculpting of the face and ears, sanded it and gave it a coat of primer paint. After studying the painted profile, I decided some additional detail sculpting was required. I'm thinking a few forehead wrinkles may also be appropriate. Once I get the face symmetrical, I'll cut the head open and install the mechanics. The two buck teeth you requested will actually be one of the last steps.


Special size Custom Case for sale.

This a a very nice, unused, like new case. But the size is slightly different from the standard three sizes I list on my blog. The size of this case is 23"x13"x9" is perfect for 35"-36" figures although most figures up to 38" should fit (see post that follows).
As with all cases I sell, it is professional handcrafted of extremely durable rigid poly vinyl with riveted seams. Corners and edges are metal reinforced. The lid is secured with two drawbolt latches (one lockable hasp so a padlock can be used if desired). The inside of the case is padded with 1/2" foam on all four sides and both ends, and lined with plush red velour material. A special design foam unit provides positioning and protection for the dummy's head and can be placed at either end of the case.

$140.00. Shipped Postpaid to any US address. Add $20 if purchasing for shipment to an international address. Payment by PayPal preferred. Payment by check, okay, too. I have one only - first come first serve. To order (or if you have any questions): mahertalk@aol.com

Note: I did have this case listed for eBay auction, but both the winning bidder and the runner up bidder requested an upgrade to a larger size case which I granted. But that leaves me with this very nice case unsold. I know it's the perfect size for someone (figure, or puppet)!

Fitting figure to case

Question: Do you still sell carrying cases for figures and how do I know which size case I need for my 38" figure? Jeremy

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Answer: Yes, I have three sizes of cases in stock. The size of case you will need depends on the folded length of the figure. The mid-size (#355) case is most likely the one you need, but if you can tell me the folded length of the figure you have (top of head to base of the bottom when dressed), I will be able to tell you for certain which case is the proper one for your figure. Clinton: mahertalk@aol.com

Note: I do not plan to carry cases after this year.


July Ventriloquist Conventions

Question: Hi Clinton, Are you going to Vent haven this year? I am trying to get there. If so, it would be nice to finally meet Adelia and yourself. Glenn
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Answer: Conventions are a great experience in so many ways. I truly hope you will be able to attend. Unfortunately, Adelia and I will not be able to attend the Vent Haven Convention this year. The best part of the Convention is meeting old and new friends! Clinton

Note: You can find complete Vent Haven Convention (July 15-18) details here: http://venthaven.com/

Also, be sure to check out the details on the July 9-12 Vent Summit which will be held in Denver: http://www.onewaystreet.com/category/ventsummit

And, one more: The Fellowship of Christian Magicians have a great vent section with lots of personal attention and encouragement given. You can see the schedule of lectures here: http://4merryhearts.blogspot.com/ or can get information on the entire convention at www.fcm.org. The convention is July 13-17 and is located about an hour north of Indianapolis, IN on the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University.


Novelty Puppet Constructions

Question: Clinton, Jeff Dunham's character "Jose Jalapeno" is probably his most popular due to it's novelty and design. I have come up with some ideas for puppets that would have to be made with the a mechanism similar to Jose's. Do you know if any manuals or books that may teach a novice how to make such a "lever" type puppet. I would appreciate any advice or recommendation. Thanks, Ron

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Answer: In 1986 I presented a workshop at both the Vent Haven Convention and the FCM conference, demonstrating and explaining how I turned commercial products into novelty puppets. Cereal and soap containers, etc. For those workshops I printed a set of notes which I called "Creating 'Speaksakes' From Throw-Aways". There are various types of mouth designs shown, one or two of which might meet your needs. I still have a handful of the 20 page "Speaksakes" booklets. $5.00 PP. PayPal payment would be fastest. If you (or anyone reading this) would like to purchase a copy, send me a note via email: mahertalk@aol.com

Ron Havens


Cletus - not so magic dragon

The Dummy Shop sent me this announcement the arrival of "Cletus the Non-Magic Dragon". Cletus (pronounced "Cleet us") is a 31" tall, fully soft sculptured, rear entry puppet. As I've mentioned before on this blog, I always smile when I read the Biography provided with their puppets. When the maker creates a puppet, there is time to think, not only about what the puppet will look like, but who it is. A good excercise for anyone and their vent pal, whether they made it or not.

Cletus's Biography
Cletus is a young dragon. You may not know it, but dragons continue to grow throughout their entire life. We are not exactly sure of Cletus's birth date, but we think he is about five years old. Cletus is a happy-go-lucky character, and he absolutely loves having children as his friends (quite unlike so many of his species who like having them for food).

Cletus finds children's laughter to be infectious and begins to giggle uncontrollably when he hears the tots laughing and enjoying themselves. Cletus delights in being rubbed behind his right ear, and when he is being rubbed gently will most often set him into a low throated purr of contentedness.

Cletus will often try to breath fire, knowing that dragons are supposed to do that, but so far he has been completely unsuccessful in his efforts, which is a great frustration to him.

He loves eating great quantities of grape jelly, which we suspect may contribute somehow to his skin color, and we are sure it helps the fruity smell of his breath.

Given just half a chance, Cletus would welcome the chance to become your new best friend.

Contact The Dummy Shop at dummylady01@gmail.com


Jaw control

Question: Hello Clinton, I have a question for you about Jaw movement! I have been struggling with being able to hold my bottom jaw completely still during performances. When I practice before a mirror I do not see hardly any movement, but when I perform with a puppet there is more movement. You can see it more on a side view when I'm looking at the puppet and talking. When the shot is a straight shot you don't notice any lip/jaw movement. I have been practicing with a video camera and getting away from my security blanket, the mirror. I still see movement in my jaw. I have been practicing everyday with the ventril-o-aid and the ventriloquist mouth position both morning and night and some practice in between times throughout the day( with character voices/ conversations etc.) since I went back to the lessons in the Maher Home Course of Ventriloquism. I did a Tea Party presentation this past Thurs. night and it was video taped. I will have to admit it is the best video I have seen of myself and the control of the jaw has really improved. I do want perfect still lips and jaw during any performance. Can you give me any tips on what to do? Is there something I'm missing? A friend of mine says she has the same problem with her jaw.
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Answer: You're experiencing a very common ventriloquist problem. I've always thought it was about as difficult to learn jaw control as lip control. With the mirror, you are focusing on one thing - speech without lip/jaw movement. Add a puppet and now you have diverted your attention some. It IS more difficult to keep the jar/lips still when you have a puppet's manipulation to think about as you speak for it. Add a script to remember and an audience and you now have added yet more areas of concentration which is why it is so important to practice repeatedly to make jaw/lip control a natural rote happening.

I know no secret way to make it happen other than determined work and focused repeated practice. I do believe the video is a much better self-check tool than the mirror at this stage of your career. It sounds as though you have found this to be true and are taking advantage of that tool. Note: It is possible to have a perfectly still jaw and still see some side throat movement. Throat muscle movement is a result of your tongue moving inside your mouth. Such movement is actually quite common, even for some pros. Not a thing you can do about it other than hold your tongue still - not recommended! :-) Keep your puppet moving/speaking in an entertaining manner and all eyes will be on it. No one will notice whatever slight jaw movement you might have.

Keep on doing what you are doing - you will see positive results.


Textile Medium

Question: Clinton, Recently you ran an item about how to paint bits of leather used on dummy necks, upper lips, etc. I want to try this with my current project. Could you please send me that entry on leather painting? Can I still find it on line? Scott

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Scott: I do not have access to that particular post, but I can tell you I add Textile Medium (as directed on the bottle) to latex paint for painting leather. It was Al Stevens who first told me of this product. I've since used it several times - successfully. Clinton



Question: Dear Clinton, I have an old Insull figure that was purchased in 1954 from the Mahers. He's an awfully nice figure with moving eyes, a winker, a raising arm and a human hair wig. He also has rubber hands which are beginning to deteriorate. Granted, his clothes are a little bizzare, but I can change them when I improve my skills enough to try peforming outside my house.

The woman I got the figure from said she was very surprised when the package arrived from England instead of Michigan. I know '54 was way before you joined Maher, but do you know anything about why the Mahers were selling Insull figures, and how much they sold for? Any history you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your blog. It's a highpoint of each day. Bill Bingham
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Answer: Fred and Madeleine sold the Insull figures (imported from Davenport) for several years ('40s & 50s). Initially they ordered the complete figure (head and body) for their customers. It would seem you have one of them. Then to save shipping costs, they began importing the heads only and Mrs. Maher built bodies for the Insull heads. It was only when the Insull heads were no longer available that Mrs. Maher began making her own crude plaster molds from which she cast heads made of Plastic Wood. She did this on her own as Fred had died while the Insull figures were still being imported. Somewhere I do have an old price sheet from that era, but I seem to remember those figures were being sold for $175-$225, depending upon the size of the figure and the number of animations. I believe Mrs. Maher told me they paid around $60 for the heads. ($60 in 1950 would be inflated to nearly $1,000 today, so even back then such a premium figure required significant investment.) You are fortunate to own one! Clinton
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From Steve Engle: You are correct about the prices of the Maher's Insull figures. (As a kid I had most of their price list memorized!) This figure model (photo above), I believe, was called "Bob" in the brochure, tho' "Terry" seemed to be the more popular head. Several pro vents used "Terry," including Bill Boley back then. There is a British Figure maker (Geff???) still making the original Terry head.
I also had wanted a "Terry" ($175) which was to be my Christmas present in either 1955 or '56. It was ordered and Fred Maher replied "Terry" was out of stock but they had a replica of Fred's "Skinny Dugan" (also an Insull figure) with all the movements: mouth, upper lip, eyes, winker/blinkers, raising eyebrows and flapping ears for $195. As I loved the look of Skinny Dugan (a McElroy??) I thought this was great, but it was a major disappointment upon receiving him as he didn't look too much like the original. Also the non-rubber paint on the rubber hands was chipping off. However, I did use this figure for many years. (Had I known thenhow special the Insulls were/are, I'd have taken much better careof him!)

This morning Adelia and I attended Hannah's 6th grade graduation. Another milestone! Congratulations Hannah! Next year Jr. High - how exciting!

Question: Dear Sir, I read the post "Muppets Cover". But I'm interested in the photograph which is behind the muppets cover (on left hand side), in which you were photographed with 3 figures. Reason behind my interest is that I've a b/w copy of that photograph. And I will love to have some information about that photograph. Abhijeet D.

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Answer: I built those three figures myself. The year was 1973 or '74, as I recall. For nearly 30 years that photo was used on the cover of the Maher Studios Catalog. The figures you see were the last of those characters that I built. Clinton

Family chides

Dear Clinton, I want to thank you for inspiring me with vent when I took your course in 1993. Even though my family chides me for fooling with vent, it is what gives me some enjoyment to escape for even a little while into another realm. Even with the horrible economy I still think I can maybe get something going with this and if nothing else, I will have some fun. Cheers, Larry
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Larry: Does your family truly wish you were not spending time as a ventriloquist? That's something I used to hear more frequently than I do nowadays with the recent success of Dunham, Barber, Fator, etc. Reading Fator's book, "Who's The Dummy Now?", it's hard to imagine anyone having to overcome more family resistance than he did. Determination and persistence will pay off. I like your attitude! Clinton


Muppets cover

Question: Dear Clinton, You were in Muppet Magazine? (I saw a picture with you on the cover of Muppet Magazine) Did you meet Jim Henson? If so what was he like in person? I was first introduced to puppets via the Muppets. Philip
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Answer: Philip: I've been in a number of magazines, even featured on the cover of a couple, but I have to be honest, the Muppet magazine cover was a gag photo taken at Disney world. I am a huge fan of the Muppets, so having the opportunity to have a fun photo taken was just too much to pass up. I would have loved to have met Jim Henson and had the opportunity to chat with him. Unfortunately I never was so fortunate. Jim Henson was very instrumental in making puppetry an adult entertainment medium. And he also opened many ventriloquist's eyes to the possibility of using soft puppets as figures for professional use. As entertainers in the field of ventriloquist puppetry, we owe Henson a great deal of thanks. Clinton

Detweiler "Sweet-Arts"

Before we purchased Maher Studios, Adelia and I for a dozen or more years supplemented our income by baking and decorating cakes for special occasions. This is a photo of one of our many weddings cakes. After we moved Maher Studios into our home, all the cake decorating equipment was retired into storage.


How many?

Question: Have you ever looked back at how many Lovik figures were sold through Maher Studios?
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Answer: The exact number will never be known because those records no longer exist. In fact, they were never precisely kept. I would estimate that a hundred or so Lovik figures were sold by Maher Studios in the early 1970's. But that early era was followed by a period of years where the Lovik's handled their own sales. Several hundred (maybe even thousands) were built and sold by the Loviks and their dealers (including Disneyland). Then Craig sold his business to Chuck Jackson and ceased building figures himself. A decade or so later, in the 1980s, Craig re-entered the ventriloquist community and resumed figure making. He again built figures that were sold through Maher Studios - a couple hundred I would guess over the next decade. During that period of figure sales Craig Lovik (father) left his family and son (Keith Lovik) took over the business and again, several dozens of Keith Lovik figures were sold by Maher Studios until the Maher Studios closed in 2006. Since that point Keith has sold figures himself under the business name of "Lovik's Puppets" (and continues to do so). Now, if you're not confused already, there's yet another Lovik that was involved. Brian, Craig's brother, installed the more complex mechanics in many figures during the late '70s and early '80s, working for both Craig and Chuck Jackson.

So the Loviks (father, brother and/or son) built thousands of figures but only a portion were sold through Maher Studios.

Mom and daughters

Today is "Father's Day", and what better day to post a photo of our three daughters with their mother. This picture was taken just a week ago, so you know our house was recently filled with activity! Dawn had to return to America unexpectedly for medical diagnosis and treatment, and while here the three sisters arranged to spend some time together. L-R: Adelia, Lynette, Joy, Dawn. (After being away from her family for 7 weeks, Dawn returned to Ethiopia Thursday, arriving in Addis Ababa two days ago, Friday.)

Maher "heaven"?

From Ron Scherer: I just found a couple of pics taken back about 1990 of the entry room of the house. All those figures lined up sitting on the shelves. Wow that was so GREAT. I thought I had seen "heaven." We really enjoyed our visit with you both.
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The photos below are file photos of a portion of our "entry room" from the 1980s.


Shop talk

Making progress....to be continued...

Makeover question

Question: Can Buffy be made over to look like McKaylah?

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Answer: The biggest issue in such a makeover is the wig. Buffy (top) requires a size 16 wig. McKaylah's (bottom) head is smaller and requires a size 14 wig.
Those facts in themselves are no problem. But the availability of wig sizes is a problem. The wig style McKaylah wears is not available in the larger size 16. So my challenge with the makeover you suggest is in making a size 14 wig fit a larger size 16 head, and do so it appears to be a proper fit. I think I might be able to do it by piecing together two of the smaller wigs. You tell me the color hair (and eyes) you would like, and I'll give it a try. Clinton


In 2005 Adelia and I mailed the final printed issue of Newsy Vents. There was no mention of it being the final issue within its pages other than the vertical hidden message contained in the "Thank you" printed on the back cover. In case you received that issue but missed the notice (or were not an NAAV member), here's a reprint for the record:


"Age old" question

Question: Hi, Mr D. I'm only starting out with ventriloquism so I will find the books you're sending useful. Do you think 53 years is to old for this? Thanks. Janice
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Answer: 53 too old to learn ventriloquism? Are you kidding? You're just a youngster! Fortunately, ventriloquism is one activity where age really is not a significant factor. It is very common for people to take up the art of ventriloquism after retirement at the are of 65 or over. You have significant head start over them. Enjoy! Clinton D.

P.S. I believe Clinton White still holds the record for being the oldest person to enroll in the Maher Home Course of Ventriloquism. That was in 1972 and he was nearly 84 years old at the time of his enrollment! White went on to perform a large number of shows semi-professionally for a period of nearly ten years!

Are you creative?

A New York publisher was concerned about the lack of creativity among his editorial and marketing staff. He hired psychologists to try to determine what differentiated the creative employees from the others. After a year of study, the psychologists discovered that there was only one difference between creative and non-creative employees: belief in their creativity. Creative employees believed they were creative, and the non-creative ones believed they were not.
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This excerpt is from My Creative Team Thinking, October 25, 2007. Read the full article on Creativity here: http://www.my-creativeteam.com/blog/?p=467


Chin jiggle

Question: I am a big guy and have fat under my chin. I have noticed while practicing in a mirror that it will sometimes jiggle on certain sounds or movements, even if my lips are not moving. What do you think of this? Is it a big deal, or perhaps is there anything I can to to lessen the jiggle? Of course, I could just lose the weight! lol
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Answer: I suspect the movement under your chin is due to your tongue movement and it is not related to your voice itself. You can try a quick test by simply holding your mouth/lips still as you would when talking in your ventriloquist voice. Then move your tongue all around in your mouth (no words). You likely will see some chin/throat/Adam's Apple movement. It is my observation this is more common for men than women.

There's no way to avoid it (that I'm aware of) other than minimize your tongue movement - not recommended for the ventriloquist since a ventriloquist's tongue needs to be extra active. I've known vents who grow beards to hide their throat movement. Or always wear turtleneck sweaters when performing. I think that's over reacting a bit. Positioning the figure so you look down at it just slightly helps. Good figure manipulation will draw the eyes of the audience toward the figure and away from yourself. Beyond that - forget it and concentrate on giving an entertaining show.

A good entertaining act is the very best remedy...when people are having fun they'll overlook/forgive any shortcomings!

Shop Talk

Experiment in progress...


Shop Talk

Nicole was in charge of my puppet wardrobe department this morning. You see Luke taking his turn here (right), while Rodney looks on.

"Know your audience & adapt"

By Bob Abdou

I remember some years ago in Atlanta, I did a library show and in the show I did a joke about tacos. When nobody laughed, it kind of took me back a bit because it was a really funny joke. After the show I asked the librarian why the audience had not laughed at my joke. She told me that the audience was made up of all Jewish children and they don't eat tacos as tacos are not kosher.

WOW - that was a learning experience! From that point on, I have made it a point to "know my audience" and use material that is suited for their taste. Now, when I have a Jewish audience, I just replace the word "taco" with "pizza" and it works!

Here is another way of knowing your audience. I have three different puppets that use the SAME material. One puppet is designed for the 3-6 year olds, another is for the 7-10 year olds and yet another puppet is used for teens - same material - but three different puppets. It works, and that is simply a part of "knowing your audience".
Newsy Vents 11/2005


Before and after

Hi Clinton,
Here are Frank's "before" and "after" photos. You did a great job on him!

Carving questions

Question: Being a sculptor, I plan to carve a head for a ventriloquist figure. (I have carved figurines in the past, so the task of carving a head out of wood is not daunting to me, but this will be the first time that I will carve a head which will be hollowed-out and inserted with mechanical parts) Hearing that basswood is often the "wood of choice" for such projects, I am looking for a block of basswood (basic dimensions for the block that I have in mind would be: 8.0" x 8.0" x 16.0". I'm assuming a length that will allow for the full head plus the neck. What would be the overall dimensions for a Size 4 figure's head?) Bruce
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I'm not certain how to help you as I have never personally carved a figure from wood. I know Basswood is the wood of choice because it has very little grain. All the heads I have seen were made from boards ½- 1 inch thick, laminated together to make a block of the proper size. Lovik used a bandsaw to cut out the mouth but that requires regluing some of the head and neck pieces back together. Wood drills and chisels hollow out the inside as needed. The two pictures here show the inside of a wood carved head (basswood) built by Chuck Jackson. Some of the glue seams can be seen where pieces have been glued together. You might also contact Mike Brose at http://www.puppetsandprops.com/ who may sell a book that shows how to carve a figure head and install mechanics. Clinton


Taking away the "fear"

By Doodles Baughman

I just stopped by your blog and saw the post about "Puppet Fear". As apuppeteer of over 30 years I know kid's tend to love soft characters. But big furry soft puppets slightly less so. And I certainly know how little they go for hard figures.

I'm also a member of Clowns Of America. Many of the "rules" of clowning can cross-over for vents.

1. Give the kid plenty of space, and start backing up if the parent starts pushing them towards you. Parents know we vents/clowns aren't scary, kid's need time to adjust.

2. In keeping this distance you encourage them, rightly so, to come to you on THEIR terms. If at all.

3. Never, ever, simply walk right up on a kid and shove your puppet in their face, or have them slip over one of their shoulders. Some vents/clowns have the same misconception as the parents. Always put yourself in the child's place.

I've found that by following these rules, kid's will eventually come around. Sometimes it involves a lengthy game of Peek-A-Boo from around their parent's legs, but it's worth it.

Just thought I'd share.

Positioning male puppets

When I received this photo, I quickly wrote the sender with a suggestion (one I have passed on to vents numerous times). I know it is totally inadvertent, but it is never advisable to hold a puppet, especially a male one, in such a manner that the thumb of the puppeteer is "exposed" to view between the puppet's legs. (It can be embarrassing, not unlike having a member of the audience come to you after the show and whisper, "xyz". :-)

Puppet fear

Question: I find ventriloquism very fun, but the thing I fear most in kid's, is the fact that most seem to be fearful of the 'hard' dummy's that I use in my act. I think it would be best, just to make it seem as friendly as possible? Ty
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Answer: It is true that small children can become frightened when they see a 'hard' ventriloquist figure. After all, they have no understanding of ventriloquism, and it is unlikely they have ever seen a such a puppet before - yet they do know intuitively that the vent figure is not human. Then when the figure starts talking to them...if I were in their place, I think I would look for a place to hide, too.

Yes, you are correct - keep the figure as friendly as possible. Do not force the puppet onto the child. Allow plenty of space between puppet and child until you are sure there is acceptance.

Small children do not seem to have that same fear when facing a soft puppet. After all, the child probably has some cuddly soft toys of their own. So such a puppet brings familiarity. I would recommend that you keep both types of puppets on hand, and be ready to use the one most appropriate for the age of your audience. I kept a soft puppet packed right in the suitcase with my traditional dummy. I even switched characters during the show on occasion. Clinton


Beauty with a "twist(er)"

While gathered on our deck for a picnic last week, we marveled at the beauty of a huge towering cumulus cloud upon which the setting sun was shining. While we knew the cloud was the leading edge of a storm system, we were for a few minutes entertained by its rapidly changing shapes. Little did we know that this same storm was at the same time spawning tornadoes just 20 or so miles away that would severely damage a shopping mall and surrounding homes! (You may have heard about the tornado that hit Aurora on your news.)

From toothpicks to dummies

I was in the 5th grade when I started building projects from toothpicks. Materials were inexpensive and opportunity for creativity was endless - a perfect combination. I built this 9 1/2 foot long toothpick suspension bridge in 1955. From the looks of the jacket, sideburns, lack of eyeglasses, and dummy in hand, I would guess this photo was taken about 1975, at the time the figure would have been newly built. The self-supporting bridge made from 5,000+ toothpicks no longer exists, but I thought I would share this photo with you while I enjoy the memories.


The makeover continues...

Super, SUPER Danny!!

It's interesting to witness how ventriloquist terminology develops over a period of time until certain terms become industry standard. For instance, when describing styles of ventriloquist dolls today, you'll often see them advertised in this manner:

Basic: Stuffed body.
Standard: Hollow body with turning head on headpost.
Deluxe: All the features of standard plus moving eyes and a wig.
Super Deluxe: All the features of Deluxe plus raising eyebrows.

With those terms in mind, I guess this Danny O'Day I upgraded several weeks ago must be a "Super SUPER Deluxe" because he has all the features of the Super Deluxe plus repainted head and hands. The result is a pretty amazing pro-style doll for the young ventriloquist (in this case, Lee Cornell's son).


Friends in need

These three guys (above) have one common need - facial touchups. It just happened that they all arrived at my shop on the same day which made my job easier. All colors have to be mixed individually for perfect matching, but I can save time and paint by working from a common palate. Paint is applied by brush, Q-tip, sponge, finger - whatever it takes to match color and texture. At left you see my "touchup kit."

Re-Invent Vent

By Ken Groves

Here are six ways to strengthen your ventriloquist skills to add a touch of "mystery" to your performance.

1) Lip control is the easy part and lip control is a must. Holding your lips still forces the tongue to move. You will then feel where and how the tongue should make the sounds. Say real sounds - not substitutes. (When you get as famous as Bergen, THEN your lips can move, too.)
2) Manipulation - another must. And there’s only one way to get it - work on it! Video tape your practice. Watch the tape to SEE where you can improve. Learn from watching the video. Do not try to learn by simply watching the puppet as that develops bad habits.
3) Develop a powerful puppet voice by developing the habit of deep breathing. The number one mistake I see watching most ventriloquists is the fact, vents don’t breathe properly. No air IN means no strong voice OUT. Deep breathing makes your voice stronger and you’ll speak with greater clarity, as well.
4) Take time to develop your puppet character. It took me two years to build the character for my "George". So give character building time. Don’t make the mistake of just buying another puppet if the one you already have doesn’t seem to be immediately working out for you.
5) Create contrast between yourself and your puppet. For example, do not dress the same. You want to develop two SEPARATE people on stage. Contrast makes good comedy.
6) Visual action and reaction between you and your puppet result in good comedy that builds on the humor of the spoken words. Visual reactions such as the slow burn, double-take, rolling of eyes, and so on.

Summary: We live in an "instant" world, but building strong comedic skills does not happen in an instant. It takes practice and work. Strong comedy is harder to develop than perfect lip control. Here’s a rule that never fails to be true: "If you have weak lip control, we know your comedy is weak, too." So, begin with the basics but never let the basics be your end goal. There’s no mystery in that!
Newsy Vents 11/05


Bird rescue

It was nearly 11 years ago when we sold and moved from the house on Littleton Blvd that had been our home for nearly three decades. Many of you visited us during those years. The house now has yet another new owner and is undergoing a major renovation inside and out. When we moved in 1998, one of the items we left behind was a large wooden woodpecker made by Adelia's father, Alvin Yoder. The wooden bird was mounted in the highest gable of the house where it remained - until yesterday. The new owner was preparing to repaint the house when we drove by the place. Anticipating that the woodpecker would be discarded, we stopped by and with the owner's permission, a bird rescue was performed.

Now the question is, where can we remount the bird (after refinishing) here at our current home? Ours is covenant controlled community which frowns upon such creative expression when placed in public view! We'll think of something.


What's worse than a dummy with malfunctioning eyes? I'll tell you - it's that same dummy when an inept person has attempted repairs! But, after a couple days on my workbench, he was feeling pretty good again.

"Shrink the room"

Question: Without a microphone, how close should you be to your audience?
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Answer: As a performer, you need to speak and project your voice loudly enough to be heard by the people furthest distance from you. In the back of the room or whatever. So, the more loudly you speak, the larger the audience you can effectively entertain without a PA system, and the greater the separation between you and the closest members of the audience. Room acustics have alot to do with this, too, of course, but the general rule is the same. With a PA system (very valuable to the ventriloquist) you can "spread" the room. Without, you need to "shrink" the room.

Speak to the entire audience, especially to those on the last row.


Give your puppet an accent/dialect!

Question: Hi Clinton, Do you by any chance have any of those Acting with an Accent tapes or CD's left? If so which ones and how much are they? Thanks. John
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Answer: I do not - sorry. However, they were produced by David Alan Stern and you can purchase the instructional CD's (excellent!) directly from him on-line:

Vent figure making

Dear Clinton: Hello I am a regular reader of your blog and would like to ask how old you were when you started making figures and what way you did it (clay, wood dough, carving). Thank you, Nick

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Dear Nick: I was 22 or 23 year's old when I built my first vent figure. It was made of paper mache following the instructions in Paul Winchell's book, Ventriloquism For Fun And Profit. It was more than 10 years later (1969) when we purchased Maher School of Ventriloquism that I built my second vent figure (and subsequent figures) of wood dough. Carving was required on the wood dough heads and hands, but I have never carved a figure totally from wood. I've always considered woodcarving another skill, one I'm intrigued with, but have not taken the time to master. Clinton

New arrival

Building character in a puppet is key to performance success. The Dummy Shop (Puppets by Jet) provide their customers a head start on puppet personality by annoucing them with a clever biography. Such as with their new character, Abbie.

Abbie's Biography

Abbie is a fun loving one (but almost two) year old little girl. She never meets a stranger. She is totally fascinated by anything that spins, such as ceiling fans, windmills, or the wheels on her big brothers tricycle. When Abbie gets very excited, she gets the hiccups.

Abbie puts EVERYTHING into her mouth. She seems to believe that she can learn the most about an item if it is in her mouth. She enjoys looking at herself in the mirror. She thinks that she is just the cutest thing.

Abbie is an unusual little girl, because unlike her siblings, she enjoys going to the Doctors office. When she arrives at the Doctors, she is the absolute center of attention in the waiting room and when she goes to the examining room, she loves to play with anything that she can reach. Her favorite thing is to play with the Doctor's stethoscope. Lots of interesting sounds to hear. But the most important thing about the Doctors office is that the nurse always lets her pick a sucker from the big bowl of suckers on her desk. It requires a keen mind to know which one of the brightly colored suckers to pick. This is especially fun because Mommy does not let her have a lot of candy since sugar tends to make her a little too "happy".

Abbie just loves sitting on someones knee, listening intently to every word that they say. You would almost think that she understands everything you are talking about from the way her great big blue eyes light up when you talk to her.
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You may contact The Dummy Shop at:



New teeth. New paint. New lashes.

All he needs now is his wig! But, because he came to me without it he'll have to wait until he returns home to receive that final step.


Question: I'm preparing for my first show but have encountered the fear of memorizing and remembering (forgetting) all that dialogue. Are there any tricks or short cuts regarding this?
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Answer: First shows should ideally be kept shorter in length. With experience you will in good time be able to provide longer shows. Use a cue card or cards to help remember your script. Key words and phrases that will keep you on track. Some vents try to find clever ways to hide the cue card, and while that is appropriate, I don't feel it is totally necessary. Most speakers and Pastors use notes - our President can't give even a short speech without his tele-prompter. There's no need to hesitate to use some sort of helps to avoid total memorization of a script - especially when presenting it for the first time.

Bringing up ventriloquists

I received an email from Pearce Columb who told me how much his very young children were enjoying his ventriloquist puppets. So much so that he is planning to get them started as ventriloquists when they are a just a few years older. Pearce wrote the following.

"My children have an old Charlie McCarthy and Carol Channing with Pull string that they play with now. I was thinking when they are 6 I will get one of the ones I see your granddaughter holding in the E-Bay pics. Then at 8 or 9 I will give my deluxe figure to my son, Jude, and I will get another one from you. Its funny. I am not even that great at it. But when I make Billy talk they go Bananas! They look at him and talk directly to him like they believe he is in there! 3 1/2 years old - It's like a Magic age for kids. So much fun. "

I think Pearce has a good plan to introduce and encourage his children. They now have play dummies to work with and talk with which is important. And he will be able to offer them incentive for pursuing their involvement in ventriloquism. Successful ventriloquism is a result of a good and creative imagination. Imagination seems to come naturally to a child, so that is the very best time for them to begin to put it to use. Almost all the professional ventriloquists I have met began their involvement in ventriloquism as a child/youth. I don't believe it's a coincidence.


He won't be forgotten!

When I received a request to make a figure with bright red curly hair I was at first a bit hesitant. But the more I worked building him, the more he grew on me. I now believe the unique and unusual color of his hair will be one of the primary reasons people will remember and love him!

Performing Arts - Sri Lanka

I believe it was 2007 when we met Royston De Silva at I-Fest (Illinois). Royston's enthusiasm for learning ways to use the performing arts in his ministry to the poorest of the poor in his homeland island of Sri Lanka was inspiring. In 2007 his country was in the midst of a bitter ethnic war. Yesterday we received an eMail from Royston with the miraculous (his words) news that just two weeks ago the government over ran the terrorists, but not without great price, including the displacement of over 300,000 innocent civilians, including many, many children. It is to these thousands living in temporary shelters Royston is awaiting the governments permission to help in several ways including his "Royalroy Christian Performing Arts." He wishes to thank those who have prayed on behalf of Sri Lanka and requests your continued prayers for his work using the Gospel Through Performing Arts. present@sltnet.lk

P.S. I see the little fellow from my shop (lower right) is now blessed with some new royal clothes. Nice! You better look out for the duck behind you - it appears he's up to no good!


Echo Lake

Nestled in a glacially formed hanging valley at 10,600 feet elevation in the Colorado Rockies, views of the lake, lodge and Mount Evans are truly majestic. Located just 45 minutes from my driveway, today was my first visit to Echo Lake in the 40+ years we have lived here! Hopefully, it won't be my last. Beautiful! (Above L-R) Nicole, Grandpa D., Hannah

In route to Echo Lake