Novelty Puppets - Permissions?

Question: A few years back I saw some of your novelty puppets on Ebay. Do you still list them there or sell them out of your shop? As I recall there were things like baseball bat, shovel and and others. I love your water gun puppet. Would you mind if I took the idea and came up with my own version?

Here is a puppet I created for Middle School Drama class Puppet Workshop... a puppet made with a pencil holder, duct tape and googly eyes. I'm thinking of a small trash can with lever when stepped on opens lid. As you have mentioned on your blog, a walk or two around Wal-mart is always good for puppet possibilities. Harris Deutsch
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Answer: You, and all others, are welcome to use any of my ideas for novelty puppets. (See two pages of Mr. D's novelty puppets found on the photo album links listed in the margin at left.)Thanks for sharing the photos of your creative endeavors!


Terry Fator Souvenir

We found these souvenir color-changing light-up pens on sale in Terry Fator's store at the Mirage. So we purchased two to be given away here on this blog. Save as a collectible or use as a fun item at your desk. Congratulations Dan Leighly and Jessie Rex - you have each won one of these pens! Contact Mr. D to claim your prize.

First Effort!

From Andy Williamson:

Mr. D. I just wanted to write and tell you how much I enjoy your daily blog. I read it daily. I just became interested in vent figures last Fall after visiting Branson. I had a vision about 3 months ago about using a vent figure in my church.

I have taught 3rd and 4th grade Sunday School for over 25 years and think this would be a great avenue for getting God's Word out in a new manner. Here is a picture of my first figure that I transformed with Magic Sculpt. I was nervous about the whole process, but I would study your pictures daily, and after much prayer I made the attempt. The wig came from Salvation Army and while he needs eyebrows, in the end I think it is okay.

I hope that some day my new vent friend and I will be able to bless others the way you do. I have not named my friend yet, and I will need to learn the art of being a ventriloquist. I know that it will take a lot of practice and patience on my part. Again, I want to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. You have been a blessing to me, and I know thousands of others as well.


Money talks

"Thank you so much for the $5.00. Frankie wants to keep it in his piggy bank but I said it would be much better on display.
"P.S. They say 'Money talks' ........ well it does in the hands of the 'vents' you have sent these coins to!"

Dave Showler in the UK.

Matchstick Marvels

Comment: Hi, Clinton. I know you used to build with toothpicks. Well, here are a couple of pictures of things made from matchsticks. I thought you might get a kick out of them! Enjoy! Mike Palma

Reply: Absolutely amazing! Thanks for remembering and sending the pictures. I use matchsticks (and toothpicks) frequently in the shop to fill minor gaps, act as shims, etc. But never tried any model making with matchsticks. After seeing the pictures you sent, I'm not even tempted! Now, if I was 50 years younger, I might look at them as a challenge. The airplane is my favorite. I built one of similar style with about 6 foot wingspan (not nearly as sleek) when I was in high school. But of wood lath strips, not matchsticks! Clinton (Mr. D)


Random Coin Comments

While the free Collector Coin Give-Away has now ended, I will be offering the remaining supply for sale while the supply lasts. (See left margin.) Below are a few random comments from those who now have coin(s) in hand.

"Thanks so much for the cool collectible coin!" Terry Fator

"The 5 Dummy Dollars coin arrived 2 minutes ago. Thanks so much. I'll probably frame it and hang it next to my Charlie McCarthy coins and paper money." Dale Brown

"Those coins are really detailed. I doubt that I will be buying any items with any of those. Those belong in a nice display case." Dan Batten

"Received my my collectible coin today. Thank you, it's a beauty. I am trilled. It will have a place of honor in my collection of memorabilia." Bob Conrad

"I received my collector's coin and wanted to drop a note and say thank you. These coins turned out beautifully, and you are correct, I will be really surprised if anyone actually redeems them! I love mine!" Andy Mrkvicka

'Thank you, Clinton Detweiler. I will put your coin in oak/glass vent showcase to display. I can't display both sides of the coin so I guess I choose the money side and show gal vent, and '5 Dummy Dollars'". Lee Dean

"I'm using my gift (coin), to begin practicing a coin flourish again. It's a great size and weight." Dave Roibison

"What a Treasure! I love my coin! A perfect good luck charm!" Eddie Garland


Giddyup followup

Today I made the mouth moving.

And also today
I got your wonderful Coin by Post.



From Bastiaan Verhorst

The roads in little Holland are overcrowded, but now I have my speedy ostrich to bring me everywhere and we go through many things. I'm going to make the beak 'speaking'. Then the fun can start.

And I cannot tell you enough how happy I am with the Maher Course! I catch myself each day, on very many moments, talking with my vent voice. For example: reading names on cars and making difficult sentences with that name. Using lyrics, or making conversations with my dog.

Once again, thanks for the gift and especially for the wonderful idea of minting a vent-coin!

"Five Dummy Dollar" Collector Coin

The newly minted $5 Ventriloquist Collector Coin is here (you see both sides here).
These large high quality metal (bronze) coins, with special antique finish, are "legal tender" of $5 value when purchasing any products and/or services that I personally provide. However, with the very limited number minted (500), I suspect their immediate value on the collector's market today is already greater than their face value!

Now that the seven day period has ended (when registered blog visitors could claim a free coin), I will be offering the remaining coins for sale while the supply lasts. ($10 for one, or 3 for $20, postpaid).

(This photo for size comparison)


Looking back...

From Ted Nunes:

Hi, Clinton. My sister, who has hung onto every possible piece of family blackmail material, recently discovered a photo of me and my first dummy, Cuthbert. (he was probably a re-modeled Danny O' Day, am I right?) This is probably 1976-ish. I'd forgotten that we coincidentally had the same hair color. I'd also forgotten that I operated him with my right hand. (Odd, since I'm left handed--and I do still have some hand puppets which I operate with my left hand.) I was probably trying to copy Edgar Bergen in every way I could. I never really had an act--except for doing something at a church talent show or two--and I traded my figures for some camera equipment in my mid-teens, when I switched hobbies. But I still have a soft spot for ventriloquism. I'm in a ukulele band these days and I've considered adding a short bit of ventriloquism into our show (for certain venues like retirement homes or children's performances). One (vague) idea would be a talking ukulele. I wonder if it would be possible to create a ukulele puppet character that was still playable? Thanks for the blog. I'm enjoying it quite a lot!
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From Clinton: I love seeing those vintage pictures and often regret that I have so very few of my own. I think they actually become more special as the years pass. Thanks for sharing yours. Yes, that is one of the early Danny O'Day conversions which was completed using one of the larger 32" Dannys produced by Juro Novelty, Co. How I wish that doll was still available!

I've made a "talking" banjo and could probably do something with a ukulele and keep it in playable condition. I'm always concerned that the mouth is positioned where it does not interfere with strumming and because of a ukulele's smaller size I wonder if this is possible. Maybe I can find a local music store where I could see a ukulele first hand before I ask you to send one to me. Hmmm? Let me give your project idea some thought.



The Payback

From Barb Gregersen

I'm having a Retirement Open House this Sunday (April 25th) at my church in Waterloo. My professional educator career is ending in May after 42 years. I plan to display the certificates I received upon completion of the Maher Courses along with my other educational degrees. My husband once said that I got more "bang for my buck" from that investment (Maher Course)than any of the classes I took getting my formal education. I thoroughly agree - especially in the payback of pleasure and feelings of accomplishment.

Thank you for all your generosity and support. I truly look forward to the next phase of my life. A lot of it will be spent with my "friends" entertaining/educating young children.


The cartoons above were first published in Dialogue, Summer Issue 1994, Bob Ladd, editor and publisher. That issue featured legendary figuremaker, Verna Finly on the cover. Thanks to Bob Abdou I am able to give away a like new copy of this issue, and the winner is, Martin Pratt.
Contact Mr. D to claim this prize.


"Clinton, you are like a dummy psychiatrist ... you
really get into their heads."
Kirk Rabe
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(Which is exactly what I am doing here with Kirk's
vent figure - self-centering springs are being
added to the eyes. Clinton)


Joseph Askins Halfpenny token

While being given a tour of his very nice collection of ventriloquist memorabilia a year or so ago, J. D. (Jim) Haile showed me his rare Joseph Askins coin. I'd always wanted to have a collector coin minted, but costs were always prohibitive. However, seeing that rare piece inspired me again and was a reminder that if I ever wanted to do it, I better do something about it. So I did! And the first one I mailed out went to my friend, Jim. Now, many of you own (or will soon own) one of my coins as a result of visiting this blog. I hope in days to come you will show it to your friends and fellow vents.

But back to the Askins coin. Jim sent me the following information about that coin (shown here), taken from I Can See Your Lips Moving, by Valentine Vox:

"This copper halfpenny token with the image of Joseph Askins, a ventriloquist at the end of the eighteenth century. His real name was Thomas Haskey, born in Walsall in 1771. Haskey was a apprentice bridle and bit maker in Bloxwich, before going into the King's army.

"It was while serving in the King's forces, he lost the lower part of his left leg. Haskey returned home after his discharge and worked helping potato farmers plant their crops using his peg leg to make the holes to plant the potatoes.It was at this time Haskey saw the performance of James Burns, a local Ventriloquist. Haskey was impressed and began imitating him.

"In time Haskey started doing small theaters in Walsall were he became so well known that he was asked to perform at Sadler's Wells Theater in London.Haskey changed his name to Askins and made his debut on the London stage in 1796 as Mr. Joseph Askins. During his first season at Sadler's Wells in 1796 he had this token struck. He was sometimes called 'The man with one leg and two voices.'"

Figure maker in training?

Jeff Dunham sent Bubba J to me thinking I could put him to work in a figure making apprentice program, but I don't know that it's going to work out. Seems that where Bubba comes from, they just do things differently than what I'm used to doing business, and neither of us are likely to change our ways! I do believe Bubba could do well at ventriloquism. He talks constantly and while he tends to say the same few phrases over and over, he's never moved his lips once! Keep that up and he might have a future as a ventriloquist instructor. I thought one of you would love to give this Bubba J a home, so we held yet another drawing, and Philip Grecian is the winner! Congratulations! Contact Mr. D to claim your prize (and good luck with this fella.)* * * * *
From Walter van der Hoeven (Netherlands): I went to see Jeff Dunham's Identity Crisis tour in Amsterdam the Netherlands last night. He was really great. The newspapers in Holland this morning were praising him on adapting his act to current events in the Netherlands. And the work that would have cost, just for 3 shows in the Netherlands. They also wrote: "Memorable events took place last night where ventriloquist puppets were welcomed like popstars."
At the end of the night when Jeff took out his last puppet Bubba J, he explained to the public he did not use this puppet for a while. So he needed a little note with Bubbe J's lines. From that moment on the public was filling in Bubba J's lines, when Jeff asked him questions. Bubba J complained he heard thousands of voices in his head (he probably thought it was the booze). Jeff was amazed, and told the public it was the weirdest show he ever experienced. The public knew Bubba J's lines better than Jeff himself! I was very happy to finally see Jeff live together with my daughter.


Side by Side Stand ("Buy it Now")

Kevin Detweiler (Animated Puppets) has listed 5 of his Side-by-Side stands on eBay "Buy It Now" for $75.00 each. See more pictures with detailed description HERE.

In this photo, Kevin is demonstrating the stand with a puppet I do not recognize. It must be something new he's built. Here's his email address if you have questions about the puppet: animatedpuppets@charter.net

Teaching Ventriloquism

Question: I have been asked to give a class on Ventriloquism. I'd like to use your Ventriloquism In A Nutshell as the text. Is that okay with you? Right now I have 10 people interested but I am hoping to get about 20 to 25. I am enclosing a picture of me and my Charlie. He was an unmodified Charlie McCarthy doll I bought from you in the 1970's I think, I gave him a face lift for the new century, his name is still Charlie but no longer McCarthy. Phil Nichols
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Answer: Yes, you are welcome to use the Nutshell book as your text. Others have done so (including myself) and it serves very nicely for that purpose. I'm excited to know you are sharing your skill! If you would like to make the Nutshell books available to your students, I can sell them to you in quantity at a discounted rate. You did a wonderful job on Charlie's face. I do believe I see a touch of McElroy influence. You obviously have talent as sculpturer and painter! Clinton


"I'm No Dummy"

This DVD is available in your retail stores as well as online sources and I recommend you purchase a copy. As the cover indicates, the documentary by Bryan Simon, features ventriloquists Jeff Dunham, Jay Johnson, and Lynn Trefzeger which in itself makes it entertaining viewing. But it is much more than that with some wonderful vintage clips of Edgar Bergen, Senor Wences, Jimmy Nelson and others. In some ways I had the feeling I was watching a screenplay version of "Dummy Days" by Kelly Asbury with the addition of the contemporary vents featured.

The producers tout this work as "an insightful documentary about ventriloquism." I feel it would be more accurately described as a "ventriloquist themed documentary". Simon did an excellent job with what he brings viewers, but there are facets of the art missing. And how can you gather interviews at the ConVENTion without even making mention or showing a clip with the convention chairman? A serious oversight in my opinion. But as documentaries go, this is the best one I've seen. I'm awarding this copy to Ron Havens.
Contact Mr. D to claim your prize.


From Jim Burke


“The LORD asked him, ‘What is that in your hand?” (Ex. 4:2a)

I’m not much by the world’s standards. Most of the time I am even kept out of sight. During Jim’s recent trip to Japan I remained in his pocket until he needed me. My body consists of an inexpensive plastic. My total monetary value is less than a dollar. But…..boyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy did I have a great time!

The trip to Japan was really nice. At the airport, different people had different reactions when I spoke. Some smiled when they saw me, some giggled when they heard me, and some didn’t have a clue what was going on. They just sat wide-eyed with a glazed look in their eyes.

The second day after we had arrived in Tokyo, we went to the park. Jim decided to take me out of his pocket. I think he wanted to talk to himself without looking stupid. He managed to do the former without doing the latter.

I saw a couple sitting with their young child, and said simply, “Hello there, how are you doing?” The five year old child looked at me in amazement. There were probably three reasons for this. One, I was obviously a foreigner. Two, he had never seen a pocket puppet before. And three, he didn’t understand English. Other than that, he wasn’t surprised at all. Laughter is good in any language, and that is exactly what he and his parents did.

Now, not knowing Japanese, you might wonder why I spoke to him at all. That’s a very good question. I even asked Jim. He said that you never know what God might do when we use what is in our hand for Him. As it turned out, the boy’s father spoke to me in English. Who would have ever guessed? The young father had taught himself English, and had even visited Silicone Valley, California. He had also gone to Yosemite and loved the country.

From that humble beginning Jim developed a friendship with the man and his family. Jim performed some magic tricks for the family before they had to leave. They exchanged e-mails, and Jim met with the man a couple of days later at a coffee shop. He was able to share the gospel with him. Jim gave another pocket puppet, just like me, to the man to give to his son. He later told Jim that his son went to bed with it each night.

So………….you never know what God might use. God asked Moses what he had in his hand. Moses didn’t know how God was going to use his staff to demonstrate his mighty power. But Moses used what he had.

I happened to be in Jim’s hand. Hmmmm…..What do you have in your hand?


Age reversal

If you Click Here you will see this character as an older man with gray hair (Eli). But I received an order from a customer who wanted Eli made up with the look of a younger man. We were both quite pleased with the results:

From Shai Stadtmiller (below): "Hi, Clinton. Eli has arrived safely. I was impressed with the way you had packed him for the trip to Australia and also thank you very much for the 'Ventriloquism In A Nutshell' instruction booklet. I am very happy with him but I'm left wondering how you matched our hair style."

Bob Isaacson DVD

Here's one way to enjoy at least a portion of last year's ventriloquist ConVENTion for anyone unable to attend (like myself). Or enjoy again if you were there. Bob Isaacson is a well known member of the convention staff, and seasoned performer with 60 years in the entertainment business.

Filmed live July 16, 2009 at the Vent Haven International ConVENTion, Bob shares his entertaining experiences in the business, and after reminiscing about his past, Bob performs comedy routines with his figures Junior and Speedy Wheeler, both figures by Frank Marshall.
This DVD was provided for today's drawing by LC Video where it can also be purchased (click here) . The winner of this special SIGNED DVD is Dr. Bariyu Yesufu. Contact Mr. D to claim your prize.

One Maher Course; Two students

Question: My sister wants to take the Maher Course as well. Can she use my Course and send in the exams for a fee or do I have to buy her her own Course?
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Answer: We do allow two members of the same family to study a single Maher Course, and both students may send exams for grading and certification. There is an extra processing fee for the second student.
For more information about the Maher 30 Lesson Course of Ventriloquism, or to place an order, go to www.maherstudios.blogspot.com and scroll down to where the Maher Course is pictured.



By William H. Andersen

Every entertainer should try to develop a style of his own. There are many similarities and commonalities among ventriloquists, but there is room for differences. If you were to go to the ventriloquist convention and see ventriloquist perform one after another, they soon seem like they are all the same. They use similar figures, similar routines, and in fact, they are very similar. Then someone does something different and everyone notices it immediately. That difference is in style.

Style is something which sets one apart from the rest. It is some distinctive characteristic or manner which elevates that person above the others. It could be in the dress of the person, in the character he uses for a partner, in his superior speech patterns, the material he uses, the depth of his presentation, or some other trait that is different.

Some of the best ventriloquists are those who do not fit the mold. The really good ones develop their own presentations rather than just copying others. It is rather difficult to be better and still be the same. Work on some phase of the art in which you can be superior.

Naturally, audiences will expect a ventriloquist to do certain things. Your job is to find a way to do those things in a new or different way to set you apart from the others. Think about your other talents to see if they could be incorporated into your act. Can you think of a different kind of puppet you could develop? Are there ways of showing the ventriloquial art which have not been done yet? Be innovative, work on developing your own style.
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"Ventriloquism From A-V", is now listed with more than thirty 99 cent ventriloquist book auctions on eBay. See them all Here.

Randy Rivet, Uber-Fashionista

From Rick Johnson

Hi Clinton, I received "Eli" safe and sound a few weeks ago and he and I have been getting acquainted. Your experience and talent are so apparent in how you bring everything together. The "look" is just what I hoped for. Thanks to the attention to shadowing, including the beard stipple, which is just enough to suggest his style and age.

The young adult look really worked on him! I'm fashioning him after one of the characters on the Project Runway show. Then, he can be as outrageous and narcissistic as he wants.

Now known as "Randy Rivet", he is still unhappy with his wardrobe. He has a velvet black blazer that doesn't show well in the photos but he insists that as a Project Runway "designer" he's GOT to have his black on. . . And his scarf and just a touch of color in the red socks. He really thinks I'm old and tired, and let's me hear about it anytime he can skewer me with his rapid repartee. He's at that self-absorbed "world-is-his-oyster" stage, so he's oblivious to how the rest of the world see him. He just enjoys always thinking he's right, but he's just not bright enough to pull it off. When he gets tired of the fashion world he wants to direct a music video, or perhaps perform on Broadway.

This is an interesting project. The voice I developed for him before he arrived is now evolving into HIS voice. The personality I had pre-conceived is evolving, too. As many have written on the WorldVents list, it is important to have all of that figured out before you select and buy a new figure, but it's also important to realize that once he's at your side and you're having a conversation with him (or her) your pre-conceptions may give way to the personality that emerges once you're interacting. I know that his name will come to me in the same way.

I'm sure a psychotherapist would have some interesting observations about this process and the interpersonal dynamics between a vent and a dummy. I've been told by a psychiatrist friend that it is good psychotherapeutic practice to talk with the dummy who knows you best, and to discuss what's going on in your life, challenges, frustrations, etc. Puppet play like this is sometimes used with children. After all, in psychotherapy you're saying things out loud so that you can hear listen to yourself and sort things out. Doing this with a dummy can have surprisingly helpful results, because your dummy will have plenty to say and will offer lots of feedback. After all, who knows you better?


Joan Slivers

From Hillary Saffran:

Hi Clinton, The day after I got "Joan Slivers" back from you (and her makeover - photo right) a friend of mine videotaped me doing some improv with her imitation of Joan Rivers. Ventriloquism was never so much fun! This is what it should be! She looks absolutely gorgeous on video. I'm polishing up a script and will be using her for open mics around town, and will be making a better video of her - (I need to be more consistent on my raspy voice). I even gave her a haircut and it turned out fabulous!

I am so gratefull and thankful for your work and want you to know that she'll probably end up as my favorite puppet to work with!
Before make over (left)

World of Thanks

Maher Studios echo...

Here's another one, a little different from the last, yet with "duo-signature".
Bob Hendley, you are the winner of this item!
Contact Mr. D to claim your prize.


Caption Winner

WINNER - Ted Nunes
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Honorable mention (in no particular order):
"Like 'father', like 'son.'" Allen Fuller
"I call this haircut the 'Detweiler.'" Andy Mrkvicka
"Hey Grandpa, he said 'a LITTLE off the top!'" Cheryl Keene
"Nobody moves ... nobody gets hurt." Cliff Wiggs
"Is this why you wear a cap?" Wes Green
"I said, 'A little of the top,' not, 'like you Pop.'" Penny Luben
"Hair today, gone tomorrow." Jeff Brown
"Clinton's Clip Joint -- hanging room only!" Dr. Jeff Scott
"Keep the tip, but leave the ear." John Houser
"Ouch!" Adelia
* * * * * *
My thanks to all who sent captions. There were more than 50! And each and every one brought a smile to my face! Clinton


Enhance your performance

From Doug Nearpass

Thanks for the thoughts from Mark Wade. (See post for 4/12/10) I always enjoy reading Mark's contributions. I think his book on Kidshow Ventriloquism was one of the first "text books" I ever read regarding vent as a business.

But Mark's recent contribution was not so much about a business, as it was "honing your art". Kind of like Picasso giving a few pointers to Bob Ross!

We've all performed a variety of arts in our programs, if for nothing else than to provide some interest to our audience. However, Mark really hit a good point: DON'T LOSE YOUR FOCUS!
I recall a time when I was a new, young, fresh vent, trying to make an interesting program, and I found myself loaded up with magic tricks. I had an attic full of them! One day I took a look at my program, and thought to myself, "I'm a vent with more magic than ventriloquism in my show!" Then, in equally as immature a move, I took every trick I had, put it in a box and sold it back to the magic shop! I took a horrendous beating on the price, but I wanted that stuff out of my house. THAT is when I focused on being a vent.

If your act isn't interesting enough to keep an audience's interest, do something with the act. Is it not funny enough? Is it repetitious? Is it monotonous? What's wrong with the act? Nothing wrong with a little variety, but like Mark said, it needs to ENHANCE your performance. If it's simply another trick to "wow" the audience, then it's probably about as effective as eating a candy bar to stay awake... it'll work for a short time, but will drop your energy level worse than it was before.

I think one of the things Mark teaches in his book is to PLAN your show! Give it thought! Plan it out! Steve Petruzella is one of my favorite examples of this. His shows are thought through, planned out, pre-tested and well prepared! He knows what he's doing, where he's going with his material, and how the kids are following along. It's not just about the laughs.

Thanks for your comments, Mark, and for reminding me of the importance of planning and focus. GREAT entry!

Practice Makes Permanent

By Bob Abdou

I mean no disrespect but the old saying is true: "Practice makes permanent, NOT practice makes perfect."

An old vent named Nick Tomio from Chicago, (he passed away a few years ago), used to ALWAYS wear a suit, jacket, pressed shirt and tie. I asked him, "why do you always dress up so nice?" He said, "Because when the audience sees an old man wearing a suit,they know something special is going on." And it is true. Each show our clothes should be special - not as if you just walked on stage from playing a round of golf.

Folks spend too much money on puppets. They spend time on lip control. They spend hours rehearsing. But they don't realize that they have spent NO time on themselves as a single entertainer. This is what I teach at my workshops: You work on the puppet, you work on the act and then you work on YOU!

If you practice something over and over again and it is wrong, it doesn't become perfect, it becomes permanent. I don't mean to make waves here, but if vent is going to be taken seriously, we have to look like we take it seriously, and what we wear on stage has a HUGE effect on the act.
* * * * * *
Here is a snippet from the Vent Haven website about Appearance from Al Getler.

"The second way to improve your act is your appearance. Develop a look that is professional and pleasing from the stage and suited to your audience. If you work with kids, wear kid friendly clothes like funny ties, an interesting vest, or something with color. If you're doing corporate work, wear a nice suit. In comedy clubs, it seems that just about anything goes, but make it fit your act. Even casual looking attire needs to seem like your costume. Hire a tailor and get your clothes fitted to you. The first impression you make with your audience is your appearance. If your clothes are too tight or ill-fitting, you will appear slovenly and unprepared. Your clothing should help set the tone without becoming a negative focus in your show. Get someone who will give you an honest answer to comment on your stage appearance. See if that person's comments meet with your opinion of how you look. Keep your haircut fresh and styled. Make sure you look good. Simple generally works better than busy or fussy. A professional appearance takes work, so be sure to work at it."
(September 2006, Tips and Techniques.)


Mark Wade Writes


You've seen it...I've seen it...almost everyone at one time or another has seen it. The act that comes on stage and looks like it's going in a thousand different ways, doing a thousand different types of performing, and doing none of them well! Some people like to call them variety shows...and that's all they having going for themselves, a variety! Now I am not against mixing a few allied arts together in a show. I think a magic trick in an all-vent show can be a very good thing. It gives your voice a rest and gives your audience something else to concentrate on instead of one puppet after another puppet. I also think juggling or doing a clown bit can also break up the show (or visa versa if you are a clown, magician, or juggler and you want to add a vent bit to your act). But please be judicious in how you mix things up!

Doing two or three minutes of something, dropping that and going directly into another two or three minute variety art..and continuing to do that for 40-60 minutes makes the audiences' collective heads hurt. No one thing is established with the audience before moving on to something else. It becomes a "look what else I can do" venture instead of a well-rehearsed show.

The same can also be said of the vent who uses puppet, after puppet, after puppet, maybe using five or six or more characters in a show. None are established with the audience, the character of the puppet isn't given a chance to develop, and your audience goes away confused and unsatisfied with the performance.

Become a meaningful specific, not a wandering generality (as Zig Ziglar would say..). Break up the show but do it in a way that is entertaining and enhancing, not distracting. Stick to doing your main art form, whatever that is, and add a little variety to spice things up, not confuse people. Your audience will love you for it!

Mark Wade www.kidshowvent.com

Signed Copy!

Kid Show Ventriloquism, 140 page book.

You've long enjoyed the posts kid show expert, Mark Wade, has written for this blog. Did you know he also wrote an entire book on the subject? From his many year's experience as a full time performer he collected the best of his insights on how to be successful in entertaining with ventriloquism, puppetry, and comedy and put them into this book. Regardless of where you perform, you'll discover ideas that are certain to make you a better performer.

We've drawn to select a winner for this signed copy of Kid Show Ventriloquism and the winner is: Martin Gutzmer.
Contact Mr. D to claim your prize.
I also have a supply of Kid Show Ventriloquism for sale: $10.00 each Postpaid (unsigned).


Mexican Beatle?

From Bob Abdou:

I live in Texas and I see the marionettes from Mexico everywhere. However, I do need to alert Clinton's readers about a rare mexican marionette that I have been looking for my collection now going on 20 years, and I have seen only one in a Museum. Yes, a cheap marionette in a Museum. Why? It is a Paul McCartney of the Beatles, marionette (see photo right). I keep this photo in case I ever see one for sale. This "cheap" marionette can fetch up to $200 in mint condition! Check out our Beatles room (below).

Holy Humor Sunday

Are you aware that today is known by some as "Holy Humor Sunday"? I had never heard of such an observance until Jeff Brown wrote to tell me he was participating in the event at his church (and needed some Pocket Puppets to give away after the service).

It seems that for centuries in Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant countries, the week following Easter Sunday, including "Bright Sunday" (the Sunday after Easter), was observed by the faithful as "days of joy and laughter" with parties and picnics to celebrate Jesus' resurrection. I'm told some American churches are resurrecting this old Easter custom begun by the Greeks in those early centuries of Christianity.

I'm curious, did your church celebrate "Holy Humor Sunday" today? And if so, was ventriloquism part of the festivities?


Mexican Marionettes!

From Doug Nearpass

Mexican Marionettes!
Who of us hasn't had at least one in our collection?! You know what I think is so funny? I've never known anyone to actually bring one home from Mexico! I've seen dozens of them at flea markets, but never known anyone who's been to Mexico to have bought one there. I think they sneak them into tourist's suitcases, and then when they get home, they just sell them at flea markets! lol!

The other thing I think is funny, is the fact that the people at the flea markets think these are good, artsy, quality puppets! They put high prices on them, and want to bicker the price up! They don't realize that they come a dime a dozen, and they're made for tourists! Consequently, I've never bought one at a flea market. I, too, have had them given to me by someone who kindly thought of me when they saw them.

Monkey Figure

Question: Do you still have that monkey? Can you make one?
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Answer: That monkey was pretty much an "accident". :-) So he's one of a kind...I most likely could not build another like it even if I tried. You can read more of his story here: http://maherphotos6.blogspot.com/ (Scroll down just a short distance to see his full picture and story.)

"Winston" Key Ring

"It's so easy being green", Terry Fator's pal, Winston, promotes on this key ring. I have two, so we drew for two winners for these collectible souvenirs from Terry Fator's Show at the Mirage.
And the winners are: Mel Meldini and M. A. Denemark.
Contact Mr. D to claim your prize.


"Dummy" - A definition

An excerpt from Everything That's Ventriloquism*

by Howard M. "Howie" Olson

I avoid using the word "dummy" when referring to the small partner of the ventriloquist. The dictionary describes a dummy as a figure that looks like a human form and is used to display clothing and used in football practice. Your partner will not fit this description if you have learned to operate him well. He will have his own personality and might be better described as the opposite of dummy, which is a SMARTIE! For your audience he will represent a smarter than average boy. or girl.

*Published by OO-LA-LA, INK. Copyright 1993


Installing rod arm

Hello, Clinton. Do you have any advice on how to make a rod arm for a vent doll?
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Answer: I just use an ordinary wooden dowel rod (round, or square with corner edges sanded). The trick is mounting it to the arm/hand. Every hand is different. I like to mount it on the pinkie side of the wrist, gluing the rod to the inside of the wrist (if hollow). If the hand is solid, then I drill a hole in the wrist so the rod can be inserted and glued in place. Clinton

Pulling strings!

A couple we see at the local coffee shop from time to time, Mr. & Mrs. Cliff Spratt (Denver area musical entertainers), gave me this marionette to be used as a give-away on my blog. They purchased it at a garage sale and knew nothing about it, but hoped I could find a good home for it. There are no identification marks or tags on the puppet, but I'm going to guess it was hand made in Mexico. I once had a set of very similar puppets that came from Mexico.

I know it's not a ventriloquist figure, but it is a puppet, and could be fun to have "hanging around." So following the Spratt's wishes, we've drawn one of the numbered ping pong balls from the bin, and the winner of this marrionette is Rick McKinney.
(Contact Mr. D to claim your prize.)


Caption this photo!

You people are amazing! More than 50 caption suggestions have been submitted over the past 24 hours! Thank you. Picking a winner will not be easy - I'll bring in some help. :) Winner to be announced soon.



I've just listed this guy on eBay with a "Reverse" Auction. The price will be LOWERED $10 per week until the figure is sold. The longer the buyer waits, the more he or she will save. On the other hand, the longer the buyer waits, the more likely someone else will win the bid!
Update: I won't have opportunity to lower the price of this one - he has been sold.

1972 Multi-Movement Maher Studios Female Ventriloquist Figure

Question: I have just purchased this figure on ebay and was wondering if you could shed some light as to its history. This figure has 3 movements: Eyes to the Left and Right. leather winker and moving mouth. The movements all work smoothly. The figure includes a cowgirl hat, which is signed "Hee Haw", "Hi Mary - Jim Hager" "9-16-88". A flowered hat, western boots, white turtleneck and pants. She has red wig, but beneath is black hair in a standard men's style. The original owner was Colonel Bill Boley of Hopkinsville. The figure remained in his collection until his death in 2000, and was sold to Colonel Thom Murphy of Lexington Ky. Col. Thom Murphy was a long time member of Lexington's International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM) Ring #198 and a beloved performer at the Kentucky Horse Park and magic events throughout the region. He passed away in 2009, and this figure was generously donated in his honor to the IBM Ring #198 by his wife Marilyn Murphy and his grandson Ryan to be sold at auction.

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From Clinton: How very interesting! I can tell you with absolute certainty that I personally built the figure in the pictures you sent to me! It was sold as "Hal". The "174 Maher '72" was burnt into the head post using the tip of my solder gun. The clothes have been changed from what I shipped him in, of course, and someone has slipped that red female wig over the original wig, but the paint job and controls all appear to be original.

Now, I can also tell you that Col. Bill Boley was not the original owner. Bill must have purchased this figure from the original owner (or his or her family) or traded for this figure. I have no idea who that first owner would have been although the figure itself could provide a clue. The wigs I used were custom made for us by Myer Jacoby of NY, and since I usually ordered multiple quantities of wigs, each with specific measurements to fit the various heads I would be building at the time, we instructed the wig manufacturer to write the last name of the customer on the inside of the wig. If you ever remove that original wig, look for a name written on the underside.

As I read the description that was provided to you, it would appear that you are at least the fourth owner of this Clinton Detweiler figure. Congratulations!

Encouraging words

Some weeks ago I wrote about a reader who was trying to replace a vent figure lost in a house fire. Another reader sends this letter:

"Dear Stacy, I too lost my first vent Danny to a house fire* while serving as a missionary in Brazil. I know how hard it is to lose a vent figure but let me say this, trust God and if He has not finished with you and your talent He will provide you another 'vent' to continue this ministry of reaching other children for Jesus. I know this to be a fact because children from the various churches where Danny had been through the years started sending offerings which allowed me to purchase DJ who is continuing to tell Bible stories both in Brazil and the USA. Just remember and trust Matthew 21:22, 'And whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing ye shall receive'. May God bless you as you use your new vent to share the Gospel message with others." Jerry L. Lantz, Missionary to Brazil

* See "Lost by Fire" blog post for 9-18-2009.


Billy Hill

Here's a little guy with mixed animations! Built by Kevin Detweiler, he is a true "Hillbilly" from the Heartland of America. Kevin calls him "Billy Hill" -He is always turning things around and doing things backwards, so this "Hillbilly" becomes "Billy Hill"
A Ventriloquist Figure with a hollowbody, head turns full circle, tilts, nods, etc. Several things make him special. He is a standing ventriloquist figure. Thats right, he stands 30" tall. Who stands for fun? Billy does! Who stands for being different and a little wacky? Billy does! He doesn't sit on the job, he can't! You can turn legs and feet 360 degrees. Position them in any direction! You can have one forward and one backwards. Turn them in opposite direction or facing together. Lots of fun just with his legs and feet! He has wonderful flexible hands, made out of latex.

He has a lazy right eye. In it's normal position the eye looks toward his nose (see pic). Then you can rotate that eye to the opposite corner or you can stop it straight so both eyes look normal, but who wants to do that? Billy likes the odd look! He also crosses his eyes.

And then there are his "EYEBROWS". You can raise one or both. Of course, Billy Hill's eyebrows are different - they pivot from the inside and raise opposite of what your normal vent figures with eyebrows would do, but who wants to be normal? Not Billy! He's all dressed up from his cap to his sandals, ready to put a smile on faces all around. Billy wanted to say, "I'm Billy Hill and I'm not smarter than a 5th grader!" He's one of a kind! For sale on eBay.
Check him out here.

Who's He?

Question: I enjoy reading your blog every day.
Lots of information, humor etc. But now, a question:
On the blogspot of Maher Studios - Encore there are some photograph's of you, repairing a figure. On the last picture (right hand column) you are accompanied by a figure with a red bow. Who's he? And is he still 'in production'? (What I hope).
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That's my little guy, "R.C"., who was built for me about 25 years ago by Craig Lovik. Originally sold as a 38" Clipper, I cut the body down in size to make it a more compact and easier to handle 36" size. The head remained the same size, of course. We sold Clippers through Maher Studios until sometime in the '90s when the mold used to cast that figure became unusable, forcing the figure to be retired. (And Craig no longer is in the figuremaking business.)

It's official!

Provided by Jeff Dunham for today's give-away drawing is an "official" Bubbla J talking bottle opener. Unique in that it only "talks" when in place over the metal bottle cap! Very clever.
Congratulations to Alex Eatros. You are the winner of this item.
Contact Mr. D to claim your prize.