"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


  1. Ventriloquism is the art of arts. It is all-encompassing: sculpturing, painting, clockwork, sewing, clothing, writing, music, dance, acting, and all the visual and performance arts in one, not to leave nmentioned magical misdirection, juggling of voices, but especially pantomime.

    It used to bother me to call the figure a dummy, but no more, because I believe the word comes from dumbshow of mine, back when mime artist would come out on stage with inanimate object, say a stick, and give it life.

    Punch and Judy used an interpreter, like Shakespeare’s plays with prologues to explain pantomime sequences. In one of his plays, I forget which one, Shakespeare says: "O excellent motion! O exceeding puppet! Now will he interpret to her."

    In Bible times a person who could not see, hear or speak was called blind, deaf and dumb. This ended sometime last century and such persons are now said to be sight, hearing or speech impaired. The dummy can't talk and the vent give it the all-important movement for mine and then voice in sync with that movement for vent as we now know it.

  2. Anonymous4/12/2010

    Back in the early '70's I talked to Mr. Olsen on the phone. I lived about 20 miles from him and regret I did not get to know him better. He was very adamant that the figure was a figure in which you project a personality into which he comes to life.