Little help needed

Question: I am a novice and very afraid of performing. Not because I am afraid to stand up in front of people, but rather because I cannot remember my lines. I tried all kinds of things to remember my lines; Index cards with word cues, tele-prompter, and a story book with all my lines typed on a sheet and glued to the inside pages of the storybook. This is why I do not perform. I don't know how to write funny dialogue and remember it. Anyway, I enjoy reading your blog which often has stories of many different situations new vents experience and share. I will continue to read your blog, maybe one day I will read about someone who shares the same problem I do and come up with a surprisingly easy solution.
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From Mr. D: Thanks for sharing your problem with remembering lines. Normally I recommend cue cards. With a good amount of practice I found I could remember an individual joke. Once a individual joke is committed to memory, all I need is a key word for each joke to keep me on schedule. 10-12 jokes makes a nice routine.

Another type of program is storytelling. That's where the conversation is much freer. No rigid word for word memorizing is necessary because either you (or the puppet) is telling a story. And the other person in the dialogue makes comments or asks questions. Have you tried that approach?

Now let's ask blog readers for their suggestions. Contact Mr. D


  1. Anonymous7/14/2010

    Pin the key word for jokes or stories written on piece of paper like adding machine tape to back of figure's coat. LD

  2. Anonymous7/14/2010

    Even better way is list wrote on palm of hand. LD

  3. Richard Ragsdale7/14/2010

    I have difficulty learning lines too--which is not a good thing, considering that I am an actor. I write my lines longhand, or type them, over and over again, until I can write them from memory. If you can write 'em, you can say 'em!

  4. bob steininger7/14/2010

    try to find something you like fishing ridind a bike collect coins and then try to interact with your vent partner and try to make it up as you go please don"t give up practice if one way does not work for you try another good luck

  5. Sent to me by Wilma Swartz: In regards to the novice, I'd suggest the storytelling like you did but go one step farther with it. Have the character be by their side while the novice opens a book and reads to the character. Inside the book could be the entire script which the audience would think he's reading it to the character when in fact he's remembering his lines because he's reading them from the book. A book can be a great prop.

  6. David Nickell7/14/2010

    I think that problem strikes at the crux of entertainment and the art of humor. To me, humor is not something you glean from books or memorize from scripts. I think it's either inside you or it isn't. Some people are born laugh-generators and others are merely laughers. That said, the road to humor lies in giving free rein to creativity and imagination, the very opposite of memorization, which can only inhibit the unfettered flow of ideas. Rather than memorizing lines, I think a ventriloquist's first obligation is to FEEL his character. to inhabit it and make it alive. If that happens, words will pour out. So maybe the first step is to practice the movements and gestures that make the figure come to life and then to nail down the personality that makes it seem real. In other words, before memorizing a script, maybe it's better to practice spontaneity and impromptu and ad-libbing. Make the figure make YOU laugh, which is incredibly easy to do. All a script does is formalize all that and put it into a set time frame. This may be a bad analogy, but if you think of the famous "I Love Lucy" episode in the chocolate factory, the candy and the conveyor belt are the ingredients that set up the situation and drive it. They are like the lines of a script. But what makes the scene so funny are the zany antics of Lucy and Ethel. Nothing they say is nearly as funny as what they do. Action can easily usurp words.

  7. During practice, abandon the script and just talk to your figure, improvise, talk about the weather, TV shows, your day at work. Let the personality of the figure just ramble.

    Without developing the personality of the figure, his written scripted jokes are just words to remember, but combined with his already developed character, the jokes become a part of him, more easily remembered and come out naturally, because it would be what he would actually say in character.

  8. Anonymous7/17/2010

    If the ad-lib quality of the practice session is applied over to the key word list used in actual performance, there is more spontaneity and less stilted presentation. LD

  9. Desmond Bradley7/22/2010

    Don't hesitate to put on an act through fear of forgetting lines.Fear robs the relaxation needed to chat freely with the puppet and the act will suffer and come out stilted.
    Don't try to remember written lines. Follow the script idea, but say it in your own style as talking to a friend.
    The audience doesn't know your script dialogue. They just want to see a vent chatting to the puppet. Make mistakes and the puppet can rescue you.Apologise to him and the audience will most likely be amused and think it is part of your act.
    This worked for me. So forget accurate lines and forget fear. Stand up and show people a puppet talking to you - they will love whatever is said.