Funny But True

From Bunny Dean

Following a singing performance at a party in Memphis, I hurriedly packed my vent pal in a towel and blanket and placed him in the back of my truck. I had a long drive home and was anxious to get started and did not notice that the legs of my little friend were sticking out of the blanket as I placed him hastily into the truck as I left. We drove away quickly and were making good time until the flashing red lights and screaming siren of the police interrupted our trip. Although funny now, I was quite serious and a bit nervous at the time as the officers asked to search my truck. It seems they had received a call from someone who saw me kidnap a child and drive off with him in the back of my truck. When the officers found only my vent figure they almost rolled on the ground with laughter. Relieved, I could finally laugh with them, but I have since purchased a case for my friend to avoid any similar experiences in the future!
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Do you have a "funny but true" ventriloquist experience you would like to share? Contact Mr. D


Memorial Day 2011

It is appropriate today to again bring to your attention the trip Terry Fator made to Texas earlier this year to perform for the service men, women and children of Fort Hood. The purpose of the event was to provide for joy, laughter and a memorable evening for these who sacrifice so much for our freedom. The event has been documented with a very cool video with scenes from that day. Watch the video here: http://www.terryfator.com/videos.html?ma_id=1&mc_id=57&p=1

More recently, Terry donated $20,000 to Snowball Express, an organization started in early 2006 with the simple idea of providing hope and new memories to the children of military fallen heroes who died while on active duty since 9/11. All individuals as well as organizations are welcome to follow Terry's example by contribute to Snowball Express. Any donation, be it $1 or one thousand dollars, is received with gratitude from this largely voluntary effort. www.snowballexpress.org/AboutUs.aspx


Ready for duty

I want to thank Ed Golick for this wonderful photo of Skinny Dugan" with Ted Lloyd dressed in Navy uniforms. It is the first I had seen this photo. Ed tells me Ted served in the Army during WW2, so what they are doing here in Navy uniform is unknown. They do make a handsome pair!

Skinny Dugan is a 1940 McElroy figure, and was owned and used by Fred Maher until his untimely death in 1952. After Fred's death, Madeleine sold the figure to Ted Lloyd, a Detroit children's TV personality known as "Sagebrush Shorty". "Dugan" was sold with the stipulation that the figure not be renamed.

Lloyd died in 1999 and his widow sold the figure to his current owner, Jeff Dunham. You can read "The Real Skinny On SKINNY DUGAN" here: http://detroitkidshow.com/Skinny_Dugan.htm

Quick change artist

Fred Anderson sent this photo of himself with "Archie", his Lovik figure, dressed in his WW2 vintage Canadian uniform. They normally dress in this manner for their shows for seniors who remember this style of uniform.

After singing a few "hits of the blitz" WW2 songs, Archie decides he wants to leave the army and go into show business. This is when Archie goes under the table where Fred quickly switches the head to a second body dressed in a tux and Archie reappears and the pair move into their regular comedy skit, ending with Archie singing his special version of the "Green, Green Grass of Home", to the delight of their audience.

Honor Veterans - Fly the Flag

This Officer must have those fresh recruits on his mind!

This photo of his self-built figure was sent to me by Mike Palma.


"Happiest when being used..."

Customer Comment: I received Skeeter today (after his touchup)! Thank you he looks great! Do I need to do anything as far as care to lengthen his "life" ? Sounds funny to ask but I just want to take the best care I can of him!
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Answer: You know, I think vent figures are happiest and last the longest when they are being used. Not unlike humans. And in some ways, their care is simply common sense almost as if they were a real child. Keep them clean and dry, avoid extreme temperatures, don't drop, hit or slam them around - in other words, treat them with kindness and they will reward you with a lifetime of service. YOUR lifetime - theirs should extend well beyond....


Ten Ways to Reduce Stage Fright

By Dick Brooks

1. Know your craft intimately. Practice each effect until you can do it without thinking. Some magicians rehearse a trick or move six months before performing it for an audience.

2. Do as many shows as possible, even perform for free whenever the opportunity comes up. The more often you perform, the less important each individual show becomes. Some of the finest performers may do 20 or more shows a week and have to "grind" out a show from time to time. In such a situation, however, it is important not to lose the sense of excitement for the show, the presentation, and the audience.

3. Picture the results of success. Don't picture failure. Whatever you see vividly in your mind will come true. Imagine yourself working the finest jobs, in the largest places, in front of the most important people.

4. Get to know as many professional entertainers as you can. It makes you realize that they are "just plain folks," and the success tends to rub off. Attend conventions and gatherings of your peers.

5. Read everything you can about your business. See all you can. The more information you have at your fingertips, the better you will become.

6. Think of all the possible mistakes that can happen during your performance and plan on ways to cover them should they occur.

7. Take a good deep breath just before going on. Some performers like to run in place, or pace back and forth to increase the adrenalin in their system at show time. Don't overdo it. Learn to channel your nervous energy into an exciting performance.

8. Relax with your audience. They want you to be good. After all, they don't want to see a bad show. Talk to them as a friend. Don't yell. Let the microphone do the work. Make contact with the audience by looking into their eyes.

9. We can't leave out the oldest trick of all: Imagine the entire audience in their underwear. Even the most important audience will become ordinary this way.

10. Most important, have fun when you perform. The audience will know it.
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Adapted from Hocus Pocus 1978/Newsy Vents 1980. Copyright 1978/1980/2011


Historic Maher Memories

It was Dave Robison who was going through some of his old documents and came across his 1980 issue of Newsy Vents that featured Fred Maher with his original Skinney Dugan on the cover. Dave suggested I frame a copy of that cover to use as a give away. Great idea, Dave, and today I'm doing just that.

I'll also include a copy from that issue of the three page article with photos detailing the history of the NAAV (North American Association of Ventriloquists) which was celebrating its 40th year anniversary that year. The article also details the moving of Maher School of Ventriloquism from Detroit to Littleton. Although I was fully involved in that 1969 move, I had forgotten some of the details so even I found my account of the transfer fascinating to reread now 31 years later.

The winner of this framed historic Newsy Vents cover shown here is Reford Theobold. I made up a couple extra framed covers as well, so if you would like to own one of these rare pieces (frame style may vary), the price is $20.00 (free shipping US).


YOU are a winner!

Here you see two mounted and framed TWO CENTS ventriloquist collectible coins. They are securely mounted under glass without glue or adhesive of any type to insure the coins will remain in mint condition. Ready to display on your desk or wall at home or office. And at a price so low you may wonder if it's a joke - it's not. Yours for $10.00 (free shipping US), AND I'll include a third coin FREE! Contact me to arrange payment (Paypal, check or money order). mahertalk@aol.com

The first framed set you see here is being awarded as today's prize drawing. The lucky winner is: Chuck Lyons.

Coin Comment from Charles Prouty: "I received my coins yesterday and again, they TOTALLY ROCK! "

Plus, YOU MAY BE A WINNER, TOO! If you are one of those reading this who has yet to receive one FREE TWO CENTS coin, what are you waiting for? All you have to do is ask and provide me with your current mailing address!


Golden Girl

From Bastiaan Verhorst: Today the glamorous two-cent-coin arrived. Thank you. Betty is so enthusiastic about it, she claimed it as her earring. Well, she may use it one day. One day a golden girl.


"New" Ventrilo-ett

From John Degel: I hope you take this effort as a compliment. Since I no longer do Santa, I had to find a new life for the elf. He's now Ranger Rick - executive ranger assistant to Smokey the Bear, Jr. (an Axtell bear), and helping him with fire and camping safety classes. Smokey thinks he's a ventriloquist, too, and made me change the Elf to Rick so he could have his own vent figure.

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From Mr. D: Absolutely I take your adaptation of the Elf as a compliment. From Elf to Ranger Assistant sounds like a promotion to me! But the adaptation is primarily a compliment to you. Those who are able to find creative ways to adapt to life's changes, planned or unplanned, move onward successfully. Those who do not, cannot, or refuse to adapt, soon fade into the sunset. Neither you or I are ready for that! With puppets in hand, onward we go!


Photos needed

With next weekend being Memorial weekend, I'd like to have photo(s) of figures in uniform for posting on this blog. If you have such, and care to share, I thank you in advance.

Disaster Ministry

Jim Burke sent me a letter last week in which he shared an experience he had as a ventriloquist working with school age victims of the recent tragic tornadoes in our southern states. I asked his permission to share a portion of his letter where he described his experience when called out one evening to do some "after loss" counseling at an Alabama school. Jim wrote:

"I worked with a fourth grade and a second grade class. In the first, everyone in the class knew one student who had been hurt in the tornado, and the child's mother had died in the storm. Several went to the funeral. One child (the teacher's daughter) had their house severely damaged. In the second class, one child had his home damaged, and had withdrawal problems.

"In my backpack I carried a Ventriloett, a Puppet in a Can (sold by Maher Studios years ago), a squirrel puppet, and 'Smiley', the Pocket Puppet. After a time of sharing back and forth with the students, the puppets were able to address several issues, even while entertaining. In the second grade class, the student whose house had been severely damaged, literally 'came out of his shell' through the use of the puppets.

"A call come the next day, and the gentleman calling said that I had done 'too good a job'. This State Disaster Relief Director wanted me to do similar 'counseling in two other schools this week. Unfortunately I had to decline because of a commitment to a conference in North Carolina."

I want to express appreciation to Jim for sharing this experience. Some of you reading this may be in a position and location to consider offering this type of "disaster ministry" should the need arise. Sure, we want to see people smile, but there are times when healing must take place as well, and here is one more example of how puppets could possible serve in that role. To quote Jim, "It truly is amazing what God an do when 'wood becomes alive'".


Wouter van Riessan, artist

Bastiaan Verhorst brought to my attention the works of Dutch artist, Wouter van Riessan. With a creative style totally unique, he has produced a number of paintings and prints of himself with a ventriloquist figure or other puppets. I do not know if he has involvement in these arts or just some fascination with puppets, but expressions are eye catching. It is with his permission we bring you this sample of his work (right).

You can see more Here and Here.


Too late?

Question: I have been practicing, but to be honest, not on a everyday basis and to this day still have not bought my first puppet. The reason I am telling you all this information is because I am saddened and frustrated and about too give up. I have heard that, "if you want to be successful in the ventriloquist field/art you should of started in the early years", or, " You're too old to start a business doing this art." Now, I will tell you that I don't expect to be famous like Terry Fater, or like Jeff Duham, but I would like to do small parties and/or church functions. I would love to continue studying and become better and do small jobs to make some money on the side and have fun too. I would take your opinion and words very seriously and respect them. Do you think its too late for me? Do you think I am to old at 41 to do this art and have fun and make money at it? I really need to know.
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Answer: It is NEVER TOO LATE to take up ventriloquism! You may never reach elite skill level, but you WILL be able to enjoy performing for yourself and friends. Many folks take up ventriloquism after retirement age. We had one student, Clinton White, who began his study of the Maher Course at age 85 and performed publicly for 10 years prior to his death at age 96. And just this week we received a letter from a gentleman in the UK who was going to purchase the Maher Course in order to refresh his ventriloquist skills at the age of 95! It's never too late! One more thing - I would encourage you to practice with a puppet in hand - it's much more FUN, you'll progress faster, and you will be less likely to become discouraged. I would suggest you begin with a soft puppet of some type, or even a Ventrilo-ett.


Preparing for Moving Day!

From Bob Abdou/Mr. Puppet

After living in Austin, Texas for eight years almost to the day, my wife, June, and I are moving to Columbus, Ohio. I will make the final move on August 8th. My summer shows are booked with many travels throughout the state of Texas. At the beginning of August, I will be performing at the Toy and Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma (which is one of the coolest toy museums in the country), then off to the Puppetry Arts Institute in Independence, Missouri (the PAI has the largest collection of Hazelle Puppets).

Then onward to Chicago to perform at the official Beatles Convention (my 17th year in a row). Then comes my final move to Columbus. I plan to continue performing once I settle in, and also start my new pop culture toy museum and stage show. I have to do something with over 3,000 vintage toys and my wife says, "no more in the house" - I agree with her.

The photos are "before" and "after" the packing of one of my toy rooms. I had to personally pack all 3,000+ individual toys so they would stay in display condition during the move. I smell like cardboard and wrapping tape!

Here is the website for my youtube tribute video for all the shows (over 3,ooo) and the folks in Texas. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhmYr1b-iyQ


Reader Comment

I truly enjoy hearing "voices from the past" such as happened to us again recently. John Pattison first contacted Maher Studios in the early '70's and took the Maher Course as a pre-teen. After several years of regular contact he dropped off our radar. But last week it was a pleasant surprise to hear from John again and get caught up a bit on his vent and puppet career. Among other things, John wrote:

"I have not seen you in many years but I wanted you to know that I'm alive and well and busy up here in Canada. I'm a writer producer of television up here, and I don't know if you know that I spent a number of years working with Jim Henson on the Fraggle Rock series in the '80's. I have since gone on to do quite a few other projects.

"I'm doing a small theater show this summer where I talk about my career as a puppeteer/ventriloquist/performer, and how I got started doing this some 40 years ago - which is why I was thinking about you. I still have all the letters you sent me and as I went through them the other day it brought back a lot of memories. I really do owe you a big thank you for your generous help and patience in getting me started so long ago. I was very lucky to have you as a coach. It was a long time ago and it's hard to believe I'm still at it."

Well, John, it's hard to believe we're still at it, too! Thanks for your encouraging words - you made our day!


Breaking String - what are the odds?

Question: As I continue to read Mark Wade's book, I need to address something with you. He mentions the possibility of strings breaking on hard figures that we use (which are usually the only kind I prefer to use). Is this something which can be expected happen eventually? If so, how is it corrected?
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From Mr. D: Seldom do I receive a vent figure for repair because the string has broken. It can happen, yes, but I think the figures with direct rod linkage are just as prone to malfunction. I would not worry about a string breakage. Most strings will last for a lifetime of use. Each type of puppet or figure has it's unique features. Even soft puppets will wear out and have to be repaired or replaced. That will happen long before the string breaks on the average hard figure. The difference, of course, is that a string break could be more sudden. If the possibility of unexpected breakage during a show causes you concern, then just keep a second puppet of some sort on standby. If you are using more than one figure/puppet in a show, then you're already covered. And if the hard figure is being repaired or repainted, especially if the wig has been removed, that's the time to inspect and service all inner mechanics, but even then, I do not recommend opening the head if there is no apparent problem. My "two cents".



Your TWO CENT ventriloquist coins are here. If you sent an entry in the slogan contest, I mailed complimentary coins to you already. If you have already requested a FREE coin, I'm mailing yours today.

If you have not requested a free TWO CENT coin, what are you waiting for? Just send me a quick email and confirm your mailing address. I've set aside a free coin for every person that requests one.

These bright coins of golden color are great fun to pass around - they do attract attention and fun comments. Order a supply - Spread your "two cents" around your community! Great for gifts, prizes, and advertising.

3 Two Cent Coins: $5.00

10 coins: $10.00

30 coins: $20.00

50 coins: $30.00

100 coins: $50.00

To order, email: mahertalk@aol.com


William H. Andersen (1920-2011)

William H. Andersen, known to his friends as "Bill", died this past Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at his home in Racine, Wisconsin, with his wife of 65 years, Vena, at his side.

Bill was a long time personal friend and a priceless support of our work at Maher Studios. The following post is an adaptation of a article I wrote for a 1990 issue of Newsy Vents about the career of Bill Andersen.

William "Bill" Andersen

By Clinton Detweiler

William H. Andersen, known to his friends as Bill, wrote vent columns for both Newsy Vents and the Christian Conjurer on a regular basis. He wrote eight books of routines, three gag files, a script writing manual, books on how to perform vent as well as how to build a dummy. Plus three gospel magic books. His sharp wit and keen sense of humor are reflected throughout his still popular books. Bill once told me he had written a 20 minute routine containing 70 laugh lines, although he admitted not all of them ALWAYS got a laugh.

Bill Andersen, (the spelling of his last name reflects his Danish heritage), lived in Racine, Wisconsin. He grew up in what he described as a "happy family". His own love for laughter may have been genetic; his father loved to tell jokes. Their family looked forward to the Edgar Bergen Show and laughed together as they listened. The show was on radio, of course, "BTV - Before T.V.", Bill liked to joke.

During High School Bill started what became his lifelong practice of collecting jokes which were kept in notebooks. Never was he without 3x5 cards upon which he recorded jokes the moment they were heard. He also made note of funny incidents he saw or read about. "Some of the funniest material comes from life itself," he would chuckle.

It was during a college speech therapy class in 1947 that Bill first learned the secrets of ventriloquism. His professor was explaining how a person with certain physical speech handicaps could learn to form "substitute letters and sounds, just like a ventriloquist." "So that's how it's done", Bill thought. "If that's all there is to it, I can do that!" And a career was born.

Truly Self-taught, Bill went on to build his first vent figure from a cheese box, designing the mechanics himself. A librarian gave him his first book on ventriloquism: Ventriloquism For Fun & Profit, by Paul Winchell. As he eagerly read the book he was pleased t find that his self-taught method was quite accurate.

Bill graduated from college with a degree in Speech. Following a stint in the service, he began his lifetime career as an educator in Wisconsin schools. In 1990, during retirement, he was honored by being selected as a member of his High School "Hall of Fame".

When I asked him during an interview how many vent figures he owned, he laughed as he replied, "A basement full." There was "Wally Nutt," a young boy who joked about living in the Nutt house with his Nutt family. Wally claimed, "the whole family is Nutts!" Then there was "Johonas J. Johonoson", a full loving old Danish man. And "Hildegaard Hanson", a gossipy Norwegian old lady. "Johonas" and "Hildegaard" did their part in keeping the feud between the Norske and Danes alive and well. More than once I heard Hildegaard exclaim, "You can always tell a Dane - you just can't tell him much!"

Bill built all his own figures, and each of his three main characters were built in two sizes. The larger full size 40" versions were used for stage shows. But he traveled with their half-pint 20" counterparts which were just right for living room chats and visits with shut ins and seniors. All three of the smaller figures traveled together in one suitcase not much larger than a business-size briefcase.

"Johonas" was made in a third even smaller size, and it was this pocket size version Bill would carry for hospital visitation. If a patient felt like talking the mini Johonas would make his appearance. If not, he simply stayed in Bill's pocket.

During his retirement years Bill would do as many as 200 programs a year. Most were for Senior groups, but school shows, parties, banquets and churches made up a sizable percentage of his programs as well. Most shows were 30-45 minutes in length, a combination of ventriloquism and magic.

If you were to ask me, I believe one of Bill's greatest success secrets was the support and encouragement of his wife of 65 years, Vena. And after all that time, she was still laughing at his jokes! In fact, Vena's chuckling would often begin during the setup lines, so to be alerted in advance to some of Bill's best jokes, all you had to do was keep one eye on Vena!

While their health allowed them to travel, the couple was frequently seen a one or more of the summer conventions. They thoroughly enjoyed the friends they made and considered the conventions a family reunion of sorts. Bill was well known for his popular figure making class he offered several years at the FCM conference. He also presented lectures and workshops, appeared on panels, and when not attending his dealer table you would often find him off in some corner with his recorder, interviewing a subject for his "Great Unknown" column which he wrote for Newsy Vents.

What motivated a man to give of himself to fellow ventriloquists and others for a lifetime? Bill told me, "I just enjoy making people happy." And there's a genuine thrill I receive from performing." And he lived a full life fulfilling those goals for family, community, church, and, yes - ventriloquists.

Thank you, Bill Andersen, for your support of our art and its artists; for being a friend to so many for your entire lifetime. You were an inspiration and will continue to serve as such. As you begin now enjoying your great eternal unending reward with the Master of the Universe, we, with respect and gratitude, add your name to our personal "Hall of Ventriloquist Fame".


"Do as I say, not as I do"

Okay, folks, here's the way I replaced the missing back half of this fellow's head, but it is not the way I would recommend you attepmt to solve such a problem. I'm convinced it's possible to build about anything from corrugated cardboard. So when trying to decide how I could build a form over which to apply paper mache from which I would rebuild the head, I looked around my shop to see what I had on hand I could use. I chose corrugated cardboard and scraps of foam rubber. A short time later, the paper mache was in place and drying. Easier would have been to sculpt a rear head shape from a block of solid Styrofoam and cover it with the mache. But I didn't have any such material on hand and didn't want to wait for a trip to the store.


Final Call for Cases!

May 31, 2011 will be the last day I will accept orders for Figure Carrying Cases.

A deposit of $50.00 (per case) will be required to secure your order. Balance will be due when the case is ready to ship (30-90 days, depending upon the number of orders received).
Contact me to place an order.

Case dimensions

Question: Are the case dimensions inside or outside?

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Answer: The case dimensions are inside unlined - but when measuring your figure, you will need to account for the case padding which is 1/2" on all sides and both ends. To see case dimensions and prices, Click Here

Actually, the LENGTH is most important. Measure the length of the FOLDED figure and then choose the case that allows for a minimum of 1" - 1 1/2" clearance. (Don't be concerned with the width and depth...they will be correct if the length is proper.) If you have any questions, just email me and we'll figure it out together. mahertalk@aol.com


Experimenting this morning...exact same head (repainted Charlie), just the hair has been changed.


Customer Comment

Adam Knechtel purchased, and has now received, my first Maher "Retro-Figure". After working with the figure a few days, we received the following letter from Adam:

"Todd has arrived and he looks great! What an amazing creation! He's perfect in every detail (his eyes are so lifelike and the outfit suits him well). He and I are hitting it off swimmingly! My nephews and nieces have already enjoyed his company.

"Though my expectations were high, the case you built is even better than I expected. It was built for style and comfort with its plush padding and sturdy construction. It will obviously provide Todd the optimum in comfort and protection for many years to come.

Thank you for the hard work and superb craftsmanship you have invested in "Charlie Todd". Your attention to detail speaks volumes of your commitment to quality. Thank you so much!"

Seven $7 winners today!

It's the 11th day of the month. Time to draw the names of seven more winners of my Seven Dollar 2011 (7/11) Antique Bronze Collector Coin. And the winners are: George Shanthakumar, David Rosenberg, Ann Clayton, Randy Sunart, Kenneth Wilson, Donald Jone, and Otie Vititoe.

Note: I will sell these collector coins for $7 each, postpaid, until the end of the year. (The price will be $10 each after 1/1/12.)


John D. Magician and Little Bird

Several weeks ago I announced I was looking for a new home for my "mini-big bird" (oxymoron intended) ventriloquist figure. Success! He's flown North and now nests permanently with John Degel of The Montana Magic & Ventriloquy Co.

John sent me this note: "Little Bird is already a big success with kindergartners and first graders. 2nd graders start to lose interest and 3rd graders shy off. He's popular with adults though - especially baby boomers who remember Sesame Street."

Connecting with the tiny tots would be expected, but who would have guessed this would be a puppet for adults as well? Excellent! And I have to tell you, I feel much better knowing this puppet is no longer in the storeroom, but out working, putting smiles on the faces of people of any age - including myself! Thank you, John.


Mother Goose takes flight (again)

Today, the day after Mother's Day, it seems appropriate that this "mother" begin the next leg of her journey across the Pacific.

This large Goose ventriloquist puppet is part of the late Marilyn M. Roques puppet collection that has been donated in her honor by her family to the ministry of Darrell and Sandy Blatchley. After waiting several months we now have a courier to transport the collection, so I packed up the lot of them to be shipped to Indiana, and from that location, with passports in hand (and under wing) they'll take flight toward their final destination - the Philippines.

Mother Goose is a nicely hand crafted puppet. Her creator is unknown, although as I worked with her just prior to placing her in the shipping crate, I had to wonder if she was the creative work of Bev Cipperly. Whatever her source, I know she'll adapt easily to Blatchley's Family Circus Ministry.

Today's Prize

I wish I had more than one of these to offer, but I only have this one copy. It is a reprint of figure maker Frank Marshall's 1931 twenty page catalog of Ventriloquist Figures, Punch and Judy characters, and many Marionettes. Filed with photos and descriptions, there's a piece of vent history on every page. Reprinted by Bob Abdou and The Barker Magazine, this rare copy goes to the winner of today's prize drawing, Bruce Burkett.


Mother's Day Math

Happy Mother's Day Mrs. D:

Wife to 1

Mother to 4 + 4

Grandmother to 8 + 1

Great Grandmother to 1

Result*: 100% special 219 + x!

Happy Mother's Day to all mother's everywhere.

*"100% special 'to 19' plus 'unkown number' of others (too numerous to count)!"


"Topper for Two?"

"Hey, this is almost a match. If there's enough left over after the job, maybe I can fix a 'topper' for myself."

("Ohhh...maybe not - fastening it on with hot glue is not appealing at all!")

Prize-worthy laughter

http://www.jeffdunham.com/ provides these Talking Peanut pens for today's drawing. I was part of a comedy writing panel at the convention one year, which also included Jeff Dunham as panelist. I remember vividly his demonstration on how phrases that were not at all funny, could be added to a dialogue, and if presented correctly, laughter would result. If you've seen Jeff's bit with Peanut where he plays a single stock non-humorous phrase, "jeffdunham.com" for minutes of laughter, you've witnessed the master at work. And now Jeff shows us how to use the same technique in successful marketing - letting fans pay for your advertising! Why not...

Today's winners who will receive (if claimed) one Talking Pen each are: Steve Pulsipher and Daniel Williamson.


Is he or isn't he?

Over the weekend I received word that a long time reader of this blog was telling people I no longer am selling the Maher Home Study Course. NOT TRUE!

I DO have the Maher Course in stock, ready to ship. And not only the Maher Course, but most of the Maher Book Publications, as well as The Bob Neller CD, Mark Wade's outstanding DVDs, Custom Carrying CASES for vent figures, and I'm building new Vent Figures as well as repairing old. So there! :)

Please freely share and/or use this quick link to get information on all: www.maherstudios.com

Thank you.


Jim Barber and Todd Oliver

By Dale Brown

While I was in Branson I was fortunate enough to attend the Hamner Barber Variety Show, with ventriloquist, comedian and vocalist, Jim Barber and amazing illusionists, Dave and Denise Hamner. This is undoubtedly one of the best shows in a city offering boatloads of family fun and astonishing illusions. The show includes an inspirational multi-media tribute to veterans that brought the audience to their feet.

(Photo right, L-R:

Jim Barber, Dale Brown,

Mark Wade, Dave Hamner.)

Naturally it was Jim's "Barber and Seville" routine that got things off to a hilarious start. If you ever have a chance to see this routine in person, don't miss it. I've seen it many times, and it makes me laugh every time.

After that, Jim sang, danced and vented his way throughout the show using a variety of characters and demonstrating his incredible vent skills. The show includes singers, dancers and of course the amazing magic of the Hamners. This is truly an original and creative show that has something for everyone.

Jim has been a friend of mine for many years and it's good to see his success as an entertainer and co-owner of his own theater.

Next, I headed over to the Jim Stafford Theater to see Todd Oliver and Friends! Todd now has his own show which of course includes his amazing talking dogs and hilarious comedy.

Along with his canine friends Irving, Lucy, and Elvis, Todd introduces a variety of vent characters including Pops, Miss Lilly and Joey. He also joins in with his outstanding Smiling Eyes Band and demonstrates his ability as an accomplished musician and singer.

While Todd has developed his show over the course of several years, this is the first time that his full show has been presented to the Branson audiences. There's lots of audience participation, original music, and riotous comedy. Shows are at 12 noon and include a lunch served prior to the show. If you get to Branson, don't miss it.

Todd graciously invited me and Mark and Jody Wade to visit his ranch. He shared his very impressive collection of vent figures and vent memorabilia with us and by the time he had emptied all of his closets and boxes, we had run out of room to set things down. Todd is an incredible vent historian and has tracked down many "old time" vents and talked with them and learned their stories.

Todd also has a big heart and shares his home with a lot (I lost count) of abandoned dogs that he lovingly cares for. All of the dogs in his show are from shelters.

So if you're a fan of ventriloquism and great entertainment get to Branson and buy tickets for the Hamner Barber Variety Show and The Todd Oliver Show. You won't be disappointed.


Branson Magic Bonanza Convention Review

By Dale Brown

I was fortunate enough to recently attend the Branson Magic Bonanza Convention in Branson, MO. The event is organized and run by Marty and Brenda Hahne who have had a dealer's table at Vent Haven ConVENTion in the past.

Marty and Brenda do a fantastic job and they are to be commended on the quality and organization of their convention. Top magicians from around the globe presented lectures and appeared in the All Star Show. The performers included Dan Stapleton, Johnny Thompson, Denny Haney, Stoil and Ekaterina and others. Trust me, it was a world class group of magicians and I felt honored to meet them.

Of course the primary reason I was there was to see my good friends At Moessinger and Mark and Jody Wade.

Al Moessinger (photo right) is familiar to anyone who attends the International Ventriloquists' ConVENTion in Ft. Mitchell, KY, where he lectures and helps out in any way he can. At the Magic Bonanza, Al lectured on something he knows a lot about, "Kid Show Funny Business" or how to add "fun" to you act.

Anyone who has seen Al work knows that he takes enthusiasm to a whole new level ... and that's what he did during his lecture. Al demonstrated a wide variety of games and activities that magicians could add to their acts to incorporate more audience participation and generate more laughs. The audience participation games were fast-paced and entertaining. If you could keep up, you were laughing. Al knows a lot about the latest electronic gizmos that entertainers can use to enhance their acts. If you have a question about a new item, Al is the guy to contact.

Mark (photo below) did an outstanding presentation on "Adding Puppets to Your Show." Because the room was full of magicians (nearly 100 of them) Mark's lecture was basic....covering the advantages of adding puppets to a magicians' act, what kind of puppets to use, puppet manipulation, ventriloquism basics and much more. Using his Axtell turkey, Mark demonstrated how puppets can be used to both entertain and educate by performing parts of his school show that focuses on "Bullying."

Mark's puppet manipulation demonstration had audience members mimicking his moves to deftly show them how to convey a wide variety of emotions and movements using just a simple hand puppet. Even though it was the last lecture on the last day of the convention, Mark held convention attendees rapt attention and they enthusiastically bombarded him with questions and took part in his audience participation bits. It was easy to see why Mark is sought after as a convention lecturer at magic, clown and vent conventions.

Mark also appeared on the Convention's All Star Show at the Hamner Barber Theater. He amazed and entertained audience members with his famous baby cry routine and ventriloquial skills. And his duck puppet, Rodney, provided loads of laughs.

All in all the Branson Magic Bonanza was a terrific event and I hope I'm able to attend again next year.
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Note from Mr. D: My thanks to Dale Brown for writing this review for my blog. Dale does not have a blog of his own, but his vent figure, "Chip", does! I recommend you check it out for the purposes of both entertainment and business: Chip Martin

Double Prizes

Bob Abdou is responsible for today's prizes. Two original copies of the Summer 1992 Issue of Dialogue magazine featuring Shari Lewis on the cover. Thank you, Bob. These magazines are being awarded today, one each, to Nick Woolsey and Dean Wathen.



Here's the artist's rendering of the reverse side of the new Two Cent Coin. The phrase "Two heads are better than one!" was submitted by three readers, but Ron Scherer was first, so his initials will be embossed on the coin following the phrase and he will receive ten free coins. Runner's-up, Tiffany Cox and Kevin Detweiler, will each receive a handful of the coins for submitting the same winning phrase.

The design on this side of the coin has historical significance in that it is a modern rendering of the logo Madeleine Maher drew to serve as the first NAAV logo. Madeleine was an accomplished artist, and we continued to use her logo for a number of our early years with Maher Studios. Then in the mid 1970's it was replaced with Dave Miller's well recognized design featured on the obverse of this golden colored coin. Dave Miller, (whose initials are placed near the back leg of the chair) was commissioned just this year to create this modern rendering of Madeleine's original work.

Now I would like to give each of you my "TWO CENTS" - FREE! I will set aside one free coin for every reader who asks for one. I truly want each and every visitor of this blog to have a coin, and I'll pay the postage! Simply send me your name and mailing address: mahertalk@aol.com

My thanks to each of you who submitted a phrase to be considered for embosing on this 2011 Two Cent coin. You will each receive TWO coins with my personal note of appreciation. I have saved all entries from which to select should I decide to produce a 2012 Two Cent coin with a change of phrases.



Here's a sneak peek at the "obverse" (front) of the new two cent coin. It features the distinctive Maher/NAAV logo and the phrase, "One Coin, Two Cents - One Mouth, Two Voices". The phrase was submitted by Andy Mrkvicka. Andy's initials are embossed on the coin following the winning phrase and he will also receive ten free coins as his prize.

The coin is dated 2011 and bears a side phrase, "Vent Makes Cents".

This coin is the same size as my Dummy Dollar Collector coins, but will be much less expensive to purchase. They have been purposely designed so they can be used by any ventriloquist as a prize or give-away, presented appropriately as YOUR "two cents".

The web link maherstudios.com rounds out this side of the the coin. Tomorrow I'll show you the artist's rendering of side two (historic and unique) and also tell you how EACH OF YOU can receive one sample coin FREE!


Shop tools

Question: With all the repair work you do, I guess you have seen about seen it all. I remember Frank Marshall's basement workshop, his tools and supplies, and I wondered what you consider your mainstays, the main things you need around for most of the hard work. I made only one figure, using power drill with coarse sanding disks, a hacksaw, a large screwdriver bent to gouge out inside of head, and my hands. I'll never make another one because too hard on the wrists holding and turning the large block of wood. What are your main tools, Mr. D, to do your work and not hurt yourself doing it? Lee Dean
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Answer: What a question! My major in High School and College was Industrial Arts and Cabinet Making. So I had several years training with woodworking tools in school followed by employment as a carpenter for a time. So I'm well trained in using tools with caution for their unique purpose.

You asked about my "main tools", and my first thought was, "table saw, band saw, drill press, bench grinder, dremel carver, electric drills, sanders, etc.", which I use almost daily. And then there are all the varying types and sizes of constantly used hand tools: "knives, files, pliers, wood rasps, clamps, hammers, screwdrivers, metal cutters, etc." But some of my most useful and valued tools are the 20 plus pieces I crafted myself in one way or another to perform certain speciality tasks on vent figures. "Mini-saws, hooks, cutters, threaders, and whatnot" - most don't even have a name.

I have yet to try carving a figure out of wood. Probably never will since that would involve spending many hours learning and honing a new skill, and I just don't even get excited thinking about that prospect. There are too many ideas for things to do that require only the use of skills I already have....

Today's Prize

Can you imagine honing an act to the point where it is perfect in every way and then performing it over 25,000 times over a period of fifty years? Well, that, in a nutshell, sums up the career of Sammy King. On July 18, 2009 he gave one final performance to a crowd of 425 of his peers at the Vent Haven International Convention, and then donated his puppet, Francisco, to the museum. The standing ovation was long and there was not a dry eye in the house. This 20 minute DVD, donated as today's prize by Lee Cornell, is a recording of that historic event.

And the lucky winner of this DVD, "One Last Time", is Jose Camacho.

To purchase a copy of the DVD, go to http://ventriloquism101.com/