The Perfect Vent Figure?

By Alan Ende

If I had a penny for every time I heard some vent tell me they were looking for "the perfect vent figure" I could most definitely retire.  Whatever "perfect" means is beyond me.  I assume these vents believe that a certain figure will transform them into an overnight sensation...when nothing could be further from the truth!  If you look at some of the masters of the art, both past and present, you'll immediately notice the tremendous array of "figures" used.  Edgar Bergen had Charlie and Mortimer, both traditional "knee figures".  Shari Lewis' "Lamb Chop" is a soft puppet.  One of the all time greats, Senor Wences, used his hand to create "Johnny".

I'm sure most will agree that, although the above characters differ in size, material, and personality, they all have one thing in common: They were manipulated and brought to life by tremendous talents!

At Jack Flosso's Magic Shop here in New York, I have witnessed the likes of Senor Wences, Kenny Byrd, and other talents pop in on any given day, pick up a vent figure at random, and ad-lib an ingenious routine!

The magic of vent comes from within the vent, not any figure.  However, the right figure for the right material and presentation will definitely improve a vent's act.  There are a number of very talented figuremakers out there who create outstanding work.

Since I am known for my vast collection of vent figures, I notice there has been a great amount of interest lately in Marshalls (there always is!) and Macks.  That's great as long as these figures fit into the act and enhance it.  If you were attending a symphonic concert, would you be able to spot a Stradivarius?  That's how "Joe Average" audience member would look upon your partner.  So remember: the act comes from the creativity of the vent working his art to bring his character to life...not vice versa.

I hope this column comes to mind when selecting your first or next character.  Happy creativity!
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Reprinted from The Oracle, May/June 1987, Patrick Justian "Ye Editor".


  1. Very well said, I agree with him completely. It's the performer that makes the figure come to life, and not the other way around.

  2. bob steininger12/15/2011

    i must agree it is like a magic prop two magicians can do the same trick and you could have to differant outcomes the raising eyebrows upper lip hand stick is just more bells and whistles i do believe in the perfect figure but what i believe is the perfect figure is the one you connect with and you are happy with

  3. Dave Boiano12/15/2011

    I'm sure what was said probably fits a lot of people looking for that "perfect figure", thinking it will make their act better.
    But I think for some, that search for that "perfect figure" may be looking for the one that just looks and "feels" just right to the person who is going to be using it. For those, the search isn't a bad thing.

  4. Anonymous12/15/2011

    Hi, I agree with his sentiments. I have bought about 10 different types and sizes of vent figures and made about 10 of the same! (animals, people, babies, dragons, soldiers). I find it very hard to get out of my mind that it's MY ABILITY to bring the figure to life rather than the "cleverness" of the figure. Sometimes I think my venting has STALLED because I'm waiting for the figure to propel me forward rather than practice, practice, practice! (or have I lost my nerve to perform?)I also think that having so many figures clouds my mind a bit ie, the personality and character traights are not fully developed etc. Anyway I still think it's good to have different types for different shows - but if they are not used they are useless. Anyway enough of my ramblings, but seriously, my venting has seriously stalled but I do love all my pals!! What should I do? It feels to hard to sell them or give away. Any ideas about motivation etc? Would love to get some feedback...........thanks Clinton.

  5. I received a correction from the writer of the above comment. The second sentence should read "I find it very hard to get INTO my mind that it is MY ABILITY..."