The Demontrator

By Howard M. Olson

You just closed the week of your current engagement.  Your ventriloquism was technically perfect.  Your routine was sure-fire and contained all the tricks performed by the best ventriloquists of the past.  You did research on the history of ventriloquism to be sure you did everything that could be done in ventriloquism.  Your "Bottle of Beer" bit was impressive.  "Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers" did likewise.  You turned your figure's head a complete 360 degrees for a laugh.  You did the baby cry, drinking bit, and the telephone bit -ala The Great Lester.  Your distant voice worked well in the suitcase routine.  Your song finish with rapid-fire voice changes, left 'em gasping.  You're sure you are good.  You've spent the last ten of your eighteen years practicing for perfection.  The audience knows you are good.  Still, there seems to be something lacking.
An old time ventriloquist played the same spot last year and was held over for six weeks.  He didn't do half of the vent that you do in your act.  It seems unfair.  What does he know that you don't know?

They say that you lack experience.  Where do you buy that?  How can an eighteen year old boy get twenty years of it?  They are asking the impossible...or...are they?  Maybe you can find an old time ventriloquist who knows...but, where?

In your haste to make good you skipped over some of the items in the vent trade journals.  Who has time for ventriloquist conventions when there is a career and lots of bookings to think about?  Besides, you lose a week's work.  What could you possibly gain by attending?

Your agent informs you that a storm knocked out the next job.  You have a free week with nothing to do.  The current newspaper has a story about a ventriloquist convention that is being held near by.  It might be better than sitting around the motel being bored or practicing.

At the convention some old timer does a vent act with a stocking over his hand, made up to look like a figure.  He gets a standing ovation.  You paid good money for your figure.  It has all the movements you could get installed on it.  Winkers and blinkers, raising eyebrows, rolling eyes, wiggling ears, upper jaw sneer, fight wig, light up nose, hand shake, nudger, moving mouth and turning head.  You feel sorry for yourself.  You go to your room and sulk.

There's a knock on the door.  You open it and find the old timer standing there.  He asks to see your figure.  He said he could never afford one like it.  He marvels over the workmanship.  The maker must have been a true artist.  He asks you for a demonstration.  You get the same proud feeling you had when you bought your first sports car.

You ask him why people don't seem to appreciate your act.  He tells you that you gave him an excellent demonstration of figure manipulation.

"How did you like my vent work?" you ask.  He says, "I was so busy admiring the figure that I didn't notice.  It was a great demonstration of mechanical movements."

"But you used an old sock for a figure and you received a standing ovation," you exclaimed.

"Well," he said, "I didn't have much of a figure, so I just concentrated on entertaining the audience."

The ventriloquist convention is history now.  You're back on the road again.  Your agent is getting great reports from your act.  And you know why.  You stopped being a demonstrator and started entertaining.
*  *  *  *  *
Reprinted from May/Jun 1979 Newsy Vents as a result of Keith Suranna's comment 7/6/12.  Thank you, Keith.  And thank you, Howie...your comments and advice are as true and applicable today as they were 33 years ago!


  1. Anonymous7/10/2012

    Just as wise as I remember it (gulp) 33 years ago! Thank you for reprinting that article, Mr. D.!

    By the way, regarding the 7/6/12 posts on the material Mr. Olson used to make his figures, I believe he called it "permatone."

  2. What a great article! Thanks

  3. Anonymous7/10/2012

    Very inciteful article. Thanks Clinton.

  4. my lecture at this years convention will continue this story, entertain them so much they book you for next year before you leave the building, it can happen to you because it happens to me all the time, how?? come to my lecture and find out.

  5. Anonymous7/11/2012

    Unfortunately, the print is too small for my eyes. Could a larger font be used?

  6. Anonymous7/12/2012

    re print size: Many thanks for the re-run! Much easier on the eyes!