Saturday, September 21, 2013

I'm coming out.

This blog post is absurd. I know it is. I knew that three hours ago when I first sat down to start writing it but quickly became distracted by updating the blog's look. That said, it's not absurd for the reason you think it is. The new look accompanies new goals. Read on.

Anyone who knows me knows that I've struggled to figure out what to do with my life. My very first post on this blog made mention of some of the several college majors that I bounced between. This blog was originally started to launch my fiction-writing career, but as I hinted above, I've got some new ideas. Actually, it's an old idea that I'm reclaiming.

When you read the title of this post (most definitely in place to get your attention), you probably thought, "Coming out? Not really leave a trail of glitter wherever you go." or "You did that fifteen years ago." Well, I'm not coming out about that.

It's unclear who it came from, but when I was a child (sometime in the early 90's--I was probably somewhere around six years old) I received Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop: Don't Wake Your Mom! on VHS (if you don't know what a VHS is, ask your mother...and then duck because she will try to smack you for implying that she's old). In addition to not knowing who gifted it to me (my mother thinks it was my grandmother), I also don't know how I knew that Shari Lewis was doing ventriloquism. What would make a small child even think of such a thing? They're puppets just like those on Sesame Street, right? Somehow I knew it was not the same. Somehow I figured out that this woman was talking without moving her lips. And I wanted in. (To the biz, not her mouth...)

Things really got started not long after receiving the VHS (which I watched often), when I "engineered" (I designed and guided while my mom did the actual sewing) a puppet resembling Shari Lewis' Hush Puppy. With that puppet (which is still around somewhere in a box in my parents' basement) I would walk around the house or sit in my bedroom and practice ventriloquism. Throughout the years I had various time periods of interest in ventriloquism where I would construct new puppets from various materials ranging from cloth to latex. I even used "souvenir money" on a trip to California when I was 11 to buy a monkey puppet. It was also on that very trip that I learned that Shari Lewis had passed away. I still remember seeing the headline on the cover of my mom's PEOPLE magazine. Years later I exchanged emails with Shari Lewis' daughter, Mallory, who has sense picked up the reins...and the sock.

Over the course of my life thus far, I have easily dedicated hundreds of hours to ventriloquism. So why then do so many people close to me not know about this passion? I blame the media. That sounds like a joke, but think about all the portrayals you've seen of ventriloquists in books, television, or movies. Either the ventriloquist is crazy or their dummy (who comes to life without the aid of the ventriloquist) is a psychopath. These portrayals tend to sour the attitude of the general public toward ventriloquists. So, I stayed in the closet. I really didn't need another reason to be ridiculed (I've never been very hip <-- use of the word "hip" is an example of this).

So why come into the light now? Because two of the top four on Forbes list of The Top-Earning Comedians Of 2013 are ventriloquists. Terry Fator, winner of America's Got Talent, has a five year, reported $100 million contract at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. This brings him to the #2 spot behind Jerry Seinfeld who still garners significant royalties from the syndication of his sitcom Seinfeld. After five Comedy Central specials, a short-lived sketch comedy television series, numerous other film appearances, and international tours, Jeff Dunham is perhaps the best known ventriloquist in the North America at this time and he's #4 on the list. So, what does the Forbes report mean for me? This means two things. First, perhaps the perception of ventriloquists is improving and the public no longer regards them as strange. Second, I don't care what people think of me if I can be successful doing something I enjoy.

So, there it is, I am a ventriloquist.

"But are you any good?"

Yes, I am. In fact I'm much better at lip control than the famous Edgar Bergen (yes, Candace's father) ever was. Of course lip control isn't the only thing there is to ventriloquism (though it's the most obvious to a spectator), but I'll save you the boring "trade details." I will say that I work every day to improve my techniques. Combine these skills with my love for voice acting and my experience in theatre and I think I just might have something to offer.

"What are you going to do with this?"

In addition to Forbes' list, I was drawn back to ventriloquism by the street performers here in Qu├ębec City. I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit and found myself asking what skills I might have to offer the public. This may be it. So, I'm working on short pieces for use in street performances next year. I'm also working on a longer, one man show. It'll be hybrid of a play (or musical...we'll see) and stand-up comedy. Think Shakespeare meets Jeff Dunham starring Cher.

"Where would you perform aforementioned one man show?"

Broadway*. <-- That's the absurd part, but if I'm going to dream, I might as well dream big. Don't worry, I'll do out of town tryouts in Milwaukee. ;)

Seriously though, I have big dreams and I'm not ashamed. I wanted to make a point of letting the world know that I'm a ventriloquist because I hope to start posting videos soon and they might have been a little bit of a shock without some warning. I also want you to get those preconceived notions about ventriloquists out of your head. I am not crazy. Okay, that's a bad example, but being a ventriloquist is not what makes me crazy.

Stay tuned...

*This is actually not as absurd as it may seem; ventriloquist Jay Johnson won a Tony in 2007 for his one man show.

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