Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What is a "professional ventriloquist"?

Once again, Clinton Detweiler stirs the pot by asking us to define a "professional" ventriloquist. You may remember the recent great debate surrounding the definition of a "professional" vent figure.

The literal definition of a "professional ventriloquist" would be someone who makes all or a portion of their income from performing as a ventriloquist. To do that, one would have to be reasonably accomplished at it. Otherwise gigs would be hard to come by.

That's not to say that amateur ventriloquists can't be as accomplished as a pro. I'm sure there are many expert ventriloquists that choose to perform without remuneration. There are retired pros that are now amateur. There are vents who prefer to perform at their leisure rather than on demand. There are expert ventriloquists who have other successful careers, but pursue ventriloquism as a hobby. There are skilled performers who don't like traveling, and thus do occasional free shows in their community.

There may not be qualitative differences between a professional and an amateur, but "pros" get paid.

Clinton wanted the definition in 25 words or less. Guess I blew that.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

No head for figures

I'm using one of the smaller Braylu bodies to make my first female figure. I'll use a small Danny O'Day head and a Braylu control post. I'll eschew raising eyebrows and go with moving eyes and mouth. I may try to make my own eyes, too.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The other guy

Charlie7 will be similar to Charlie4. He's going to be a "Ferd The Nerd" character, though he will look slightly different. His wig will be different, too, so that will differentiate him even more from Charlie4.

I almost used the self-centering mechanism that uses springs instead of dowels in the back of the eyes. It would have worked, too. But there wasn't enough room to accomodate the raising eyebrow levers. Next time, I'll plan ahead better. Trying out the springs instead of the dowels was a last-minute inspiration.

Charlie6 got eyebrows and raising mechanisms installed today, too. He's coming along nicely.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

All eyes are on the ventriloquist

Here's a first look at charlie6. I just installed his eyes. This is the case where I had to file down the sides of the Mike Brose-produced eyes in order to make them fit side-by-side in the head. Still kinda dicey, but I think it'll work.

Notice the upper teeth. As I did with Charlie5 ("Dexter"), I cut the interior of the jaw piece to accomodate the teeth. It really changes the face (in a good way).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Avoid staring contests

Does a vent figure have to be funny-looking? Well, not necessarily, but it certainly helps. However, the most important trait of a vent figure is not the figure itself, but the vent's ability make it funny. Therefore, when choosing a figure, look for a dummy that physically matches pre-conceived personality traits. Jeff Dunham's "Walter" is an example. Or choose a figure that looks the total opposite of its personality traits. An old woman figure that acts like a young sexpot for example.

If you don't have a certain personality in mind, don't choose a figure unless it "speaks" to you. If you instantly understand the figure's character and even "hear" a voice, then that dummy might be the one to adopt. If a dummy is just a blank slate, you'll only end up staring at each other.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

My least favorite spot

Getting the eyes set correctly is so difficult when retrofitting a Charlie. In the past, I've thought I'd figured out an easy way, but each new Charlie presents new challenges. This is my least favorite step when building these little guys.

Meanwhile, Charlies 5 and 6 are having their jaws installed today as I watch the NFL playoffs.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Thumbin' it

I recently discovered the Yahoo Group called WORLDVENTS. A member wanted to know if it was advisable to use the thumb to move the mouth rather than the index finger. Surprisingly, most responses recommended the thumb. I prefer the thumb because I first learned to operate a vent figure using a ball-and-socket Jerry Mahoney. And I'm lefthanded. Though I build my figures for the standard righthand index finger mouth manipulation, my own figure (from a Mike Brose casting) is set up identically to the old Jerry Mahoney with moving eyes. The eyes default to the right. When I pull the string with my left index finger, the eyes move to the left. I move the mouth by pulling the string with my left thumb.

I like Mike Brose's advice when it come to setting up one's own controls. The only rule is there are no rules.

Monday, January 01, 2007


I've cleaned up my act. My "workshop" is a spare bedroom. I was getting overwhelmed with tools, parts, paint, and widgets. I hit Walmart yesterday and bought storage containers for my stuff. I'm going to be better organized in 2007.