Tuesday, January 24, 2006

He ain't heavy, he's my dummy...

What is it about ventriloquists? They seem to occupy a strange place in show business, somewhere between a standup comic and a sideshow act. Every once in a while a ventriloquist will gain a much wider audience than usual, but even the really good ones don’t seem to inspire the same kind of love and affection that other performers do.

For instance, no one has ever written a tell all book about being a "ventriloquist groupie’, Although, just how the dummy might fit into that scene would make for some interesting reading. There aren’t any sitcoms starring a ventriloquist and every time someone makes a movie about one (which isn’t often) the always turn out to be a borderline psychotic who thinks his dummy is alive and evil. Just once I’d like to see a film where the ventriloquist claims the dummy is alive and insists on working with Habitat for Humanity or something.

You would think that they would at least have gotten a talk show. Nearly everybody else in Hollywood has had one, for god’s sake…Carson Daly has a talk show. I think the only requirements are a SAG card and a valid driver’s license. Even reality television hasn’t found a use for them, and this is a genre that thinks weight loss makes for riveting TV. Where is the American Idol style competition to discover the next great ventriloquist?

Simon: "That was awful. I’d like to set your dummy on fire and beat you to death with it."

Paula: "So…are either of you seeing anyone?"

Randy: "I’m going to lunch dawg."

It’s perhaps a little surprising that kids aren’t more drawn to ventriloquism than they seem to be. There have been plenty of child prodigies in music and acting has always had it’s precocious kids, but I’ve never seen a five year old get up on stage and drink from a juice box while his little dummy sings The Itsy Bitsy Spider. I think the ventriloquists are aware of this and sometimes try to over compensate. One of the greatest, Paul Winchell, when he wasn’t performing was working on an early version of a little something called the artificial heart.

Whether or not he had any help from his little wooden friend could not be confirmed.

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