Along the same lines as my previous post about how to be a ventriloquist without even trying to be one, watch master ventriloquist Bill Demar use nothing but puppet manipulation skills, a great script and some terrific timing to entertain some kids. May not be so funny for adults, but just the way in which he goes about with the show and entertains us, without the frog uttering a single word, is something all wannabe ventriloquists (and entertainers) should learn from.
This awesome video from the show “Britain’s Got Talent” is a classic example of the fact that it is far more important to be an entertainer, than worry about how well you can talk without moving your lips or about how much people can see your lips move.
This is classic proof that the audience really doesn’t care if you can “throw your voice” or not. You will see that the artist is not really a ventriloquist. He doesn’t even attempt to be a ventriloquist. He doesn’t make the monkey talk, doesn’t have a witty script, nothing!
All he has is sheer timing, a great setup, basic puppet manipulation skills, but most importantly, the ability to make it all come together in a funny, entertaining way.
Yes, you can learn how to be a ventriloquist – it is dead easy.
But no, you can’t learn how to be a great entertainer.
This following clip is insanely funny! The “Achmed” dead terrorist character has been brilliantly conceptualized. Jeff Dunham exposes the funny side of being a terrorist (if there is such a thing), even though it sounds a little cliched at times. It just doesn’t get much better than this.
The key to being a successful ventriloquist, is that your puppets need to have a personality.
This routine tends to get old very fast, and your audience will lose interest very quickly. The key to keeping your audience involved, is to create a character out of your puppet. The puppet should have a life of its own, likes and dislikes, quirky behaviour – and all of this has to be consistent.
For example, if your character is a rude, old, wise cracking, know-it-all male chauvinistic pig like Wilson then the character has to be consistently the same. You can occasionally go off on a slight tangent (like when your puppet is supposedly having a good day, say) but you cannot suddenly turn your grumpy-old-rude-man puppet into a kind, decent man who loves and respects women.
If you want to learn about character development, this is one of the videos to watch and learn from.
Jeff Dunham is arguably the greatest ventriloquist ever. He is so good at what he does, mainly because he is an insanely funny comedian who happens to know how to talk without moving his lips. He is a brilliant comic first, and a ventriloquist next.
I own the “Arguing With Myself” DVD whose clips are shown below. If you love comedy, you’ve simply got to get it. I’ve watched it over and over again several times, but I just can’t seem to get enough of Peanut and Walter.
Expensive, Wireless Headphone (with “compander circuitry”) that sounds like crap: $100
Cheap-looking, Wired Headphone that just works: $20
Pink-shade Table Lamp: $10
100W bulb (that you need to keep switching off between takes because the lamp-shade says it can handle only 40W): $2
CyberLink PowerDirector: $90
Getting great feedback from (rather kind) friends and family who enjoyed your spirited attempt: Priceless!
Ok, I finally gave in to my alter ego (“Wilson”) and started a channel on YouTube.
Had a lot of fun creating the videos. Here’s what I ended up learning (and buying), in order to make a half-decent video:
Ventriloquism is 60% “funny script”, 30% “sense of humor and timing” and only 10% “mouth-not-moving skills”
You need to have a decent back-drop (read, your computer desk in the background really sucks). So, got some fabric from Walmart for $6, an extra long shower curtain for $12, and walla – bearable background for my videos! I just placed the shower curtain on the front edge of my book shelf – so didn’t even have to bring out the screwdriver (or my drill) – and no nails were hurt during the hanging of my backdrop.
Need a tripod – so got a 66″ tripod (~ $30) from Sears – ordered online and picked up the same evening in-store. The 3rd-party merchant I found on Amazon that was selling the 70″ tripod I really wanted, said it would take 3 weeks to ship. I wanted it like, er, “yesterday”. So, 6 inches short, sure, but got it in 3 hours flat.
You need more-than-good-enough sound. My spanking new $100 wireless headphone bought-just-for-this worked like crap. Went back to my old $20 wired, brandless headphones that I bought from Staples 4 years ago, and the sound is like 10 times better (see difference in sound between video #1 and #2 below). So all you really need is a half-decent mike – don’t splurge on the microphones, unless you have the $500+ ones.
Need good video editing software – have had PowerDirector for a few years now – have edited a few home videos and stuff. Paid for an updated version – it kicks butt and has pretty much everything a non-power-user would need. Very happy with PowerDirector (~ $90) so far, but I have a feeling I will be outgrowing it sooner than later (especially, when I think of doing, say chroma keying (the green-screen stuff).
Of course, you need a camcorder (I have an old, big-ass Sony), and the cable to connect it to your computer (faster if you have a FireWire port).
The regular lighting in your room is no good. So I borrowed my 8-yr old daughter’s pink-shaded table lamp (without her permission, and got yelled at later) and set it up on a chair next to me during the shoot.
If you have PowerDirector (PD) installed, it automatically prompts to be launched when you plug your camcorder in. Just put the camcorder in “Play” (VTR) mode, and hit the red “Record” button in PD, and it starts recording right away. Once you finish recording, hit “Stop”, save the file, edit it (very intuitive interface) to add sound effects, transitions, trimming out bad takes, etc
PD v5 has a cool new “Create File for YouTube” feature – where it will create a slightly low-res Windows media file (.wmv) that has a smaller file size compared to MPEG’s (given YouTube’s 100MB limit), and will even upload it directly to YouTube (provided you’ve logged in previously, of course)
Create a new YouTube account with the same name as your channel (because you can’t change the login later).
Create and upload the video directly from PD.
Wait for like at least 2-3 hours before you can see it live (used to be live within just 10 minutes as recently as 6 months ago!)
Any changes you make to your channel (description, change to template, colors, etc) will take anywhere from 10 minutes to a few hours to take effect.
Wait for it to go live, spam your friends and family, and publish the video on your site or blog