The ask the Kid Show Ventriloquists articles were pretty popular, so I decided to ask a couple legends of ventriloquism if they would be willing to offer some insights. Today, I am proud to present the first of five articles called: Ask The Legends!
Who do you feel has had the greatest impact on the art of ventriloquism and why?
Jay Johnson: I think every ventriloquist who tries to perform the art well has an impact. The greatest impact always comes from contemporary vents bringing the art to a new audience and influencing those who are younger. Every generation will have an artist they think defines the genre. That said, for me Edgar Bergen had a multigenerational impact on the art that is unlike any other. In a time when radio was the only mass media the visual art of ventriloquism could have disappeared. Edgar Bergen brought ventriloquism into the mainstream of popularity with character development and comedy, well enough to transcend a non-visual medium.
David Strassman: Jeff Dunham took ventriloquism out of the fringe with Achmed’s perfect timing during the Gulf war, going viral, and putting Ventriloquism back on the map since Shari Lewis and Paul Winchell. Dunham’s amazing reach of millions through his television and arena shows certainly helped pave the way for Fator’s win and general public acceptance. At this time, Nina Conti is my favorite because of her innovative style, unique characters, and self effacing material which constantly deconstructs our artform.
Jimmy Nelson: In my lifetime it would have to be Edgar Bergen. His characters (Charlie McCarthy, Mortimer Snerd) were so real and well defined that even on RADIO their comedy came alive. Bergen always stressed DICTION, particularly on radio, and his lines were always clear. This sometimes led to some lip movement, but we always forgave that because of his timing and wonderful material. He led the way for aspiring ventriloquists, like myself, with his radio show, movies and, later, television appearances.
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