It is 11:00 AM here in Kentucky and we are starting a panel discussion called “Being Original With Your Characters”. Moderator Lynn Trefzger-Joy will be talking with Steve Axtell, Dale Brown and Pete Michaels on this subject.
If you copy another ventriloquist’s character, you limit yourself and cheat your audience. By creating original characters, you have more room to expand and grow. This allows your comedy to be fresh and your act to be unique.
For HomeVENTioneers – we offer this introduction from Ken Grove’s excellent book:
CREATING A CHARACTER
You have never heard of Ken Groves, so who is he and what has this guy ever done?
I started working on ventriloquism back in 1968 after I saw a good ventriloquist do a show at my school. My Dad thought that playing with dolls was not a good career choice for his son. My Dad would not let me out of the house to do a show until I could impress him with my vent skill. My Dad was not about to let me embarrass the family name in front of an audience by doing bad ventriloquism. It took three years of hard work and a zillion hours of practice to finally convince my Dad I was ready to do a show. Dad always said anything worth doing should be done right. I thank God for my Dad. I wish every ventriloquist had to impress my Dad before they were allowed to do a show. Ventriloquism would have a better public image.
My Dad is better than your Dad … My Dad can beat up your Dad …
My first show was a church basement show, mother/daughter banquet, 1970 in Magnolia, Ohio, and it paid $150. After that, I did shows all over the state, went to school, and worked 40 different jobs until I went full time into entertainment.
I have been in the business of making people laugh since 1984. I started out working with a school show assembly company called “Officer Phil.” The company sent me all over 11 states doing two to four shows a day, every school day for five years – it was great training. Since those days, I’ve traveled all over the world doing shows on military bases, on all the major cruise ships, and for large corporations. I’ve worked in 22 countries. I’ve traveled the States doing shows at colleges, casinos, and theaters. I’ve had the privilege of being an opening act for many of the top country music stars all thru the 90s. I’ve worked in 48 of the 50 states. Way back in the 70s I was an extra in a movie with John Wayne and Lee Marvin. I’ve been on national TV 14 times. Back then being on TV meant something – it meant you could do something or had done something better than anyone else. Now you can get on reality TV just for acting like a jerk. You can be famous for no reason now. Example: Kardashian?
I’ve worked in review shows in Las Vegas and Atlantic City along with trade shows in every major US city. I’ve performed in the comedy clubs and in churches. I’ve done everything, worked everywhere, and no one cares.
If you want to become famous, get into music or sports. If you want to make tons of money, start your own bank or insurance company and get a government bailout. No one has heard of many of the best vents in the world. We do shows, we make good livings, we have families, but we will never be rich or famous … and we are okay with that. Ventriloquism has been very good to our families. Music can have 100 famous stars. Sports can have 100 famous stars. Acting can have 100 famous stars. Stand up comedy can have100 famous people. We have lost the meaning of the word star. What is a star? If you go up to 10 different people and say Cher, 10 out of 10 will know who Cher is; that is a star. Michael Jackson. Michael Jordan. Madonna. George Clooney. Jeff Foxworthy. George Carlin. But ventriloquism can only have one, maybe two, famous people; that is it … I don’t know why. Maybe it is the public image ventriloquists have created for themselves? Are you living up to those stereotypical bad public images? Let’s hope you will build a great image and be a shining example of a balanced and good ventriloquist.
You’re thinking – So far I’m not impressed, what else has this Ken guy done?
Ken Groves’ comedy has been published in “Readers Digest.”
He has authored three “How To” books (now available as on-line courses) for the ventriloquist community –
“How to Create a Character”
“Breaking Down the Brick Walls of Showbiz ”
I’ve also put out 3 CD sets –
“Superstar Promotions” – Promote without spending millions
“Hell Gigs” Ken Groves & Steve Roye – Gigs gone wrong; don’t let it happen to you.
“Comedy Conversations” Ken Groves & Mark Wade – We answer your questions, not all of them just some of them.
Did you catch it?? You better pay attention. You will miss a lot in this book if you don’t pay attention.
I work with three puppets: a Brant Gilmer creation, a Robert McRay Bighead creation, and a soft puppet created by Verna Finley. Each puppet has its very own distinct personality. Each puppet has its own very distinct voice. Each puppet has its own 45-minute show. I use one puppet per show – that way when a client hires me back to do another show, it is totally different. Yes, I get hired back all the time.
Why are you reading this? I hope it is to get better at your vent skills. This course will be a lot of hard work. If you don’t want to work hard, get out of the ventriloquist game. Go into magic or clowning; they take no talent or much skill. If you need to add something else to your vent show, say magic, clowning, or fireworks, to make the show longer, you should forget the gimmicks and come up with better material. I know four or five top ventriloquists who use one puppet for the whole one-hour show, which is what you should be shooting for.
Despite popular opinion, not everyone can do ventriloquism. If you have no sense of humor, get out of the vent gig. If you are not funny, quit right now. If you have no imagination, you can’t do this vent thing. You don’t need the hassle; just quit.
Well, if you are still reading this, go get your brain, dust it off, and get ready to work it.
But I recommend you close this course and run. You can’t handle what it takes to create a character.
Does that sound harsh? Good! It is meant that way.
If you are not serious about this vent thing, go mess up some other variety art like fire breathing, plate spinning, or knife throwing. We have way too many bad, so called ventriloquists out there messing up everything now.
Okay, if you insist on reading this, to do this course justice, you will be working out of it for years to come. That is just the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. Good luck.
Ken’s book is the definitive piece on this subject and should be required reading for all ventriloquists. To learn more visit: http://maherstudios.com/creating-a-character-catalog/