Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lip Control in the Ventriloquist's Performance

I know, I know I'm beating a dead horse here but I was just thinking, exactly how much weight should we put on lip control? The thing that brought this to my attention was that my wife and I were watching the BIO special on Jeff Dunham, "Birth of a Dummy" and, at one point in the show my wife said, "You could see his lips moving quite a bit there" To which I replied, "So?!!"

Here's my question, at what point do we give a ventriloquist a free pass on their lip control when it's less than perfect? My answer, when all other aspects of their performance outweighs the quality of lip control. Jeff's lip control is great in most parts of his performance so it doesn't bother me if every once in a while it's not perfect. Besides, his comedy, manipulation, character development and voices far outweigh a minor lip movement every once in a while.

On the other hand, if your show stinks and you use the excuse, "Jeff's lips move once in a while so I don't need to practice it all that much." Shame on you! The first part of becoming a ventriloquist is learning how to talk without moving your lips. Let me repeat that, THE FIRST PART OF BECOMING A VENTRILOQUIST IS LEARNING HOW TO TALK WITHOUT MOVING YOUR LIPS! Not manipulation, not comedy, not character development, not different voices. First and foremost you have to be able to talk without moving your lips. Listen folks, if you haven't got this down yet, you're a puppeteer not a ventriloquist. Shot, I learned that when I was seven off of Jimmy Nelson's Instant Ventriloquism.

As a matter of fact, once I got my first booking at the age of 12 I thought to myself, "Gee, If people are going to be paying me for this I'm going to have to get better at not moving my lips." Now there are many people out there that call themselves ventriloquists that move their lips horribly. I remember going to VentHaven one year and meeting a fellow that I had met online that was very active on the Yahoo Ventlist and he was walking around with his puppet and talking to people with it and he might as well of been talking himself without the puppet. Lip control? It's like he never heard of it. This gentleman thought that if he carried a puppet and changed his voice slightly that made him a ventriloquist. I'm here to tell you folks that you are not a ventriloquist until you at least get the basics down.

No one can argue the fact that Jeff has the basics down. As a matter of fact, all of the popular ventriloquists of today have the basics down. Terry Fator, Ronn Lucas, Dan Horn and Mark Wade all have the basics down. OK I hear you old timers out there, "What about Edgar Bergen?" Well, first of all where did Bergen and McCarthy get famous? Oh that's right, on the radio. Second, from what I've heard, during vaudeville Bergen had awesome lip control but when he starting doing radio he thought it was more important that all the people at home listening understood what Charlie was saying than it was that the people in the studio didn't see his lips moving. He kept that attitude throughout the rest of his career.

End of Part One.....

God Bless,

Daniel Jay

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Dale said...

Great post Daniel. Anyhone who throws stones at Jeff's lip control better have a better act than his; better vocal variety; better manipulation and better character development ... because Jeff has set new standards for all of those things.

Dave Boiano said...

Right on Daniel!


Your article emphasizes the importance of lip control so vividly that everybody will take efforts to improve on lip control. Thank you friend!

George Shanthakumar