A Guilty Puppet … Wooden You Know It!

An interesting tidbit caught my attention last week. Recently, a ventriloquist in South Africa was found guilty of “hate speech” directed at a local singer and was ordered by a court to desist from making any more comments about him.  Actually, to be more precise, the court specifically barred both the ventriloquist and his puppet from making any further statements about the singer on social media.  I presume then, that if only the puppet violates the court order, he might find himself in the slammer all by his lonesome.  Speechless, no doubt.

As often happens with me, random events seem to coalesce around a theme.  And as luck would have it, I happened on a TV infomercial selling a set of DVDs of the old Ed Sullivan Show.  To get the viewer to stick around for the sales pitch, assorted segments of “acts” and “routines” from the twenty plus years (which included all of the 50’s and 60’s) that the show was aired, were shown.  Many of us of a certain age can recall sitting as a family Sunday nights to see the plate spinners, acrobats, popular singers, comedians, impressionists and of course, the occasional ventriloquist that would perform on the show.

In the brief time that I watched the infomercial I saw Shari Lewis do a bit with her puppet, Lambchop, which, at best, was cute.  Ms. Lewis may have been to be the only popular female ventriloquist of that era, and it seems that sweetness was her stock in trade.  I also happened on a routine by a guy named  Rickie Layne who performed with his dummy, Velvel.  I had completely forgotten about this duo until I heard Velvel respond to some of Layne’s question.  Layne’s schtick was that Velvel “spoke” with a Jewish dialect.  Some of it was still very funny.

indexThese performers were, more or less, the successors to what may have been the most popular ventriloquist act ever, Edgar Bergen and his dummy, Charlie McCarthy.  Mr. Bergen (who was the father of Candace Bergen) used to appear regularly in the early days of the Sullivan show but prior to that, his career centered on being a regular on a radio show, The Chase and Sanborn Hour.  That’s right, a ventriloquist, whose essential talent is to keep his lips still while “throwing” his voice to a dummy, was performing for an audience that couldn’t see him.  I can only begin to imagine the field day an illusionist might have had on that show.

Watching Ms. Lewis and Mr. Layne on the Sullivan show reminded me of some sorry attempts I had made as a kid to do the same thing.  Of course, back then there was no way of getting instruction on developing that skill.  Now, all I would have to do is visit my local Barnes and Noble and pick up a copy of Ventriloquism For Dummies.  I just hope that’s not the one written for the puppets.

Scan-puppet 3

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2 Responses to “A Guilty Puppet … Wooden You Know It!”

  1. Rich Says:

    How about a shout out for Senor Wences?

  2. iron(ic)man triathlon Says:

    So right? So right!

    loved senor wences! (With a little research probably find out that his real name is steven weinberg.)

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