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KeithS
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Yup, I agree. This is a very welcoming, civil, and helpful place. I appreciate everyone's feedback here.

Thank you, fellow vents!
Servante
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Blue...I didn't make it up. It's from King Lear: "Blow winds and crack your cheeks!". Smile

-Philip
Mr. Pitts
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David Pitts
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I first became interested in ventriloquism like many of you did, back in the 60's, because of Winchell initially. So I'm kind of 'old school' in this regard myself, I like the one strong character approach. Although, actually, if you go way back into the 19th and early 20th centuries, ventriloquists often worked with a stage full of figures. The idea was that it would be an impressive display of ventriloquial skill, not to mention just an impressive appearance, all those figures onstage.

I've mentioned before that much of my background is in clowning. Clowning is a very character oriented type of comedy, at least it is when it's done well. Clowns are like ventriloquists in that they tend to obsess over something that's actually sort of secondary to the entertainment value. Clowns dig the trappings, the make-up and costumes, big shoes, oversize props, wigs etc.. So clowns will often create second and third characters that they perform. Often though, these second and third characters are really just costumes and make-up, and the characters never really get fleshed out. Often, in fact, their primary characters don't really get fleshed out because they are so interested in creating another make-up, costume, name etc. Ventriloquists are like this in that we often find ourselves looking to the next character, the next puppet. Partially it's just because we dig the puppets. I'll admit to that myself. But partially, I think it's because we don't want to do the work it takes to really explore and develop the personality of the characters we already have. It takes a lot of time and work, I think especially so if our main character is a 'standard' type, a cheeky boy, for instance. I decided to use a cheeky boy, a hard figure, partly because it's just old-school, it LOOKS like a ventriloquist act. I also did this partly because I just love the hard figures myself. But one reason I chose to use a 'standard' is that I find that setting boundaries actually helps me creatively. I wanted to take a standard and make it, if not completely unheard of and original, at least very funny and entertaining. I'm not looking to reinvent the art, just to do it justice. We all know that, done well, a good routine with a fully realized character can be very funny. But to get there, we have to commit to the time and work, and speaking for myself, I just can't do it with a whole bunch of characters. I have been working strictly with Henry for over 5 years, and his character is fairly well developed. I recently introduced a new character, Henry's dog, "Frank the Wonder Dog". He's a soft puppet dog I had custom made by JET, and he's been going over very well with my audiences. His character is completely different from Henry's and from my own stage persona. So the three of us work. Again though, it's sort of a standard, like Nelson, O'Day and Farfel, or Strassman, Chuck and Ted E. Bare. The goal is to find something fresh and new in my interpretation.
David Pitts
The Astonishing Mr. Pitts
Comedy Magician and Ventriloquist
http://www.mrpitts.com
KeithS
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You bring up some great points, Mr. Pitts! Great reminder about really knowing your characters before looking for more, and to bring something original and different to your audiences. Thanks.

This is why my two favorite vents are Ray Alan and Edgar Bergen - because of the strong, unique, instantly recognizable, and not to mention hilarious characters they created. I personally think that Lord Charles is one of the most unique vent characters in history. It was clear that Ray Alan knew that character inside and out. So creative.

I have decided to get a particular puppet made - a black, alley cat. He is currently being built by Jay Tyson (aka Dr. Puppet). After much reflection, noted in my rambling OP, I think this character will go over well with both kids and adults. He'll be cute enough for kids, but edgy enough for adults. It's an animal that is not too exotic and still relate-able to most people; and I do not know of too many vents using cat characters (although Harris above mentioned that he may get one!). I wish I could post the great sketch that Jay created, but the cat will have a couple of tied bandages around his tail and a slightly ripped ear. His theme song, which definitely fits the personality that I've been working on for him, will be "Stray Cat Strut" -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEtbfzMLVWU

Now about his name, I'd appreciate some feedback. I'm thinking "Skratch." Yes, with a "k." Again, I think it'll fit his personality, but I don't want it to remind people of "Scratchy" from "The Simpsons" "Itchy and Scratchy." What do you all think?

Thanks!
ljlvent
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iowa
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In light of this discussion I have a question - I personally have two main characters that are ALWAYS in a show as well as one other puppet, the rabbit in the hat, which is basically like the rabbit on the old Captain Kangaroo show. Any show I do will have these three characters but different dialog or material based on the personalities of the characters. I feel like I have spent time developing their personalities and understand how they will react and respond in a given show situation and that is how I write my material for different topics. Occasionally I will be asked why I don't change my puppets for every show. I do have a few others that I will rotate through in addition to the three main characters if I feel the subject matter for the program fits a different puppet particularly well. But I get frustrated when I feel a client is just asking for a "show and tell" of different puppets. I also feel that the children I perform for are expecting to see Lily, Jemimah and Shiloh. I mean if I saw Jeff Dunham's show and he didn't have Achmed and Peanut and Walter I would feel disappointed! Just wondering how others have handled this or if I am the only one who has faced this. I understand the need for a bit of variety and that is why I do rotate in a 4th character, but I will always have the 3 main puppets.
Neale Bacon
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My main character is my pig Horton Hogg but I also have Castor a cranky French-Canadian beaver, Stanley a nerd sheep who is alleric to wool, Gus my old man character who is a teller of tall tales and very British and Jay Jay my redneck bluebird. Jay Jay gets used the least as I haven't developed a lot of good material for him yet.
Neale Bacon and his Crazy Critters
Burnaby BC
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Mr. Pitts
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David Pitts
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Lisa, I think you're absolutely right. People, especially kids, love seeing their favorite characters again and again. I think you explain your position on this very well. So don't get too frustrated, just explain it to your customers like that. It's possible they've seen other performers who do use different puppets for every show, and while there's nothing wrong with that approach, I would think that there are a lot of famous childrens programs you could use as examples of the 'familiar cast of characters' approach. Captain Kangaroo, Mister Rogers and Sesame Street come to mind.
David Pitts
The Astonishing Mr. Pitts
Comedy Magician and Ventriloquist
http://www.mrpitts.com
Ony Carcamo
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Lisa, I absolutely understood your concerns, and I thought you have to "educate" your clients regarding your position.

I myself is ALWAYS looking for ways to strengthen my shows and develop my main characters, so that clients will always book me because of my characters and not because of me LOL!
Ony Carcamo
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Dickens & Dave
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Quote:
On 2011-04-27 00:48, KeithS wrote:
I have decided to get a particular puppet made - a black, alley cat.
His theme song, which definitely fits the personality that I've been working on for him, will be "Stray Cat Strut" -

Now about his name, I'd appreciate some feedback. I'm thinking "Skratch." Yes, with a "k." Again, I think it'll fit his personality, but I don't want it to remind people of "Scratchy" from "The Simpsons" "Itchy and Scratchy." What do you all think?


Sounds cool. I love the Stray Cats, that would make a great theme song.
I can't think of one, but I think a name that's in keeping with that "Stray Cat Strut" image would be really good.
It would be neat to have a "control" in the puppet to make his tail stand up.
http://dickensndave.bravehost.com/index.html



"Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest."
KeithS
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Quote:
On 2011-04-28 10:35, blueshawk1 wrote:
Sounds cool. I love the Stray Cats, that would make a great theme song.
I can't think of one, but I think a name that's in keeping with that "Stray Cat Strut" image would be really good.
It would be neat to have a "control" in the puppet to make his tail stand up.


Thank you! I like your idea about the tail. Could be a bit of a little naughty effect.
Dickens & Dave
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Yes, naughty for adults, and for kids, it could be something he does if he's mad or surprised.
http://dickensndave.bravehost.com/index.html



"Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest."
Mr. Pitts
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David Pitts
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If you're worried about the name Skratch, maybe a cool sounding variation, like Sketch or Skitch.. I like the idea though.
David Pitts
The Astonishing Mr. Pitts
Comedy Magician and Ventriloquist
http://www.mrpitts.com
tacrowl
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I like Skratch! Maybe he has fleas...
Tom Crowl - Comedy Ventriloquist

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KeithS
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Thank you for the support, Tom!

Thank you for your suggestions, Mr. Pitts. It's not that I'm worried about Skratch; I really like it. I just don't want to choose a name that is taken or reminds people of another cat. But, via my searches and from the responses here so far, neither seem to be the case.
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