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Mr. Pitts
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David Pitts
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Tom says the only true reputation maker is an original routine. I completely agree.

This is where modern ventriloquism really diverges from magic. Jeff Dunham isn't where he is because of technique or unique puppets. Although I think Walter and Achmed are brilliant characters, they are products of original thinking. Jeff is where he is because he writes good, funny, original material and performs it well.

Modern ventriloquism is more closely related to stand-up than to magic. Both require practice and hard work to be good at, both require good technique. But magicians can legitimately buy tricks and routines, it's a standard practice. They may not get their own television special, but they can get work without doing a single original trick. Ventriloquists can also, and I confess to using some things in my act that I didn't create but did pay for. But the hard truth is, if I'm not writing original material for my act, I'll never be more than mediocre as a ventriloquist. Ventriloquism is much more about being funny than being amazing. I've been thinking about this lately and taking a hard look at my act. I have realized I have less truly original material in it than I would like. I would love for the whole thing to be 100% original. That's not to say that to be original we should abandon the devices of the knee figure, soft puppet or vent mask. I'm just trying to write more original material. I've been working like a stand-up, sketching out a bit, trying it out in a show, refining the stuff that works. But progress has been slow.

Do you write original stuff, and if so, how do you work? Do you write longer scripts or work from notes on short memorized bits like a lot of stand-ups do?
David Pitts
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Ony Carcamo
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Writing original material, and performing it well, I also believe, is the real key to success in our craft. I read somewhere that Edgar Bergen even preferred to be known as a good writer that as a good vent. He wrote most of his material, even if he was given writers by his producers, because he said he was the one who knew his characters well.

After doing vent for around 2 decades, since a couple of years ago I've become more conscious of my material. I'd say about 80% of my material now is original to me, the remaining is some public domain jokes/bits that I tweaked/personalized for my act. I even rewrote my tapes-over-mouth closer (original routine by Bill DeMar) to make it original to me.

I have also developed several improv game bits which make my act fresh every time.

Because now there are many vents in my country (than when I started) it's very important for me to be more original. And I can only be original if I write my own routines. I am able to create my orig routines by doing a lot of club work at night, where I can test and practice my new stuff.

I'd say we vents should also put more time learning how to create orig materials the way we put more time learning the technical aspects (lip control, manipulation, etc.) of our craft.
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Howie Diddot
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My question is;

Are you talking about reputations among the brotherhood of ventriloquists where it is a small world and it is known what is copied, or among the local public where you take the bones of an established routine and fit it to your personality, it becomes a hit and you gain a reputation as a fine performer in your sphere of influence for the routine you are performing.

Take Ony’s example, he is working on an established routine, changing the end and calling it original to him. When does original begin?

In my situation, I have posted here that from day one of receiving the Chico routine, I have been working on it to make changes in order to fit me, is my routine original and how much of it is licensed?

If this is the case, then every ventriloquist after the very first ventriloquist that has used a figure has copied the original ventriloquist who carved the first head and every performance is a copy and nothing in ventriloquistm today is original.


Now I'm confused
Ony Carcamo
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Vent is an ancient art form and if we really think about it maybe everything has already been done by the past vents. Just like in magic and mentalism, principles and secrets of effects may have already been invented and used by the past performers, so "original" principles may not have room today. So by being original, it can mean taking something from the past and creating/modifying it to fit your act, not doing it word for word, bit by bit.

What I did with Uncle Bill's original tapes-over-mouth bit was not only did I change the ending but I reworked the beginning and then added a different premise of the routine based on my character's personality. I also created a routine where I WOULD NOT need an assistant who'll tape my mouth. When I sent my ideas to Uncle Bill I was glad he liked them and even said mine was "the next best thing" to his routine--hahaha, coming from him I loved that! Smile

Howie, here's my thoughts for you: at first perform the original chico routine AS INSTRUCTED many, many times... then start adding your own small bits here and there... taking out a few bits from the original... try new things based on audience reactions... and you'll end up performing it YOUR way eventually. That's how original routines are born.

I believe a modern day magician can still create original routines to classic tricks, like the linking rings or the egg bag.
Ony Carcamo
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Mr. Pitts
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David Pitts
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I'm not talking about what other ventriloquists think. And I'm not accusing anyone of doing a bad thing by using standard routines. I do a standard rabbit-in-the hat routine. I do a good job with it, it gets laughs, I have a few little touches that are my own. Kids like it and there's really nothing wrong with it. I'm keeping it in my birthday show because it works. But even with the original bits in it, I wouldn't call it original.

I don't know why you'd be confused exactly though Buzz, it's a fairly straightforward idea. I am trying to write original material, my own ideas for stuff to make the puppets say and do in the act. Nothing borrowed or adapted. As I said, I don't want to abandon the traditional devices of the knee figure, puppet, vent mask or magic drawing board. I don't think we have to entirely reinvent the art to be original. I don't think originality depends on inventing a puppet character unlike anything ever seen before. I think it's quite possible to write original material for a very standard character like a cheeky boy.

I do understand that we can all do the same material in our own smaller markets, adapting our routines from standard stuff. We can get work that way. There was a vent being praised on this forum a while back. After we went and took a look at his video, most of us recognized a lot of 'adapted' bits (well, stolen really, pretty much word for word). But the guy in question is working.. cruise ships, corporate stuff, he's making a living. While I'd like to work at that level, I just don't personally want to do it that way. I want to develop my own original material and I'm wondering how others on this forum approach the job of doing that. Do you sit and write longer scripts or just work out short bits and refine them in front of an audience, either in a paid show or an open mic? Those of you who write your own stuff, what's your process?
David Pitts
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Howie Diddot
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I don’t have the years of performing experience as some here do; when I decided to add magic to my ventriloquism I wanted more than to perform a trick in magic, put that trick aside and pick up another trick to perform then continue to do this until I ran out of tricks.

I read that Chico was a routine that could be legally licensed and performed; and it was a very strong routine; I could have told everyone I purchased the routine and just started performing it; $550.00 later I am a legal owner of Chico the Mind Reading Monkey.

The first time I watched the video that came with the box, I thought that it was not my type of routine, after watching the video a few more times along with the instructional video, I saw the promise in it and how I can make changes in the presentation to better reflect my personality

At first I thought I’d vent Chico, I made a practice video and abandoned the idea, I returned to practice Bill’s script of whispering in the ear, but I was not pleased with the results; after much consideration, I came up with a different direction to animate Chic

It will be awhile before I am ready to publicly perform Chico, but from the first day, it was never my intention to repeat the routine word for word from the script.

This thread was the result of a comment in another thread

“Hate to burst anyone's bubble - but the only true reputation maker is an original routine”
Soon, with professional background music from a quality system to enhance the experience and routines and props like the Magic Wand Maker, the Bigger Wand, The Human Xylophone and Dan my figure, I will achieve the reputation of a professional and successful ventriloquist and children’s performer in San Francisco; this was the type of reputation I was alluding to in the other thread.

I am not defending myself, I am expounding on the post I made earlier to clarify the implication of my comment; my post may have been misconstrued.
Neale Bacon
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It was like when I started my Horton routine called The Game Show. I got the idea that it would be funny if Horton Hogg wanted to leave the act and become a gameshow host. With input froma few people (including Mr Pitts, I have a truly original bit that is "ours"

Sometimes asking yourself What If is the greatest routine starter.
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Howie Diddot
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Terry Fator has admitted that he hires and collaborates with a paid writer, does anyone know if Jeff Dunham works with a writer?
Mr. Pitts
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David Pitts
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I don't think anyone took your comments in a negative way Buzz. I understand and respect your goals your approach.

I think that up until a few years ago, Jeff wrote all his own material. I think that with the schedule he has now, and especially when he was doing the Comedy Central series, he had to rely on some hired guns to help with the writing.

Neale, I'm glad you were able to turn the game show premise into a good routine. I love the 'what if' concept. I'm going to put that one in my tool box.

I guess, to simplify, what I'm saying is that I think modern ventriloquism is more closely related to stand-up than to magic. Do you agree or disagree? And if you agree, are you writing original material (which is what a stand-up does)?
David Pitts
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Howie Diddot
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I didn’t think anyone took my post negatively, I felt I needed to expand on my post to clarify my position

Ventriloquism It is more like a stand up comedy illusion
Bob Baker
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Quote:
On 2011-06-19 00:54, Howie Diddot wrote:
Terry Fator has admitted that he hires and collaborates with a paid writer, does anyone know if Jeff Dunham works with a writer?


For years when he was touring clubs, Jeff's opening act also wrote with/for Jeff. I don't have Jeff's book handy at the moment, but Jeff acknowledges the other man's contributions in the book.

Bob
tacrowl
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First I'd like to apologize to Buzz if he felt my comment was directed at him. It wasn't. There is nothing wrong with doing a purchased routine. You can develop a show that gives you a positive reputation, but the routine itself, IMO, will not be the "reputation maker". That is why I added the comment. Sorry if anyone misunderstood. It is my feeling (and maybe just mine) that when others are able to purchase the routine (not props) and do it the same way - it becomes standard.

On that note - Ony took Bill's TOM and made the changes that fit his act. He now has what I would consider to be a collaboration piece. He has the rights to Bill's routine and he took it in a new direction. In fact, when someone asked about it on another thread, I pointed Ony's video out as a great version. The fact so few people see ventriloquists, and the changes Ony made, I can see how he could easily develop a reputation from the routine.

Neale's Game Show and most of my act would also have to be considered collaboration pieces.

To David's question about relation to stand up and writing original material... Vent is definitely related to stand up today. People know what we are doing. So if you can't amaze, you'd better be entertaining and funny - otherwise there isn't much reason to watch.

I think most people start with basic routines and jokes. We are busy trying to learn the technique and dealing with the audience factor/nerves. Memorizing "proven" routines is a lot easier than sweating your lips moving and at the same time having to analyze why a joke bombs, plus how to get the audience back. That is why the script books were written. The problem is when people stay there. Most of those jokes were published in another time - and they just aren't funny to today's audiences. I have a few videos out there I should probably remove - but they also remind me of how far I've come and still have to go...

I "write" new material several ways. My favorite is to sit around with other acts and discuss the routine. We start firing ideas and jokes back and forth and it is written down or better yet - recorded on an MP3 device. It becomes a collaboration piece, but the others may or may not use the material. In some cases, we specify at the start the ideas in this session are strictly for X act.

I also purchased the "Killer Comedy" course. It gives great ideas for creating raw material and honing it. While helpful, it still needs to be worked in front of audiences - and lots of them.

Which brings us to Ony's suggestion to Buzz - which is the true gold.
Quote:
at first perform the original chico routine AS INSTRUCTED many, many times... then start adding your own small bits here and there... taking out a few bits from the original... try new things based on audience reactions... and you'll end up performing it YOUR way eventually. That's how original routines are born.


Ony does that in clubs, I work street shows in Virginia Beach. On those nights (usually two week stints) I do four shows a night back to back for 56 shows. You adlib, you keep the laughs and cut the dead weight. You hone, you adlib more - your "standard" material slowly evolves into original routines. Another reason to have a video camera pointed at you for review!

Sorry for the rambling post - its a great topic Mr. Pitts! Thanks for starting it.
Tom Crowl - Comedy Ventriloquist

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Howie Diddot
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So, the two top ventriloquists in America use a writer to refine their routine; a Miss USA contestant used the same completely borrowed routine to perform for the judges in the contest from her first pageant all the way to the finals.

Because a performer has good timing and can present material in a humorous manner, is the performer actually being original when he or she has paid another person to write a routine for them to carry out on stage?

In fact, The Three Stooges performances were original routines.
tacrowl
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Buzz - just because Jeff or Terry use a writer, does not mean their routine is not original. If the writers they hired were Bill DeMarr and Tom Ladshaw, who pulled a script out of their book and gave it to Jeff or Terry - and the same script was being used by me, David, Neale and you - then I am certain one of us will be the next Miss USA. (Although I'm not certain I could pull off the swimsuit competition...)
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Howie Diddot
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I could never be the next Miss USA, this is only because I could not pass the physical.
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The Three Stooges routines weren't original. They were old burlesque sketches done by everybody over time. The Three Stooges started with what they'd learned in burlesque and added their own lines. "Niagara Falls" is not theirs. Everybody did that bit. Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First" was not originally theirs. It was everybody's. They worked it around, expanded here and there, added a line here, another there, took out lines that didn't work. Made it their own.
Now...the best way to make a piece one's own, is to do it over and over till you've polished it to a high sheen. Problem is, of course, in the days of burlesque and vaudeville, people were doing the same routine over and over in a single day...then moving on to another town and doing it over and over daily...then another town...etc.
Vaudeville's dead, these days, burlesque is mostly women getting naked (which, of course, is not to be sneezed at. I'm in favor of it continuing. Smile ).
To my mind, the "make it my own" thing starts the moment you get a script. You may not be able to do it in front of an audience five times a day (or more)...unless you redefine "audience." Do it for yourself on tape (which I know you do, Buzz)...do it for a few family members (maybe they're tired of being your audience. Fine. That makes them a toughter audience and gives you a chance to try to get laughs from them...it also gives you a more honest reaction to new material. They're not doing charity laughter any more). Do it for the kids next door. Go back and look at the printed script. Add notes on reactions...add notes on how you reworded a thing. Add lines that you found yourself adlibbing (if they're good ones). Try the act with the family now...or at least a portion of it...and the kids next door and the kids at the hospital (my foster son has discovered hospitalized children for his music sets...being young, he's drunk with the "discovery" of this audience. It's fun to watch him rhapsodize). Always make notes. Always note reactions. Polish the material. Don't be afraid to change it radically. Don't be afraid to remove large chunks. Don't be afraid to add large chunks. You may not have vaudeville or burlesque available to you as a classroom anymore...but you've got your portion of the world. Over time, you've stripped a routine down, removed the fat and added new meat and sinew.
I've never bought scripts. I write plays for a living, and have always written plays and sketches and radio and television and print, but early in my vent work (I started really young), I used jokes from "Ten Thousand Jokes, Toasts and Stories," and I used jokes from the back pages of "Boys' Life," and I used a bit I stole from Paul Winchell ("Ventrikalist." I see some of the most respected vents STILL use that bit. But I ADDED a bit at the end that puts a button on it. I see other vents have done the same. Different buttons...but they work).
So...it's okay to start with someone else's material. It's human nature to change it. And it's human nature to add new material based on experience or adlibs. It's okay to create new stuff and toss it into the mix and see how it plays. You CAN create a reputation with material you've purchased from somebody else...but if your reputation is going to go past your town, that material needs to be transmogrified, and original material needs to be created. Whether you create it or pay somebody to create it is irrelevant...if you perform it, you'll wind up changing it.

Well, that was long-winded, wasn't it?

-Philip

-Philip
Howie Diddot
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Very long and with very good information

Editing it it shorter post would have ruined it
Servante
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I see, too, that I signed it twice. Well...I was multitasking at the time.
I should clarify, too...while it's okay to use material someone else wrote, it's not okay to steal someone else's routine. Wanted to close that loophole before the herd came thunderin' through. Smile

-Philip (one time)
Ony Carcamo
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Quote:
On 2011-06-19 09:18, tacrowl wrote:

I also purchased the "Killer Comedy" course. It gives great ideas for creating raw material and honing it.



I highly recommend getting the "Killer Stand-up Comedy" course (I think it was Uncle Bill who recommended this to me in 2005). I loved this. For me, it's the best system to use when I write my own stand-up vent comedy material.
Ony Carcamo
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Howie Diddot
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Philip,

Can you explain the difference between useing material someone else wrote, and stealing someone else's routine.
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