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Servante
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Paying for it.

-Philip
Mr. Pitts
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David Pitts
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Good post Philip, thanks.

I am encouraged to see that writing is a challenge to us all, not just me. I sometimes feel like I'm 'cheating' with standard, adapted or collaborative material. But it's more important to get laughs from the audience than to insist on being some sort of purist.

I have a Ladshaw/DeMar routine I use as a part of my short set. I start with about three minutes of completely original stuff and then go to the Ladshaw/DeMar routine for a strong 4-5 minutes. It makes for a really tight, funny 7-8 minute set that never fails (with the appropriate audience - it's not a little kid routine). I have wrung my hands about this, but I haven't quit using it. I want them to laugh, so the routine has become a good foundation for the set. I can use it with confidence, which, as Tom pointed out, is important because ventriloquism is so darn difficult to do well. There's a lot to think about, so having reliable material is a relief. Like Forrest Gump says "That's one less thing (to worry about)"

The difference between stealing and using material is the same as with anything else. Was it used with permission? If someone sells a routine in a book or DVD with the express understanding that the right to perform this material is part of the deal, that's not stealing. If you see another vent or stand-up doing material and you 'borrow' it, that's stealing. That's not to say that you can't take a premise and do something else with it, but specific jokes and bits are a no-no. If you take a real standard, Bergen's "Night Before Christmas" or Winchell's "Ventrikolist" and use it with little adaptation... I think that's kind of a gray area, but nobody is likely to call you on it. The only problem I see with that is if you post something on YouTube for instance. The comments by the public... yeesh. People aren't generally well informed and they tend to believe that the first person they see doing something is the one who invented it. So anything we do will often be compared to Jeff Dunham - often with the implication that Jeff invented ventriloquism because he's the first one they became familiar with. Or if we post our version of the "Ventrikalist" bit, people might be inclined to say that we are stealing it from Paul Zerdin (who does a very funny version of it). So, since we are likely to be accused of stealing the entire art from Jeff anyway, it might be in our own interest to only post completely original stuff... but then, if it's any good, it's likely someone else will 'borrow' it from you or me. So.. it's a fuzzy area generally, and I'm not looking for a litmus test of originality because as has been pointed out, 'borrowing' material is as old a tradition as show business itself. I'm just interested in writing more of my own act, creating more original bits, and I appreciate everyone's input so far.
David Pitts
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ColinDymond
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I've started working the comedy clubs and the one thing that is frowned upon is using someone elses material. I'm still guilty of having some "borrowed" ideas in my act but I am now thinking differently. We seam to think that there are certain standards that we can do, like a singer is allowed to sing other peoples songs, now that's fine if all you want to be is a covers band but that's not what is going to get you to the top.
If your timing and technique are great but your writting isn't then you can work with someone to write material for you! This is then origional material. Neither Sinatra or Elvis wrote their own songs but they were still origional!
I like to think of what I do as being a double act, again I could do famous double act stuff but I'd much rather do my own and also push the boundaries a bit more. Terry Fator won AGT because he was doing something different and he did it very well. There are some guys doing similar stuff now but they won't win a major talent show with that act.
I'm not there yet but I know which way I'm heading.

Colin Dymond
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Mr. Pitts
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One of the things on my mind in bringing up this topic is exactly what you are saying Colin. In comedy there is only one real rule.. don't steal. Everything else is fair game. This is why I drew the comparison to stand-up vs. magic. There are two completely different ways of approaching these arts. In magic, performing 'standards'.. cups and balls, linking rings, misers dream etc. is part of the tradition. In music, doing a 'standard' is perfectly acceptable. In the world of comedy though, it's just not considered acceptable practice these days. I understand that vent is a weird hybrid, but I still think originality is a worthwhile goal and ultimately the thing that will 'make' you, if you have the talent. You can be an excellent vent, but if your material's not original, you'll only get so far.
David Pitts
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tacrowl
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Quote:
On 2011-06-19 11:58, Howie Diddot wrote:
Can you explain the difference between useing material someone else wrote, and stealing someone else's routine.


Quote:
On 2011-06-19 12:47, Servante wrote:
Paying for it.


Quote:
On 2011-06-19 12:58, Mr. Pitts wrote:
Was it used with permission?


I've asked countless acts for permission to use a routine or a line. Some I've paid.

Quote:
The only problem I see with that is if you post something on YouTube for instance. The comments by the public... yeesh. People aren't generally well informed and they tend to believe that the first person they see doing something is the one who invented it.


I've had that happen. A bit I did in Mexico years ago is on Youtube and someone made the comment about original material. I never claimed that. Someone else made a comment "So Zerdin stole it from him?" (Came across as rather snide - but its sometimes hard to read intent.) I never claimed it was original. I first saw Ken Groves do the routine back in the early 90's. I asked him for permission, and he told me it was an old standard - I didn't need anyone's permission. Years later, Zerdin did a version of it on his DVD. The person leaving the comment assumed, since Zerdin was better known, that he created the bit and I stole it. I replied privately and the person thanked me for clarification.

One thing I have discovered is most vents do standard routines. (Even the pros.) They may not make it big, but they earn a living. That is one of the reasons you sometimes see a pro at VentHaven and think "really?". Happened last year. The act in this mention - who shall remain nameless, didn't do their regular routine because the material was "borrowed" from another pro. They tried to present an act that wasn't honed and it looked like it. To be fair, its a nerve wracking thing to get on that stage to begin with - add into that not doing material you know and are comfortable with.

With youtube and the viral spread of comedy - hopefully it will encourage everyone to up their game!

Tom
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Howie Diddot
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Quote:
On 2011-06-19 12:47, Servante wrote:
Paying for it.

-Philip


I understand paying for it; The Chico routine is sold in two versions, one version is the videos and the buyer is responsible for searching for and assembling the props to perform the routine; I understand that gathering the necessary props would cost approximately $100.00. The second version is the complete package that includes everything necessary, including Chico, the routine’s props, the mat that is rolled down and completes instructions to perform the routine; the cost of the complete package is $550.00

I purchased the complete package for $550.00 because Bill had worked for fifteen years on refining the routine and assembling everything to insure I would succeed in my performance.

When I first opened the package, I began doubting myself, but after working on memorizing the routine and with the help of the instructional video, buying the complete version was worth it; and reading the thread, confirms my decision.
Neale Bacon
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Another thing I have noticed during the open mic times at the convention is the amount of people who use a routine from a book (therefor they didn't steal - they bought) but make no attempt to put their own spin on it or try to make it their own.

I agree with Tom that the stage at the convention is nerve racking. It bothers me to hear people in the restaurants later dissecting people's routines and accusing them of stealing from here and stealing from there. Sometimes it is truly unintentional to borrow, especially if you watch or listen to a lot of vents.

I am trying more and more to completely write my own stuff (sometimes with collaboration from others) and am starting to realize how hard it is.

I have never used a writer simply because I don't have that kind of money, but if someone wrote a routine specifically for me - then I still think that would make it my original routine.

Bergen had writers, Jeff and Terry have writers..doesn't make them any less original.
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Bob Baker
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This has been a fascinating, challenging, reassuring thread. I have few original thoughts to add to the thread (that's sort of meta isn't it?), but I would re-emphasize the incredibly important role repeat performances play in honing material. I recently watched a YouTube video I posted when I first debuted Mrs. Lucille Goldman. I was surprised at how many jokes are gone from that routine in two years, replaced by others that are much better. I'll be curious to see if I think the same thing in 2013 when I look at videos of today's performances. I suspect so.

Bob
Servante
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I just realized that, if you do a thousand or more posts here, it doesn't mean you get credit for all of 'em. Doesn't bother me. Just surprised that it took me this long to figger dat out. Smile

-Philip
Howie Diddot
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Quote:
On 2011-06-20 14:22, Servante wrote:
I just realized that, if you do a thousand or more posts here, it doesn't mean you get credit for all of 'em. Doesn't bother me. Just surprised that it took me this long to figger dat out. Smile

-Philip


Philip,

That only means it will take you longer to obtain the elevated status of our friend TOM
ColinDymond
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Can't afford a writer!
When we think of getting a writer we think of the top flight pros but if you don't think you have what it takes to write your own stuff why not find a friend who you can brainstorm with. Two heads are better than one!
Neale Bacon
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I wish I had someone like that here to brainstorm with.
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Wanlu
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 I think there are good writers and there are great writers... which one we are would depend on our target market. I may write great adult oriented materials and be considered a great writer by people who frequent comedy clubs but might not be appreciated by people involved in kidshows or school shows. Or I may write kidshow materials and be considered a great writer by people involved in schools or children but might not be appreciated by people who like adult humor. I think a good reputation maker would be creating an act for a target market.  

I have totally given up the idea of performing for adult comedy bars because I felt its not my market. It does not pay good and the work environment is just not for me. I concentrate on kidshows and family shows. If asked to perform in an adult party, I simply do my kidshow act. Smile

I have recently been involved in a lot of TV shows and noticed that a succesful show is not written by a writer but a pool of writers. For 6 months on a twice a week appearance in one TV show, I wrote my own materials which were based on current political events. No pool of writers, just me. I confess that I had a really difficult time. It was basically not fun. Smile In another show I am involved in, there is a pool of writers and brainstorming was fun and without a doubt, a pool of writers can easily write a show. Smile

... but then again, there are some people who can write on their own. They are the trully gifted ones.  :)
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olivertwist
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This is a great topic and I like what's been said above.

While I'm prefer to perform routines that I wrote myself, I sometimes like to compare the ventriloquist to a musician. When a musician learns his instrument, no one expects him to also compose his own music. If he can play the classics well, or the jazz standards, that is a measure of his ability. A musician can go a long way without being a composer. In fact, one could rise to the top without composing a single piece.

In vent, there are standard bits and routines that everyone uses, and they have been around for decades, but they still get laughs. A vent with good technique and delivery will make these 'standards' work. You won't get to the level of Jeff Dunham with standard routines, but my point is, early on a vent should be working on technique, timing, and delivery. I think requiring original composition is asking too much. For those who can do it, that's great. They should. But writing is a skill that not everyone has and that shouldn't stop someone from developing his ventriloquial talents and performing.
Servante
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Thing about TV shows having multiple writers is that there needs to be a lot of product churned out in a very short time...and there are lots of people who get to vote regarding what's funny...and things get changed quickly. Ergo: multiple writers. Lots of stuff is written all at once in a short time.
When I was working in advertising, I enjoyed a pool of people batting ideas around. Sometimes. But sometimes I'd just write a 40 minute filmed or taped dramatization for a client by myself, because I had an idea and knew where to go with it.
And, as a playwright, I write plays by myself...but, again, I'm not writing a play a week. Smile

You could easily grab a joke book like the one I mentioned above: "Ten Thousand Jokes, Toasts and Stories," look up jokes by topic in the back of the book, string some together and begin playing around to create a routine.

And then perform it for anybody who'll watch and listen. You'll begin to change it based on how they react.
Don't really need to be a gifted writer for that...just need to have a pretty fair sense of comedy, eh?

-Philip
Jimeuax
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Jeff Dunhams are 1 in thousand...at least..and if you ever get CLOSE to that level..YOU will be writing or paying SOMEONE to write original material for you. Jeff played amusement parks when he was a child and spent.... WHAT? 20 yEARS...playing comedy clubs 300 nights a year...that's how long it took him.........
Neale Bacon
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This is probably a shock but I don't want to be Jeff. We a;ready have one.

I just want to be a working ventriloquist in my little corner of the planet.
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Mr. Pitts
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I'm not shocked Neale. I feel the same way. I just want to make a living as a good, regional family and children's entertainer.

We all know Jeff worked incredibly hard for many years to get where he is. He has a tremendous work ethic, lots of talent, and he sets his goals high.
David Pitts
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Joseph_Then
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Read joke books, and read a lot of them. I have about 10-12 joke books (plus an iPhone App that contains 18,000 jokes where I can read during my free time). It can actually help you create jokes and even adhoc jokes.

I also watch TV programmes with my puppet and interact with him. It can help you create local & contemporary jokes.
-----



Joseph Then

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Howie Diddot
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Joseph,

Would you share what I Phone apps you have?

Buzz
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