House of Deception Library: Ventriloquism History and Biography
Dummy Days: America's Favorite Ventriloquists from Radio and Early TV
Angel City, Santa Monica, CA
Ballantine, New York
How to Become a Ventriloquist (Try Your Hand at Ventriloquism)
Dover, New York
Other Voices: Ventriloquism from B.C. to T.V.
Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism
Oxford University Press, New York
All By My Selves: Walter, Peanut, Achmed, and Me
Penguin, New York
Who's The Dummy Now?: Winner Of America's Got Talent
New Holland, Chatswood, Australia
Schaibley, John R.
Memoirs Of A Ventriloquist
I Can See Your Lips Moving: The History and Art of Ventriloquism
How to be a Ventriloquist: Including a Biography of Paul Winchell and a History of Ventriloquism
Juro Novelty Company, New York
Authorhouse, Bloomington. IN
Welcome to the
Ventriloquism History Portal
This page is here to help you build a
ventriloquism history library of your own
and to assist with research.
Paul Winchell (1922-2005) with his Jerry Mahoneys Courtesy Jim Fitzpatrick Collecection. Jim is a ventriloquist,
magician, roller derby skater, trainer, referee & author.
The Greeks called this gastromancy and it was often closely aligned
with aspects of necromancy in that it was used to make it seem that the
spirits of the dead had returned to pass on information retrieved from
beyond the grave. In the Middle Ages it was thought to be similar to
witchcraft. As spiritualism led to stage magic and escapology, so
ventriloquism became more of a performance art as, starting around
the 16th century, it shed its mystical trappings.
The Modern Era - 19th Century to Present
The most familiar type of ventriloquist seen today is a nightclub
performer sitting on a stool with a wooden dummy on his or her lap.
This comedic style of ventriloquism is, however, a fairly recent
innovation, which began in the days of vaudeville in the late 19th
century. The vaudeville acts did not concentrate on humor as much as
on demonstrating the ventriloquist's ability to deceive the audience
and his skill in switching voices. For this reason, many of the
performers used multiple figures, switching quickly from one voice to
another. Jules Vernon was one of the more famous American vaudeville
ventriloquists who used multiple figures. Englishman Fred Russell
pioneered the use of a single figure with his dummy Coster Joe. Perhaps
the most famous vaudeville ventriloquist, however, The Great Lester,
used only one figure, Frank Byron Jr., and it is The Great Lester's
success which paved the way for the ventriloquist-with-one-figure
routine which is so ubiquitous today.
Ventriloquism was immensely popular in the middle of the 20th
century, thanks in great part to the work of one of the Great Lester's
students, Edgar Bergen. Bergen popularized the idea of the comedic
ventriloquist. Bergen, together with his favorite figure, Charlie
McCarthy, hosted two radio programs that were broadcast from 1937 to
1956. The original broadcast was the #1 program on the night it aired.
Bergen continued performing until his death in 1979, and his
popularity inspired many other famous ventriloquists who followed
him, including Paul Winchell, Jimmy Nelson, and Senor Wences.
Ventriloquism's popularity waned for a while, due likely to modern
media's electronic ability to convey the illusion of voice, the natural
special effect that is the heart of ventriloquism. A number of modern
ventriloquists have developed a following as the public taste for live
Louis Albert Russo made his first network appearance in 1949. Billed as
The One Man Twosome, Louis Russo (aka Russ Lewis) employed as his
primary figure character Brooklyn Birch. His career saw him through
burlesque, circus, and night clubs, as well as vaudeville at Radio City
Music Hall in New York City. There followed the Steve Allen Show, Ed
Sullivan Show, The Hollywood Palace, The Dean Martin Show, Rowan
and Martin, and Mike Douglas and Joey Bishop talk shows. In total, the
ventriloquist logged over 30 national TV guest appearances. He starred
in Las Vegas' major showrooms and on world tours with numerous
legends of the entertainment world including Liberace, Jayne
Mansfield, and Alan King, as well as on USO shows in Vietnam and
distant Strategic Air Command bases. The actor ventriloquist was a
member of the first USO troupe to cross the Arctic Circle to entertain
American troops and the first to be invited to perform for a U.S.
President, Jimmy Carter. Russo Louis continued to perform into the
early 21st century.
Ramdas Padhye, ventriloquist , puppeteer and puppet maker from
India, has been performing for over 40 years, and is famous all over
India with his dummy Ardhavatrao and his other puppet Bunny.
Satyajit Padhye, son of Ramdas and a veterinarian, is a 3rd generation
ventriloquist and puppeteer who has actively performed since 1980.
With his vent partner Johnny, he had staged more than a thousand
shows by the year 1990 all over India; therafter, although he is still
performing, he is more or less a quasi professional because of his
professional commitments. Together with many other disciples, he
learned this ventriloquism from Prof. M. M. Roy, who is one of the
oldest professional ventriloquists in India, responsible for making this
art popular among the masses in India. David Strassman performs his
ventriloquism in theaters throughout the British Comonwealth and
uses robotics to augment his characters' movements, expanding upon
an idea originated in the early 1950's by New York ventriloquist Stanley
From 1971 to 1978, Jay Johnson co-starred on the sitcom Soap with his
dummy Bob. He is currently appearing both on and off Broadway with
his one man (but many-dummy) show entitled "The Two and Only."
Ronn Lucas and his figure Scorch "burn up" the Las Vegas showrooms.
Terry Fator, the 2007 winner of the NBC reality show America's Got
Talent (Season Two), is known for impersonating famous singers
through his puppets. He has repeatedly expressed that one of his goals
is to bring ventriloquism back into the popular culture as a valid art
Jeff Dunham is a modern ventriloquist with several puppets: Peanut,
Walter, Jose Jalapeno, Sweet Daddy Dee, Bubba J, and recently Melvin
the Super Hero Guy and Achmed the Dead Terrorist . His constant self
mockery and the diversity of the puppets has led him to winning
Funniest Male Stand-Up Comic at the American Comedy Awards twice,
an honor shared with the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Jeff Foxworthy, and
Robin Williams. Additionally, viewers voted Dunham to third place (for
a second time in two years!) in Comedy Central's Standup Showdown,
which he finally won in January 2008. Jeff tours the comedy circuit and
has appeared on many television shows, including his own Comedy
Central special, which was made into a double-platinum DVD entitled
Arguing with Myself . Other DVD's include Spark of Insanity and Jeff
Dunham's Very Special Christmas Special
Many ventriloquists attend conferences such as the Vent Haven
ConVENTion and I-Fest to hone their skills and to connect with others
in their performing community. These gatherings offer performances,
competitions, panel discussions, and workshops for beginners and
The article above has been edited and adapted by the House of Deception from
Wikipedia Encyclopedia and may be read in its original, uncredited form at
Paul Winchell with Jim Fitzpatrick, expert
practitioner of theatrical deception. The
figure is Jim's replica of Jerry Mahoney.
History of Ventriloquism
Paul Winchell (1922-2005) Autograph House of Deception Collecection
(formerly Duane Echols collection)
On this page you fill find:
.: a bibliography of books on the history of ventriloquism.
.: ventriloquism photos from the Golden Age of Show Business.
.: a selective list of ventriloquism history links.
.: a list of movies and TV shows with ventriloquism themes.
.: a list of novels and short stories with ventriloquism themes (coming soon).
.: an article on the history of ventriloquism.
.: paintings and other works of art with ventriloquism themes.
Ventriloquism History Books
Ventriloquism History Links
Please bookmark & link to HouseofDeception.com - New titles are added periodically.
Dan Willinger's Ventriloquist Central - Tribute to Ventriloquism
Shari Lewis (January 17, 1933 - August 2, 1998) was an American ventriloquist,
puppeteer, and children's television show host, most popular during the 1960s
and 1990s. She is best known as the original puppeteer of Lamb Chop, first
appearing on Hi Mom, a local morning show that aired on WNBC in New York.
Born as Sonia Phyllis Hurwitz to Abraham Hurwitz, an education professor at
Yeshiva University, and Ann Ritz. She had one sister. Her parents encouraged
her to perform, and by age 13 her father taught her to perform specialized magic
acts. She also received instruction in acrobatics, juggling, ice skating, baton
twirling, piano and violin. She was taught ventriloquism by John W. Cooper.
Lewis continued piano and violin at New York's High School of Music and Art,
dance at the American School of Ballet, and acting with Sanford Meisner of the
Neighborhood Playhouse. She attended Barnard College for one year, then left
college to go into show business.
In 1952, Lewis and her puppetry won first prize on Arthur Godfrey's Talent
Scouts television show. In March 1956, Shari and Lamb Chop were on Captain
Kangaroo and later that year she had her own show, Shariland, on local TV (first
WPIX, later WRCA), which ran through 1958. She graduated to network
television in 1960 as host and puppeteer of The Shari Lewis Show, televised in
color on NBC, taking the Saturday morning slot vacated by Howdy Doody.
The program, which ran from October 1, 1960 to September 28, 1963, featured
such characters as Hush Puppy, Charlie Horse, Lamb Chop, and Wing Ding, a
In 1992, her new Emmy-winning show Lamb Chop's Play-Along began a five year
run on PBS. Lewis starred in another hit PBS series, The Charlie Horse Music
Pizza, which was one of her last projects before her death. The video Lamb
Chop's Special Chanukah was released in 1996 and received the Parents' Choice
award of the year.
Lewis's daughter, Mallory Tarcher, wrote for the shows Lamb Chop's Play-Along
and The Charlie Horse Music Pizza. She legally changed her name to Mallory
Lewis, and in 2000 she resumed her mother's work with the Lamb Chop
Movie Poster The Goldwyn Follies
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