DRESS FOR THE OCCASION:  by Gene Perret

When we think of comedy routines, we tend to emphasize the jokes, the words we speak.  Undoubtedly, they are important.  Your script, and your delivery of course, determine whether your act is funny or not.  But there is another element that shouldn’t be dismissed too lightly.  People are not only listening to you.  They’re also looking at you.  You should offer them something worth looking at.  At the very least, it should be appropriate.  Consider your wardrobe when you take the stage.

It’s interesting.  Ventriloquists spend a lot of time determining how their dummies should dress.  One of the most famous figures in ventriloquism was Charlie McCarthy.  When he appeared onstage with Edgar Bergen, he wore a tuxedo with a high silk hat.  He was so debonair he even sported a monocle.

Even Mortimer Snerd, Bergen’s dimwitted, country bumpkin figure, usually dressed in a suit and bow-tie.  Edgar Bergen dressed well in suit, shirt, and tie.

Ventriloquists cared how their figures appeared to their audience.  That’s commendable.  However, it’s also important how the ventriloquist looks to his or her audience.

Years ago, performers would appear on stage in tuxedos.  Those who didn’t opt for the formal wear, still appeared well-dressed in a well-tailored suit, shirt, and tie.  Women, comedians and vocalists, appeared in gorgeous gowns or fashionable dresses. That used to be standard attire for singers and comedians.  It was not only a courtesy to the audience, but it helped the performer’s image.  It adds status.  You seem to be able to demand respect from your listeners.

Today, comics seem to favor the “grungy” look.  Comedy is associated with casual, lackadaisical – even carelessness.  That’s an option that’s open to you also as a ventriloquist.

The point I’m trying to make, though, is that you as a performer should be aware of your wardrobe.  It’s the most obvious part of your routine.  As soon as you walk onstage, people see you.  And audience members form an opinion of what they see.  You should be aware of that and try to influence that opinion.

My friend, Phyllis Diller, was very much aware of the effect of wardrobe.  Phyllis, of course, was a comic.  She told me that she wanted to get laughs as soon as she walked onto a stage.  She purposely designed outlandish, bizarre, gowns, dresses, and costumes to produce that effect.  Her outfits were so wild and freaky that people laughed as soon as they saw them.  Phyllis accomplished her goal.

You and your figure should have a purpose, too.  You want to influence your audience.  Regardless of what style you decide on – the formal wear of Charlie McCarthy , the two-toned sports coat of Jerry Mahoney, or even the grungy trend of today – you should give it considerable thought.  It can affect your performance.


Learn more from Gene Perret with his books, classes, and newsletter.  Information available at www.comedywritersroom.com/store.  Gene also has a free joke service,Perrets’ Humor Files, featuring original lines.  Take a look atwww.jokecrafters.com.  You can email Gene at RTComedy@cwo.com.


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