When I was a beginning comedy writer, I would spend many hours doing practice writing exercises. Sometimes I would gather pictures of old movies, or cute baby pictures from magazines, or even family photographs. I would then put funny captions on them. There was no way I could sell these. I did it strictly for the practice.
I might read the list of best-sellers and have them written by different authors that gave the books a funny twist. I would take standard sayings and twist them somehow into a joke. All of these were designed to make me a better, faster, comedy writer.
Based on my experience, I would like to suggest this practice to aspiring ventriloquists. One time I asked Jay Leno what advice he would give to aspiring comedians. He recommended that first they learn to talk. He thought it was a good idea to gain some experience and poise simply as a speaker. He suggested announcing at Little League Games, volunteering to be the emcee at a banquet, even reading books aloud. The idea was just to get used to having words come out of your mouth. Later, you could add the comedy.
My suggestion for beginning vents is that they learn to speak confidently as two people with different voices. In order to do this, you could research famous comedy teams and try to duplicate them with your dummy.
You might start with one of the most famous and funniest two man dialogue in history. It’s called “Who’s On First.” It was performed by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. You can get videos of it somewhere on the internet. Watch it, study it, write down the script, and then you play the part of the straight man, Bud Abbott, and let your figure have the laughs as the funny one, Lou Costello.
Abbott and Costello also did several clever routines in their movies. With some research you may be able to find one or two that lend themselves to a vent routine, and use those as practice drills.
This won’t become part of your act, but it is good practice in developing your vent skills.
That basically is the suggestion. It requires a bit of research and some work in transcribing the routines into a written script. Also, there’s no need to limit yourself to Abbott and Costello. There are many comedy teams that you might be able to gather usable material from. Following are a few that you could look up on the internet:
- The Smothers Brothers (Here, you might even pick up a song or two that you could practice with).
- Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. There are a few records you can find with Mel Brooks doing his very funny 2000 year old man.
- Stiller and Meara. Their routines are good practice for a male/female routine.
- George Burns and Gracie Allen. Again, perfect for male and female comedy.
- Laurel and Hardy may have a usable routine or two.
- Martin and Lewis. Here the comedy may be more physical than verbal, but they probably have a couple of good routines that might serve the purpose.
- Tim Conway and Harvey Korman may have some good exchanges from “The Carol Burnett Show” that you could adapt.
Again, these are all just practice exercises that help you to become a better, more polished ventriloquist. Try a few and see if they don’t help.
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