And can you make a ventriloquist laugh?
A ventriloquist and his or her client are called a ventriloquist. The name was first used in 1867 by George Baskerville, an English poet writing in America.
“I do not take the liberty of suggesting that any ventriloquist’s work is more or less amusing than that of any other,” he wrote. “For many of the ventriloquists have little, if any, talent of expression in their manner of speaking, though it may well be said that many of them have a good deal, and not an inadequate amount, of arouse or surprise the public.”
The word ventriloquist (not to be confused with ventriloquist, which is slang for a person who talks very fast) gained wide attention in the last century on both sides of the Atlantic.
In Britain, the name became associated with certain famous actors during the 19th century. One of the most famous was the famous comedian and playwright William Shakespeare. In 1782, the London newspaper The Guardian printed a long exposé on an unrepentant play-wright who had become a “very poor ventriloquist.” The name also made an appearance in the early 19th century during the War of 1812 when the American soldiers wanted their ventriloquism to sound more effective.
In America, ventriloquism’s name was popularized in the 1850s among actors who had practiced for years, but who had not made the leap to ventriloquism since they had not been trained. They were known as gipsy ventriloquists. In one of the earliest recorded ventriloquists for the American theatrical scene, Henry Dix was playing the president when he was “humiliated” and had the character Dix spit out “a big word [he] knew his ventriloquism very well.”
Today, ventriloquists take the “I know it all” approach to their job, and are often considered to be the voice of the unseen. They often rely heavily on props, including props meant to resemble other people. This has been especially true in the entertainment industry, where there’s a very real need for actors who can “talk” to perform in front of an audience with high-powered sound systems.
While their work is often performed during the holidays, ventriloquists sometimes sing
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