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Topic: Developing material
Message: Posted by: Bob Baker (Feb 23, 2009 10:34AM)
At Ony's request, here's a new thread for sharing tips on how we develop material. I'll start.

I write most of my material in the shower, driving, or walking the dog. Really! I find that I start doing a routine and jokes start to come. I write them down as soon as I can (and unfortunately forget some jokes that I' sure were good).

I practice the routine again and again, first in front of the mirror, and then on tape. Following the advice of Bill DeMar, I practice in 3 parts. First, I just learn the lines and do the routine without the figure. I am working on lip control and my own facial expressions here. That is, I need to learn to react one way with my face while the figure is saying something entirely different. Next, I start doing the routine with the figure, working primarily on his/her manipulation and facial expressions. Finally, I put it all together. Once I have it working in the mirror, I go to videotape. Here, I always do the routine straight through without stopping, trying to simulate a performance situation. If I mess up, I cover and keep going.

However, going back to Ony's point, the only way to develop a routine is in front of an audience. Only there can you get the timing right. And timing is everything. Jokes that I think are hilarious may get zero response; lines that are toss-offs get a good response. If a line is not working, I'll try it differently in a few performances to try to get it to work. (Sometimes I become too enamored of a line and only remove it when a friend at a performance tells me it's not working.)

I record every single performance. I video if I can; if not, I record it on my iPhone with a program called iTalk. Then I listen again and again to what went well, and, more importantly, what did not. Recently I saw a tape where I allowed a laugh to go on a bit too long before delivering the follow-up line. In that performance the follow-up got less of a laugh than usual.

Finally, I am never satisfied. I try to make the next performance better than the last one. Some performances have been downright painful for me to watch, but I make myself do it. I figure out what went wrong and correct it for next time.

That's one of the thrills of performing--knowing that next time will be better.

That's it for me for now.

OK, guys and gals, your turns.....

Message: Posted by: Ony Carcamo (Feb 23, 2009 12:00PM)
First, the stock (or "public-owned") jokes. I use them, but in my characters' context, weaved in with my original materials. I don't think it's bad to use these jokes, as long as you don't copy those that are being used already by performers in your area.

Next, the original materials. I start writing ONLY when the character/personality of my figure is already solid and 3D enough for me. I found out that some materials write itself very easily when I know my figures very well.

Then I practice the new material at home countless times. When I feel ready, I perform them in front of live audiences. I make sure I record (at least the audio) of ALL my shows so that I can review them again and again.
Message: Posted by: ColinDymond (Feb 23, 2009 04:32PM)
I'm waiting for a Dan Payes old man to arrive, it's taken a while and in that time I've been running through my script in my head. I always run a new part of my show like a movie in my head before I even start with the charcter or props if it's a trick. If you get to know what the movie should look like then you can just step in and play the part!
It also works well if you are thinking of buying something new, if you can completely visualise how you will look with the figure and see it working, or not, you wont spend too much on wasted props. It doesn't always work completely but it helps.
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Feb 23, 2009 04:53PM)
There has been a wave of "ethical-correctness" going through the variety arts community for several years. People have openly (not here) accused others of stealing when they have no idea where an idea even originated.

Lets start with the basics. I think everyone would agree it is wrong to steal a routine or character - period. But what if it gives you an idea? Then ask permission. Its that easy.

In my act, I incorporated a routine I originally saw Darren Carr perform on his DVD. I liked the idea, but it wasn't right for my style - so I re-wrote the bit. Because the bit hinged on the same concept, I contacted Darren, sent him the script and asked permission. Had he said no, I would have dropped it - instead, he told me to go ahead - and gave me further details on the original idea.

I mention that because recently a friend asked me why I bothered if I had re-written the routine. It was because the bit started on the same premise. Doing the right thing is easy if you just try.

I had to laugh when Bob said he came up with stuff in the shower. So do I. Seriously, it's a great place to practice. I find when jumping back and forth between myself and the character I come up with new ideas. The best way to develop material is to be yourself - or become the character you have created. Look at the world with your unique sense of humor and you will have tons of material - then refine it until it is great. Use video, then watch it - repeatedly. I still tape 90% of my shows. Unfortunately, getting "tight" requires being in front of an audience. If you don't have shows, it is tough to get good.

If your not funny? Then why are you doing comedy? I'm sorry - that is an extremely harsh sounding line - but its something you should ask yourself.
Message: Posted by: Neale Bacon (Feb 23, 2009 06:17PM)
I find a lot of material by asking myself a lot of "what if" questions about my characters.

For example, what if Horton Hogg wanted to do magic? What if Gus had a really bad memory? and then expanding on it.
Message: Posted by: Bob Baker (Feb 23, 2009 09:27PM)
I heartily agree with Tom about obtaining permission from creators even if all they have done is inspire you. Case in point: In his "It's Alive" show, Steve Petra has an extremely funny routine with a talking stomach. Now, in real life I'm a gastroenterologist. Steve inspired me to want to create a talking colon puppet. Before doing so, I contacted him to request his permission. I didn't know Steve, and our audiences would never intersect, but I felt he had the right to refuse to allow me to make any part of the digestive tract speak. Steve graciously granted me permission, and I've had a lot of fun with the colon for the right audiences.

In magic there is unfortunately a lot of appropriation of others' material. The logic seems to be "if I can figure out the method, I can do the trick." Of course, that's wrong. The magic community has not, in my opinion, sufficiently castigated those who appropriate others' material. In comedy clubs, if you use another comic's line, you are banned. Many years ago I saw Bud Shulman physically kick a comic out of the Improv for using another comic's material.

Several months ago I saw on an agent's web site a ventriloquist who had clearly modeled an old man figure on Walter, right down to the crossed arms. I was simply stunned at the chutzpah. Fortunately, I think that Jeff Dunham has gotten so big that anyone would recognize this other guy as a rip-off artist.

Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Feb 23, 2009 10:34PM)
Bob -
Thanks for pointing out the old man modeled on Walter. You may be right - copying is easier than developing your own character - but that brings us to another excellent topic.

I've heard a lot of discussion about the creation of Walter. The "original" was a creation of Bill Nelson. He created the old man figure that Jeff started playing with at VentHaven. Jeff wanted to buy full rights to the design but balked at Bill's price. The next year, Jeff introduced Walter - and many felt it was darn close to Bill's figure. From the WorldVent posts - Bill never got a penny. So who took what?

Without a doubt - Walter's character is Jeff's creation. Where did he get the concept? Did he ask Bill or appropriate the look on his own? Would this other vent mentioned by Bob be accused of copying Jeff? Or copying Bill? Or would Bill have given the other vent permission to use that look and we aren't privy to that info? Would the other vent's character personality be different enough to make it completely different? After all, if Jeff isn't copying - why would this guy be? Just because he isn't as famous?

Comics tend to be the same way. Bob provided an excellent example, but there are stories of Carlos Mencia being confronted by other comics while on stage at clubs. Samples of his TV show vs. the original acts he supposedly copied are out there. Yet Carlos is working and most people have no clue who the other guys are. His name gets people in the door - I'm not certain how many clubs have banned him. With the money earned from his show - I'm not certain he would care.

So it isn't just magic - it is almost every variety art form. The reasons I mentioned above are just some of the reasons "ethical-correctness" is a great goal to strive for. Care must be taken when trying to apply it to others. We are the ones that have to live with our decisions.

Not saying anyone is right or wrong - these are just thoughts and questions that rattle around in my mind...
Message: Posted by: Ony Carcamo (Feb 23, 2009 10:47PM)
On 2009-02-23 22:27, Bob Baker wrote:
In comedy clubs, if you use another comic's line, you are banned. Many years ago I saw Bud Shulman physically kick a comic out of the Improv for using another comic's material.


I've seen a local novice comic here banned--not just by the clubs but by the group he belonged--because he stole another local comic's material.

We all know developing original comedy material is soooooo hard. Developing characters is also not a quicky. That's why it's understandable that we feel so disappointed when we see others just copying what we created from blood, sweat, and tears.
Message: Posted by: Bob Baker (Feb 24, 2009 05:15AM)
Very interesting comments, thoughts, and anecdotes from all. Thanks so much!

It is unfortunately true, in all areas of entertainment, I suspect, that success makes one somewhat invulnerable to charges of stealing. In comedy another example is Dane Cook, who is almost universally despised by working comics for lifting routines from Louis CK. [Personally, I just don't think Cook is funny.] But being despised has not kept Cook from filling stadiums and making oodles of money.

Regarding Jeff, I've heard the same story from Bill Nelson himself, who is not a member of the JD fan club. Also, on his 2nd DVD, Jeff gives the impression that he created Melvin the Super Hero, even though the puppet was originally created by Kristin L, who gets a brief credit in the speed-of-light credits at the end.

In show business, like everywhere else, life is not always fair.

Message: Posted by: marshalldoll (Feb 24, 2009 07:49AM)
I believe as you said Tom, Jeff created a Character but without Bill Nelson's Mr Horowitz for him to go by Walter never would have existed. I too have spoken to Bill Nelson at great length and he will never be happy about the fact that Jeff ripped him off for the figures looks. I also know that the amount of money was not so large that jeff couldn't have afforded paying Bill for the rights. I think it was wrong on Jeff's part but hey he is a star now and only we few in the vent community know about this subject.
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Feb 24, 2009 08:22AM)
Didn't know about Dane Cook - I'm not a huge fan of his - the "funny" somehow escapes me. Must be there though - otherwise he wouldn't be filling those arenas.

Thanks for letting me have my little tirade on ethical-correctness. With so many areas of gray, double standards and the unknown permissions out there, I just feel it is wrong to accuse or slam anyone. If you see a situation - do the entire community a favor by finding out the facts before saying anything. Even if just asking the "offender" (who would probably be embarrassed if it is stolen) or pointing it out to the "originator" or people you felt were wronged.

It is so easy to ask - and most performers are pretty generous - so just do it. You may end up getting additional feedback that makes the bit even stronger. Steve Petra is an excellent example of some one who gives inspiration to the community. Don't just assume "its out there", ask permission.

Now that I've got that bug out of my ... the topic was developing material. Anybody here have success with Killer Comedy?
Message: Posted by: AC Vent (Feb 24, 2009 10:15AM)
One problem I have with devoloping material, is sometimes I come up with something I just know is going to kill...

Then I start wondering, wait a minute, did I actually come up with this, or just rip it off from something I saw a long time ago..maybe from an old Bergen tape..or that episode of the Winchell show.....or years ago watching a Conan monologue....or....you get the picture...

For this reason, I don't have a problem with someone using someone else's line, or two, or a joke or two. Now if you go on for 5 minutes with the exact same routine, then that would be a potential problem.

I have a feeling if you sat down and watched several straight hours of the masters of vent, from Lester,to Bergen to Winchell, to Nelson, along with today's vents, you might find quite a few similar jokes and lines in their routines, but again, a big difference in identical small portions, and an entire routine.

Message: Posted by: Neale Bacon (Feb 24, 2009 10:53AM)
I do have one more comment on asking permission. I saw Steve Petruzella doing a cute multiplying egg bit with one of his puppets and thought it would be funny for my bird.
I know his routine had it's basis in the multiplying sponge balls, but since he was using eggs, I asked him if it was OK for me to adapt it and he said no problem.
I also do a bit in my show with the human puppet. Mask issue aside..the routine I use is almost the same as the late Peter Rolston (my mentor) but I do the routine as a tribute to Peter and tell the audience so.
Message: Posted by: Matt_24 (Feb 24, 2009 11:07AM)
I've spoken with Bill about the subject - and I think he is more at piece with it now, than he was...say...20 years ago.

Bill even complimented Jeff's abilities. I mean, Jeff is one of the funniest out there right now. Who wouldn't compliment him.

Anyway, honestly....according to copyright law Jeff could not have "purchased" the copyright from Bill. Bill is the original artist, and owns the copyright until something like...75 years after he dies would Mr. Horowitz have come into the public domain. He could have purchased user rights - but that is a different ball of wax.

Hey - Sweet Daddy D was originally a Selberg "Bully" character. He made his own version for the DVD. Guess who was the first to use that figure, and use him as a PIMP....can you guess....did you say JOHN PIZZI? You are correct.

MELVIN was most definitely a Kristin L....not Jeff's original design. Achmed is original, but he was heavily influenced from two artists. "Mr Deadguy" (ever seen Baby Cheezwhits) and Robert McRay (of Bighead fame). Of course, if anyone saw Mr. Deadguy's skeleton figure now they would say, "Hey, you're ripping off Jeff Dunham." Nope...Mr Deadguy was the FIRST to do that.

So...there is nothing truly new under the sun.
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Feb 24, 2009 11:38AM)
You make an excellent point! It is sometimes hard to figure out exactly where an idea or joke comes from. There is also parallel thinking. Some situations simply offer an obvious response.

Matt - when I said full rights, I should have said exclusive. Sorry. Same reason Jeff remade Melvin & Sweet Daddy - he doesn't want potential problems to arise from people using the same exact figures.

Message: Posted by: Ony Carcamo (Feb 24, 2009 04:41PM)
On 2009-02-24 08:49, marshalldoll wrote:
I believe as you said Tom, Jeff created a Character but without Bill Nelson's Mr Horowitz for him to go by Walter never would have existed. I too have spoken to Bill Nelson at great length and he will never be happy about the fact that Jeff ripped him off for the figures looks. I also know that the amount of money was not so large that jeff couldn't have afforded paying Bill for the rights. I think it was wrong on Jeff's part but hey he is a star now and only we few in the vent community know about this subject.

With Jeff's wealth now, I'm so sure he can afford to pay Bill Nelson, etc. Why not do so and end the controversy?

Tom, I believe killercomedy's approach to writing stand-up comedy material is the best out there. Really a contrarian approach. It teaches, for example, how to write comedy material WITHOUT using jokes!
Message: Posted by: ColinDymond (Feb 24, 2009 05:39PM)
Ive seen two clips on you tube one with Ron Lucas and scortch and one with Silvia Markson with her dragon both doing the "you missed reheasal" bit it's almost word for word. Can anybody shed some light on this?
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Feb 24, 2009 06:18PM)
E-mail Sylvia and Ronn and ask them how the bit was developed. Unless someone has seen the routine in print, there is no way we could shed light on it. It could be a classic example of a "stock line", parallel thinking (not that huge a stretch), permissions granted, or stolen material. Only they can tell you.

If it is something you'd like to add to your show - then either re-write the concept and change it, or contact them to get permission. Since they both use the same bit almost word for word - they should be able to tell you the background on the routine.
Message: Posted by: Ony Carcamo (Feb 24, 2009 06:25PM)
I've also seen Sylvia Markson did with her dragon the "How far can you fly?--How far can you throw me?" bit, which Jeff Dunham exactly used with his Melvin character.

I guess, with permission, one can use the same bit as long as he's not performing it in the same area where he first heard of the bit.

Oh no, we may not know the real origin of these things.
Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Feb 24, 2009 08:49PM)
Parallel thinking is so common in ventriloquism...often mistaken as stealing or copying.
Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Feb 24, 2009 09:02PM)
I use a lot of stock jokes...

I also had Ony profesioanlly write a script for me...

Then I mix the entire thing up and develop an act I'm comfortable with.

But it does not end there...one must continue to add more materials.

I read joke books and convert some jokes into a vent conversation...I listen to jokes in the radio and when I hear something I can use, I write it down and check if I can use it in the act.

Just like everyone here, when I was starting out, I practice everyday in front of the mirror and the camera. Sometimes, I practice in an actual gig :) I mean it's not a vent gig but a magic show but I insert a vent routine just to practice the new act. The client did not pay for the vent act...so it comes as a bonus so even if I bomb, it was free :) At least that's how I started in vent :)

Now I do have a vent act...and clients actually book me as a vent...how cool is that? :) I still practise almost everyday...specially when a new figure or puppet arrives. I'm now practising with my new baby puppet :) He's not an Axtell cry baby....but this baby also cries :) different method used,basic method actually... will show video soon.

Thanks for the nice thread Bob and Ony and everyone :)

Now somebody post a thread about actual manipulation...

Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Feb 24, 2009 09:15PM)
In the tradition of off topics :)

I'm joining a TV talent contest on Monday...it's ala AGT :)

So far 3 vents have been in the show and all lost... :(

I was asked several times before to join but declined because I felt that the judging system is questionable.

But...now...I think I want to try it. If I lose, I'm the 4th vent to lose. If I win, I'm the 1st vent to win :)

I'll try using my Poyner figure.

Now back to the topic:

I will use a routine I have been doing since I started doing ventriloquism two years ago :) I only have 1 1/2 minutes to impress the judges...

Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Feb 25, 2009 09:27AM)
On 2009-02-24 09:22, tacrowl wrote:
If you see a situation - do the entire community a favor by finding out the facts before saying anything. Even if just asking the "offender" (who would probably be embarrassed if it is stolen) or pointing it out to the "originator" or people you felt were wronged.[/quote]

Apparently that part of my earlier post was lost. PLEASE do not PUBLICLY question integrity unless you are POSITIVE something is stolen material. Sure it looks bad. Ronn & Jeff - famous & well known, Sylvia, pro, but not at the same level of success. That doesn't mean the routines are stolen. The only way to know for certain is to talk to the people involved.

The Internet is wide open. Sylvia,Jeff and/or Ronn may read these posts at some point. A potential client of theirs could read that and start asking questions - innuendo builds and can cause issues.

We do not know the answer to who did what. It is possible that these people met at a convention or on the road and were talking. The ideas could have spawned from conversations - could be permissions granted (in either direction), parallel thinking or could be theft. WE DO NOT KNOW. But before you bring something up publicly - find out from the source. It is easy.
Message: Posted by: Neale Bacon (Feb 25, 2009 01:38PM)
I also have to say don't forget as vents, we SEE more vents than the general public and so we do some routines come up more than once.

It is the same in magic. Magicians watch other magicians, and so similar or same routines all the time.

How much does the public notice this?

I am not saying stealing is OK but if you watch a lot of vents you will see borrowing, adapting, and paallel thinking.

I find sometimes the more unique your character, the more unique your material.

Even my big show closer started as a consultation with David Pitts about a routine he does, but has evolved into our own bit - Horton wants to leave me and be a game show host. Lots of audience participation as contestants and lots of laughs and "ad libbing"
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Feb 25, 2009 03:13PM)
Thank you Neale. You can easily see how rumors can start and be spread. For example, we currently know you collaborated with David on your Game Show, and Steve Petra on the eggs - but someone who didn't know that, could wrongly assume it was being used without permission.

That is why it is so important to ask the source before questioning integrity or making accusations.

And no, not everyone is going to be posting where or how they developed or got their material - so I think giving the benefit of the doubt is correct and if it bothers you - then ask them - not others.
Message: Posted by: Ony Carcamo (Feb 25, 2009 10:47PM)
Tom and others,

Just to clarify...

NEVER did I question PUBLICLY the integrity of Jeff and Sylvia. I was just stating a fact that I did see a video of them using the same line/joke.

I guess NEVER did Colyn also question PUBLICLY the integrity of Ronn and Sylvia. He was just also stating a fact that he saw the videos.

No one can question a fact. NEVER did we accuse anybody of anything.

Please read and re-read my and Colyn's post above again.

It's not good to publicly "guess" our intentions were when we posted a fact.

Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Feb 26, 2009 05:54AM)
Apologies Ony & Colin - I didn't mean to insult either of you.

I just feel by mentioning the names of performers with similar routines, in a public forum, it CAN create a negative impression of the act people MAY believe is copying. Right or wrong. The truth is, we don't know the story behind why the acts are similar (or even word-for-word) - and the only way to find out is to ask the act(s) involved.

With the popularity of YouTube - it is easy to see that there are plenty of acts that have similarities, and others that seem to copy outright. That is one of the reasons this thread on developing material is important.

Again, Ony, Colin, I'm truly sorry. I did not mean to offend.
Message: Posted by: Ony Carcamo (Feb 26, 2009 03:44PM)
No problem, Tom.

And thanks for apologizing privately, too!

No let's go back to this interesting thread...
Message: Posted by: ColinDymond (Feb 26, 2009 06:46PM)
No worries Tom.
I did think about whether to mention names or not, for all I know they worked on the script together, I was curious to see what anybody else might know.
You tube is a double edge sword, it gives lots of people the chance to see your work with the risck that they might copy it but it also shows origional material that people can then say "I've seen that" so we all have to be a bit more creative.
Message: Posted by: ColinDymond (Feb 26, 2009 06:51PM)
Back to being creative!
I just got my Dan Payes old man from Wanlu, via Dan.
Wow! he's my first hard figure and there's so much to do. mouth, eyes, eyebrows and head and arm manipulation. I haven't even got a name for him yet!
I'm having fun, he's a great character and it's falling into place but any one have any tips for operating my first "real" vent figure?
Message: Posted by: Ony Carcamo (Feb 26, 2009 10:58PM)

The vent instructional video of Paul WInchell is among the best you can get if you want to learn proper figure manipulation. Another good resource is "Manipulating Your Dummy" video of Steve Taylor.

Operating hard figures is so different than that of soft puppets. The second video I stated teaches both.
Message: Posted by: Matt_24 (Feb 27, 2009 09:42AM)
I agree with ONY. That is exactly what I was going to say....and everytime you watch it you'll learn something new - or reinforce something you forgot. Paul Winchell video is truly the only one you'll ever need.

Also - buy DVDs of the greats, or watch them on YOUTUBE. Study their lines, expresions, reactions. Have fun!
Message: Posted by: ColinDymond (Feb 28, 2009 08:43AM)
I'm gonna dive in the deep end tonight. I'm going to audition the Dan Payes figure, infact it works that he's going to audition me to see if I'm good enough for him! I've adapted some lines from Arthur Worsley, after all the talk of being original!!!
Message: Posted by: Servante (Feb 28, 2009 12:50PM)
Couple of thoughts:

I have a file in my computer into which I put lines that come into my head, jokes someone sent me on the internet, exchanges of dialogue I hear in the street, etc.
They sit in there...sometimes for years...and I start making links when I need new material.

These are never lines from other vent scripts.

But there is one exception:
I started as a magician and ventriloquist at the age of four...picking up money at birthday parties and church Christmas parties (Never my own church!)...and Paul Winchell was a strong early influence.
Jerry used to call Paul a "phony ventrikalist," and Winchell couldn't get him to pronounce the word right.
I put together a bit of my own back then that I still use...wherein one of my figures uses the initial pronunciation...I try to get him to pronounce it correctly, going through the word rapid fire syllable by sylabble, and he still can't get it right...then I go to another word that we try...and finally, there's a joke payoff that refers back to the beginning.
It's not a steal from Winchell...though the original inspiration was from him with that pronunciation.

As far as the character design business:

I bought a "grumpy man" vent figure head from a craftsman in Buenos Aires. He has face shape and expression in common with Walter and Mr. H., but not much else.
I built a body for him and absolutely HAD to cross the arms. It goes with the expression, y'know?
I haven't used him yet, but I'm beginning to write material (I make a decent living as a playwright, so writing material comes naturally). I own a couple of Dunham's DVD's, but I am being careful not to go back and watch them for fear I will find a line that is just too good not to use.

I'm not sure, in other words, where the line may be drawn. Now, you could say that this character, whom I have named "Cooter Mudge," might never exist without the others...and that may be true. I'm not sure what the original builder had in mind, though. I could ask him, I guess, as I stay in touch with him. I'd be surprised, though, if he knew about Walter or Mr. H.
Message: Posted by: Neale Bacon (Feb 28, 2009 01:09PM)
When I got my old man character, I made a point of getting a less grumpy face and NOT folding the arms just so there wouldn't be the inevitable comparison to Jeff and Walter.

I have tried to stay away from the angry old man personality, and have gone with just an old guy who says he's too old to work and too broke to quit. He "works" for me caring for my Critter puppets.

He loves to tell exaggerated stories, has a bit of a memory problem, and is forever losing things....hey sounds a lot like me :)
Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Mar 2, 2009 10:43AM)
On 2009-02-24 22:15, Wanlu wrote:
In the tradition of off topics :)

I'm joining a TV talent contest on Monday...it's ala AGT :)

So far 3 vents have been in the show and all lost... :(

I was asked several times before to join but declined because I felt that the judging system is questionable.

But...now...I think I want to try it. If I lose, I'm the 4th vent to lose. If I win, I'm the 1st vent to win :)

I'll try using my Poyner figure.


I won two consecutive episodes :) both recorded today :)

"Thanks be to God for all His unspeakable gifts"

Message: Posted by: Bob Baker (Mar 2, 2009 12:41PM)
Wow! You go get 'em!

Congratulations. Terry better start looking over his shoulder. Footsteps comin'!

Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Mar 2, 2009 05:34PM)
From the DVD thread:
On 2009-03-02 16:23, Neale Bacon wrote:
I want to order Kimmo's because I have seen part of his Frog Prince on Youtube.

This goes back to adapting material - Kimmo does Frog Prince, which he adapted from Steve Taylor who adpated it from (I believe) Clifford Guest.

When doing a fairy tale which would be clearly in public domain, is it stealing to put your own spin on the telling of it?

Some of Andy Griffith's old records of him telling "southern" versions of things is much the same.

You answered that yourself Neale - your own spin. If you were copying word for word or even most of the routine - then I'd either buy the original or get permission. If you are taking the story of a fairy tale, not reading from a published version, it should be considered public domain. By giving it your own adaptation - I'd consider it yours.
Message: Posted by: Kyle^Ravin (Mar 2, 2009 10:26PM)
Is it just me or is the grumpy old man character suddenly very popular amongst ventriloquists. In fact, I have considered owning one but I'm never able to pull off a good voice. I'm only good in the high pitched squeeky voices.
Message: Posted by: Neale Bacon (Mar 2, 2009 11:24PM)
I have an old man but deliverately stayed away from the grumpy guy. I think grumpy guys have always been around in comedy, though.

My old man is not grumpy, but just old, tired, forgetful etc.
Message: Posted by: ColinDymond (Mar 3, 2009 03:21AM)
My old man is definitely grumpy. He goes into rants about the youth, though as a sales man he loves their stupidity and gulability!
He thinks he sold them all their tatoos and peircings.
At the moment he gets to audition me which is fun!
Message: Posted by: Ony Carcamo (Mar 3, 2009 07:12AM)
Here's my take on the grumpy character...

Instead of an old man, I have been developing one of my figures as a grumpy person:

My Hartz boy named Nonoy--who's a ten year-old boy!

In the recent material I was testing for him, he was ranting about everything--politics, showbiz, social issues, etc. I guess it's interesting to hear those rants from a little boy!
Message: Posted by: Tod Todson (Apr 13, 2009 11:12AM)
This thread mentions the "killer comedy approach". Can someone elaborate on this?

Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Apr 13, 2009 11:34AM)
Bob Baker: A performing Colon??? Now I've heard it all. And what if you took the idea of the California Rasins (which looked like Singing Turds) and combined them with the Colon? Permission needed from Will?

I always thought a Cheeky Spleen might be nice...but tell me...when you made the talking Colon did you have to get permission from Congress? They own that concept.
Message: Posted by: Tod Todson (Apr 13, 2009 11:38AM)
LOL :)
Message: Posted by: Ony Carcamo (Apr 13, 2009 07:38PM)

Killerstandup comedy's main approach uses NO JOKES in writing comedy material.


It's the best system, at least for me.

Message: Posted by: Tod Todson (Apr 14, 2009 03:00AM)
Salamat, Ony.

Message: Posted by: Servante (Apr 14, 2009 10:47AM)
I looked at the stuff on the link, Ony. I'm gonna guess the secret is this:

Comics say funny things.
Comedians say things funny.

Watch Bergen or Winchell...or come up to the present and watch any of today's masters. Their figures tell the occasional joke...but, for the most part, the comedy grows from the characters. Jokes have spaces between. Character humor just keeps on rollin'.

The good stuff grows out of characters...saying things funny.
Being a comedian, not a comic.

Another good example: Senor Wences. Johnny and Pedro didn't tell jokes.
They didn't say funny things.
They said things funny.

The best stuff grows out of character...or (subhead) character in a situation.
But it's not about telling jokes.
Message: Posted by: Servante (Apr 14, 2009 10:48AM)
Jimmy Nelson...another good example (Hard to define him. He was an early master for me...but he's still working! And still a gentleman. And still a master).
Message: Posted by: Ony Carcamo (Apr 14, 2009 07:01PM)
You hit right, Servante. And this system will help performers write their own materials without resorting to jokes. Well, using jokes is okay, as long as they fit the character we're using. This system also teaches how to use street jokes in your routines.

I also use jokes, but my real challenge for myself is to write more materials without using street jokes.
Message: Posted by: Tod Todson (Apr 14, 2009 09:42PM)
Can anyone provide an example of the two differences?

Message: Posted by: Ony Carcamo (Apr 14, 2009 09:52PM)
Street jokes are jokes that are usually public domain. We can read it in jokes books. Bob Hope's material fit into this. For example, the classic: "Two Jews went into the bar, etc. etc...."

Materials that are NOT based on jokes... look at youtube for ANY George Carlin or Bill Cosby videos. The audience laughed so hard on their act... but you'll realize they aren't delivering single joke! They are two masters of this genre.

Usually, materials not based on jokes don't read funny on paper. But on stage, they're a killer!
Message: Posted by: Servante (Apr 14, 2009 11:46PM)
Or consider almost any situation comedy on television. They're not telling jokes. The humor comes from their personalities and situations. They don't, as Ony points out, come onto the set and say, "Two Jews come into a bar..."

So...for your vent figure, you figure out his character. Is he stingy? Is he crabby? Is he a smartass?
Now, set up a situation. Maybe he has stage fright. Maybe you got his grade card. Maybe...well...you decide.

Then put it together.

I'm a playwright for a living. I write different kinds of plays...but for the comedies, I don't write jokes for the characters. I set up situations and strong characters.

Same deal.

Makes for better comedy, too.
Message: Posted by: Ony Carcamo (Apr 15, 2009 12:34AM)
Hey, Servante, I'm also write stage plays here--now I know another vent/plawright!

Of course, let's not forget Bergen, and his funny situations with Charlie and Mortimer. They usually don't tell jokes (sometimes they did though) but most of their routines, especially radio routines, were based on comedy situations.
Message: Posted by: Servante (Apr 15, 2009 09:16AM)
Gosh, Ony, there are so MANY vent/playwrights in the world!

(Kidding. Just kidding.)
Message: Posted by: Servante (Apr 30, 2009 01:25PM)
To return to an earlier drift: I'd like to know a little bit about the history of Walter and Melvin the Superhero. Bob and Tom pointed out, above, that Walter is based on Mr. Horowitz (Nelson/Jackson) and work by Kristin L. (stands for...?).

There's apparently some bad blood about it all. I've heard what Mr. Nelson thinks (Great interview, Matt). What's Kristin L think?
And, for that matter...as I mentioned above, I've got a cranky old man I've started writing material for...am I in a creation violation over him? He doesn't look like Mr. Horowitz or Walter...though he is a bald-headed old man with a frown...and his arms are crossed.

But then...who built the first "cheeky boy," and aren't we all in debt to the CB? Jerry was one...as were Danny and Charlie and Velvel and...well, pretty much every main figure of a vent. Interestingly, Dunham doesn't really have a cheeky boy character...unless you count Peanut...who is a ...um...cheeky woozel.

I have a cheeky boy figure. Many of you do. Are we violating something?

I'm not trying to be a smart-aleck here...just trying to figure out the situation.
Message: Posted by: Mr. Pitts (Apr 30, 2009 02:24PM)
Probably the first ventriloquist to focus on a strong central cheeky boy character in his act was Fred Russell, a British vent, and his partner 'Coster Joe', back in the early 20th century. There were other vents before him who used little boy characters, but usually as part of a large group of characters, and although there might have been comedy involved in the conversation between the vent and the many puppets, the main thing was the demonstration of the skill. The vent demonstrated his skill by moving easily from character to character, using different voices, voices offstage etc. Fred Russell changed the nature of the vent act to comedy and focused on the strong comedy cheeky boy character. My take on this is that we owe Mr. Russell a debt of gratitude, but as for infringing on a copyright or even stealing material, I think not. We're following in a tradition. If a jazz musician plays a popular standard on the clarinet, nobody accuses him of stealing from Benny Goodman. It's a little different with comedy, but I think with the cheeky boy it's understood by almost everyone that this is a standard comedy character. With an old man character, or even more so with say, a skeleton puppet, I think a vent needs to be even more careful about developing an original character and original material. There's a line that I think we are all intuitively aware of crossing when some small voice in our head (or on our knee) tells us... "this is too close, this is copying" If we listen to that voice we'll be able to avoid stealing the other guy's stuff. Bottom line, if YOU know you're stealing, stop yourself and change directions.
David Pitts
Message: Posted by: Servante (Apr 30, 2009 04:27PM)
Thanks, David...yeah, I read all about Coster Joe. Got quite a few books on our histories and traditions. Wanted to get some feedback...and yours was good.

Still struggling with the grumpy man thing. On the one hand I figure Bill Nelson deserves lots of credit as does Dunham for popularizing his version.
And on the other hand, of course, I think about the tradition of the grumpy old man going back to Pantalone in the Commedia Del Arte, etc...

I guess, for me, the trick with my old man figure is not to be influenced so much by what Dunham has done as to let the character speak to me so I can discover just exactly who he is.
Hope others can weigh in on this, because I've been thinking about it a lot.
Thanks again, David.
Message: Posted by: Servante (May 3, 2009 06:02PM)
Incidentally...saw Dunham live the other night. 7500 in the audience. We were seated fifth row center. Guy's bloody amazing. Guitar Guy is pretty *** good, too.
I took my fiancee with me. Wasn't sure how she'd take a whole show of ventriloquism. She laughed hysterically all the way through and told me, "That's the best thing I've ever seen!"

Vent is hot again.