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revlovejoy
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I am posting this here to see if I am over-reacting. I am not a vent, but have been reading the Café for years, sometimes browsing this board as well.

I saw a ventriloquist act today. I don't often see a vent act, for that matter I rarely see magicians or jugglers or live performers at all.

I went to the Bloomsburg Fair, as I do every year. I saw that a vent act would be on the free stage at 5pm, so I took the kids (3 and 6) and let all the other adults we were with, go to exhibits. The kids needed a break, I thought they would enjoy the act, and I always feel like a family show performance is like research for me. (No, not to steal material...)

The good: the act was polished and professional. The performer was very talented in many ways. She tours extensively, and has been in the business a long time. I am certain she must have tons of material, beyond the one hour show we saw. The kids enjoyed it, were convinced the puppets really talked, danced during the music, and on and on. All in all, I would say it was 90% a great great show for all.

But the reason I hedge on the last 10% is because this performer chose to do some really foul material. I don't mean swearing (though she threw a "hell" into one bit) - I'm not a swear-word counter. I watch Kevin Smith movies. But my kids do not. That is why I was just really floored when her one puppet (a failed vegas showgirl) told jokes that were just flat out *** jokes. Not even thinly veiled double entendres. Mostly, my daughter (6) didn't get it, but she's the kind to remember lines from movies and repeat them. Without context, she could easily probably remember a lot of this material. This happened a couple of times.

Like I said, I am no prude - and in a comedy club, anything goes. But this was the 5pm free outdoor show at a huge fair. People of every age in the crowd.

This is an issue that affects magicians, and all performers - I mention it in the vent area, because it was a vent act.

Again, I know this performer HAS to have a ton of material. Why choose to go this way in an all-ages crowd?

Is this something you folks see in the vent community and roll your eyes at and shake your heads, the way magicians see so many hack routines and feel it reflects on us as magicians? Or am I suddenly turning old? Is "men are like snowstorms: you never know when they're going to come, you don't know how long they'll last, and you never know how many inches you'll get!" - is this material any of you do outside an adults-only venue?
greatscott
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I, personally, don't even do that type of material for an all adult venue. But, that's just me.
tacrowl
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I blogged on this subject regarding my own act several months ago...
http://comedyventriloquist.blogspot.com/......ple.html

Although I do not personally know the act you are talking about, I have some very strong opinions of your post based on my own years of professional experience.

Tonight...I hesitate to say anything else.
Tom Crowl - Comedy Ventriloquist

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revlovejoy
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Tom- I would like to hear more. I wonder what sort of "strong opinions" my post would provoke. I did not insult the performer, or vents. I told you how great the act was overall. I read your blog post. OK, so you had a similar experience where someone did not like part of your act. I can see how this would be an issue you take personally. But is there no line? Perhaps your material would be considered by the average attendee to be quite unoffensive. I'm not saying that any time someone doesn't like material, a performer should say "ok!" and change their act.

But do we not, as performers, have some responsibility to do some sort of editing for all ages shows? That's my issue here. I took the time to write a very constructive, complimentary and civil email to this performer. The people sitting around me looking shocked at these same jokes, probably did not take that time.

I am not a professional. At least not in performing. I am however, a professional speaker, as I address a gathered group of people from the pulpit each week. I have an informal, conversational style to my preaching. I have, however, been called out before by someone who found a particular use of slang to be problematic for the venue. It had not occurred to me, but it made me think about it. Now I could have said "well, you're the ONLY ONE to say anything, so I will just go ahead and ignore you because you're the only one." Would that be a great idea?

I am interested in a serious dialogue on this. Would you care to say more about why my pos t created strong opinions for you? I would be willing to share here, or in a PM, the email I sent.

I posted the example of one of the jokes told. Would you be comfortable using that line in an all-ages fair show?
harris
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My choice of material on and off stages, has matured through the years.

I choose to do family material in all venues. (No not the stuff on "Family Guy".)

Through the years I have poked fun at our baseball team during the time Nigel sings "Take me out to the ball game". Last weekend I decided to take a more positive approach. Prior to the song I talked about all the ways the team has supported different community organizations. The second and third time "We" sang it using the traditional lyrics, the audience joined in. Giving up one "jab/joke", set the tone for a nice closing song.


Some acts choose to use certain bits. I must take the limb out of my eye before.....



Harris
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tacrowl
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Revlovejoy...

The answer to the question "are you over-reacting?", was in the audience attending the show. They experienced the same program you did - how did they react? Were people laughing? Or was there a exodus of people who left because they were offended? I don't want answers - these questions are for internal reflection unless your purpose is trying to condemn the act, or justify your values here.

You say:
Quote:
"I am certain she must have tons of material, beyond the one hour show we saw."

"Again, I know this performer HAS to have a ton of material."


How do you know? I believe you assume. Just as I believe you assume others should be offended because you were.

You state:
Quote:
"This is an issue that affects magicians, and all performers..."


Really? Someone else's choice of material affects me? Somehow I've still managed to earn my living as a performer for over 25 years. The "issue" is far from new. Personally, I find it a tiring excuse for judging another's act.

A family show is NOT a kids show. What makes 3-6 year olds laugh is very different from what a teenager or the redneck in the back row expects. A performer is there to entertain the entire crowd. They sometimes walk a line, and unfortunately, she crossed yours.

I'm thrilled that you, greatscott and countless others, can entertain an audience without using "that type of material." But as you are judging her while patting yourself on the back, please ask yourself...

Are you a full time act earning a living as a performer in a national (or international) PUBLIC market? Do you have that kind of longevity in the marketplace as a full time entertainer? Perhaps the reason she IS a successful national act and HAS been for so long IS the fact she is able to entertain a wider segment of the public.

Finally, I think your whole post could have been avoided if you had just paid attention to one fact you stated...
Quote:
The kids enjoyed it

She did her job.
Tom Crowl - Comedy Ventriloquist

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revlovejoy
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Tom, you are defensive and reactionary.

I know she has more material than that because I checked her website and saw numerous characters. Your attempt to catch me in an assumption, therefore rendering anything I have to say moot, is childish.

How did others react? With silence. You asked, and there is the answer.

I forfeit the conversation, which you have decided is a contest to see if you can smack me down.

You win.

I am not a full time professional, so I should set no standards.

A successful act never makes a bad judgment, and experience always trumps taste.

A joke using street slang for *********** is fine for a public outdoor fair show, and I apologize for having the audacity to question it. I am not a pro, so I have no basis for knowing what makes people laugh.

You win Tom - you win. I submit to your years of experience.

The performer is always right.
revlovejoy
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See - the Café wouldn't even let me use the word here. That should tell us something.
harris
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People laugh for a variety of reasons.

Within a large audience, some will laugh along with others even if they do not find the material funny.

One can choose to plant many things in a/your field.

Harris
laughologist and nearly normal ventriloqist
still 2 old to know everything
Harris Deutsch aka dr laugh
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tacrowl
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This isn't about winning or smacking you down. I never said your opinions were right or wrong. And I didn't play the "pro-card" to insult you.

Take a deep breath.

You say that I am trying to render your points moot? No, I am asking you to consider you may be jumping to some incorrect conclusions. I have a lot of "characters" on my web site. That doesn't mean that I have full blown routines for all of them. Sometimes jokes or routines are shifted and mixed between figures. Ventriloquism isn't like magic where each figure has to have a set plot/script. You assume she has more material because of the number of puppets. She may or may not.

As an audience member, you have the right to be offended. If you were the client, you have the right to hire or not hire the act. As another act, you have the right to disagree with the choice of material used by the act.

BUT - I read your original post as seeking "agreement" for your judgement. I can't give you that.

I never said successful acts don't make bad choices. I said they walk a line. At some point, everyone crosses a line. You said you were called out regarding a slang - so everyone's line is different. No one can please everyone.

Her success and longevity MAY be that she appeals to a wider audience BECAUSE of walking the line. She KNOWS what she did and how her audience reacted. When you are in business that long, you don't succeed by insulting audiences. You succeed because you entertain the majority. She has that experience in the market.

I'm certain she will appreciate you taking the time to contact her with your feelings. That is the correct way to resolve your issue with her - not going on a public forum to justify an opinion.
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revlovejoy
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Tom - I think we're back to having a conversation now, and I thank you for your last post.

I don't dispute most of what you are saying. but here's where I have the problem. I realize we all have different lines. I have always considered mine to be pretty far to the tolerant end. In fact, around friends, I am known as the line crosser myself. And this is not the first time I've raised an eyebrow at a performer's choice of material. 99% of the time, it rolls off my back, and the worst I can say it "well, that would never work for me, but good luck."

This was a case however that I cannot imagine would not make most people accompanying a child really snap to attention. There has to be some sort of line, doesn't there? I realize we will all define the line differently, but is there not some social mechanism for drawing that line?

My point is that age-appropriateness is one. I repeat, I have appreciation for a ton of very adult acts, but they don't do those acts at the open free stage at the fair.

As for assuming her wealth of material, I stand by that statement based on the materials on her own website, years of performance, and demonstrated child-friendly shows. I thought I was paying a compliment, not trying to assume facts not in evidence, but I see how you could take what I said that way. I hope I am clearer now.

Ultimately, I can't dispute your analysis at all that a performer makes choices that everyone won't like, but has their reasons, and if success as they define it comes with it - then so be it.

But earlier you asked why I would assert that one performer's choice of material is at all relevant to the rest of us, I will lay it out more directly right now.

If this is typical material for a comedy ventriloquist, (and that's why I asked about it here) and I should expect to hear it in this type of venue, I will think twice before I take my kids to the show again. I might go solo, but if I can't expect some level of small-ears-present editing for the venue, then OK - I have more fair warning through this exchange than most people, then I will avoid that type of act for my kids. I'm not going to picket, or tell the promoters not to book this person again, or anything remotely like that. I didn't post a facebook update to tell all my friends to avoid the show. But a couple of young people who might otherwise enjoy and then continue to support ventriloquism, will miss an opportunity if this is what I am led to believe is to be expected.

Bottom line, you have taken issue with my decision to come here seeking agreement, and you feel that is inappropriate. OK, fair enough. I see how you can take my initial and subsequent posts in that light. I really do. I am not looking to slam this one performer, who as I said, otherwise did a great job.

Therefore, I will rephrase the question:

is this material that I can expect to find in most similar gigs?
JimbosMagic
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Matterial is such a funny subject. I saw a vent probably 9 months ago now and he was doing this bit when th doll said his grandad had gone to heaven to meet God. and I know some people had a go at the vent about saying gods name as the did not beleive in god.So even when you think all is safe, it's not.
I think you have to be cautious but you are gonna upset some ons some time no matter how good and clean you think your material is.
jmho.
JIMMY CARLO. KIDabra International Family Entertainer of the Year 2009.
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harris
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Entertainment and comedy is risky.

One can offend simply some folks, something as simple as color of your clothes, wearing or not wearing a neck tie.

Trying out new material as well as true adlibs is exciting and at the same time scawy.

Though much of my material falls under the realm of comedy, sometimes my puppets do approach topics of grief and other less comfortable emotions.

Isn't it great to have an online forum to share with other entertainers/vents around the world.


Harris
still 2 old to know everything
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tacrowl
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Quote:
There has to be some sort of line, doesn't there? I realize we will all define the line differently, but is there not some social mechanism for drawing that line?


Who would have the authority to draw it for everyone? Christians? Jews? Muslims? Atheists? Buddhists? Why should everyone live under the moral authority of another's views?

There is a social mechanism in place. If you are offended, you leave, you contact the act and the venue to let them know your feelings. Enough people do this, the act isn't invited back - it hurts their bottom line and they adjust/censor to meet what the market demands or find new venues with audiences that will appreciate their material.

Quote:
Therefore, I will rephrase the question:

is this material that I can expect to find in most similar gigs?


Is your act exactly the same as Copperfield? You already know the answer to that.

I would like to make two recommendations that can save you headaches.
1.) Before attending a show, either talk to the act or ask if anyone has seen them before and get an opinion. May help make the decision easier...

2.) Avoid taking your kids to see Otto & George.
Tom Crowl - Comedy Ventriloquist

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revlovejoy
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I am literally sighing loudly to myself.

OK Tom, then there is no line. Dick jokes for my 6 year old daughter are fine. I know that you began this conversation refusing to say anything about the actual material I cited, instead we are in a meta-philosophical debate over who can draw a line, which it seems is being framed in terms of either no line, or the slippery slope of totalitarianism. I really didn't think it was that big of a question.

And yes, I get the whole free-market aspect of the issue.

As to your suggestions, they are concrete and direct. I now want to see Otto and George for myself. But the issue that you seem to still dance around is whether I have the right to expect a certain level of propriety for a show in this kind of public venue. Apparently the answer I am getting, at least from you, is - no. I should expect that any act at a public fair afternoon performance is fair game for any and all material. That's the question.

No, my act is not the same as Copperfield's - what a non sequitor. I never assumed every vent act was identical. You're deliberately responding with a no sequitor. I had a question about the level of p#nis humor I encountered in a vent act. I asked some active vents in this forum if this is common. I did not say all vents are the same, but you respond as if that was my question.

So would you be willing to share with me and the readers of this thread what material you have that you consider PG-13? That's the rating you gave. I'm not asking for your script or whole jokes, just an honest assessment of what "Edgy" material you include in a general show that you know will include children of all ages. Help me see the spectrum here.

I could have had the reaction of "well, that's it - no more ventriloquist acts." I chose instead to address the topic here. I could really open a can of worms and ask why so many vent acts I have seen trade in ethnic stereotypes, including the very successful and famous Jeff Dunham. I won't let my kids watch him, but I don't let them watch anything on Comedy Central. I do watch it myself. I don't want to create the impression that my kids are sheltered - by no means.

And I appreciate what Harris and Jimbo have said about the fact that some things will look very innocuous but offend nonetheless - tie or no tie, mentioning a diety, etc...

So one more time: is anyone else besides Tom surprised that I found genital and sexual performance humor crossing a line in a public show at a fair?
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Jimbo. Are you allowed to mention Santa if you don't believe?
tacrowl
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Sigh away -

Quote:
I know that you began this conversation refusing to say anything about the actual material I cited,


You appear to want me to condemn her for using a joke you felt was inappropriate. Sorry, I won't do it. While you have the right to your opinion, I refuse to justify it by commenting on the joke one way or the other. Does that mean I approve? Assume away - you are good at it!

Quote:
the issue that you seem to still dance around is whether I have the right to expect a certain level of propriety for a show in this kind of public venue. Apparently the answer I am getting, at least from you, is - no. I should expect that any act at a public fair afternoon performance is fair game for any and all material.


Wrong. The answer you got from me was that everyone's level of propriety is different. That wasn't the answer you wanted to hear so you got upset.

I told you that you have the right to complain. Contact the fair board, get on the fair board, get yourself booked at the fair. Lead by example. Set the standard instead of complaining about her act. DO SOMETHING.

Instead you continue to rant HERE about her material not being suitable (in your opinion) for the audience. The subject of "inappropriate material" has been done to death and nothing changes. Nothing anyone says here has any bearing on her career - we aren't her clients. Those that agree with you are already in the choir - those that don't just look at you and shake their head.

In the meantime, she is earning a LIVING doing shows for the public. If everyone felt the way you do - how would she keep getting work? Hmmmmm... maybe everyone else in the audience doesn't feel the same way.

Quote:
I never assumed every vent act was identical. You're deliberately responding with a no sequitor. I had a question about the level of p#nis humor I encountered in a vent act. I asked some active vents in this forum if this is common.


You realize all vent acts are not the same, yet you wonder if the level of p#nis humor is COMMON? You knew the answer and used that in hopes we would say "NO!", which would validate your rant.

And since you are asking active vents...I did 191 family shows and 3 PG-13 corporate shows this summer. Does that qualify as active? In case you couldn't tell - that time I used the "pro-card" as a retort, because I really did find your question insulting.

Quote:
So would you be willing to share with me and the readers of this thread what material you have that you consider PG-13?


Seriously? Watch some movies, watch some PG-13 television. Figure it out for yourself. Why do you seem to NEED someone here to spell it out for you? You've got opinions - use some common sense.

Quote:
I don't want to create the impression that my kids are sheltered - by no means.


You said your kids are ages 3 - 6, you certainly SHOULD be sheltering them from things you don't want them hearing or seeing.

I've wasted enough time here. Have fun with your party...
Tom
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Neale Bacon
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Quote:
On 2009-09-29 09:29, tacrowl wrote:

A family show is NOT a kids show. What makes 3-6 year olds laugh is very different from what a teenager or the redneck in the back row expects. A performer is there to entertain the entire crowd. They sometimes walk a line, and unfortunately, she crossed yours.

I'm thrilled that you, greatscott and countless others, can entertain an audience without using "that type of material." But as you are judging her while patting yourself on the back, please ask yourself...

Are you a full time act earning a living as a performer in a national (or international) PUBLIC market? Do you have that kind of longevity in the marketplace as a full time entertainer? Perhaps the reason she IS a successful national act and HAS been for so long IS the fact she is able to entertain a wider segment of the public.



Tom, Let me play Devil's Advocate here. I agree that a family show is not like a kid's show, however, a performer has to be aware of the audience. If it a country fair aiming at the whole family, then you have to be aware there may be children there and some jokes may not be appropriate. As a pro like yourself, I think you have to be able to edit as you work. I even watched Jeff do it at the convention. He was doing an Achmed routine and when he realized how many kids were in the house, he started to edit himself.

I do choose to do my show without (as you put it) "that kind of material" but a compliment I often get is my show is layered in that there are jokes for the kids and jokes that go over their heads that the adults get. I always think of my show like the old Bugs Bunny cartoons. I laughed at them as a kid but now I laugh at them for things I never caught as a kid.

I am wondering if the original poster here was just asking if the material was appropriate in a family setting. I don't really think judgement was implied.

If I have to use material I feel uncomfortable presenting to be a national performer, I guess I will be content being a local performer, but I don't think that's the case. I think if a show is funny, it can play anywhere. I might be naive but there you have my 2 Canadian pennies worth Smile
Neale Bacon and his Crazy Critters
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Bob Baker
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Tom certainly does not need me to advocate for him, but I think his points are well-taken. The basic question asked was, essentially, is this the type of material I should expect from vents in this venue? The answer is simple: it's what you should expect from that vent in that venue. Period. We all work differently, and we all hone our material to our audiences. I would guess that I would die or be chased off the stage if I did my material at one of Neale's family gigs, and I equally suspect that his material would not go over at one of my typical comedy club gigs.

Fortunately, there are performers of all different types of gigs. The fact that the fair hired this performer suggests to me that they knew exactly what they were getting for their money. It's up to the client to decide what he wants and up to the performer to ascertain what the client/audience wants and provide it.

To try to generalize from one performer in one venue strikes me as an exercise in futility.

Bob
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Bob,

Well said.
Neale Bacon and his Crazy Critters
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