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KeithS
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After I wrote what I did below, I realized that it was simply me venting (pun intended) my reflections, and wanting to get them written down. Perhaps others have had similar thoughts, but please take them simply as me trying to answer some questions I've had for a while. As always, I welcome any and all feedback.

There is a thread floating around here somewhere discussing some vents' desire for one strong, universal character (ala Willie Tyler, Otto Petersen, and others). I can relate to this, because I am one who has always wanted just one character that I could use in a variety of situations (schools and comedy clubs) and with all types of audiences (children and adults). Although I can see the value of it for the working vent who often does repeat performances, I never desired to have a whole bunch of characters. I recently checked out a popular working vent's website (no one here, by the way), and I was simply amazed by the shear number of characters he has. This is not a criticism, just an observation. I wondered how on earth he could use so many puppets and figures. The vents that are among my favorites have one to three characters, such as Ray Alan and Edgar Bergen. Again, this is simply my personal preference.

My desire for one universal character also has a practical aspect to it - I find that I really can do, at most, two good vent voices when I don't move my lips. This is kind of funny to me, because as a trained actor I actually have a pretty good variety of voices that I can do, including dialects, but only when I'm acting and able to freely move my lips.

One of the parts that I found most valuable in Mason's "Idiot" book was the chapter about the pros and cons of different puppets and figures. This got me thinking more about what types of characters I've used and would now like to use. So, I listed all the characters I've had over the years, from age 10 until now. In that time, I've had 12 puppets and figures (8 boys, 1 girl, 2 animals, 1 old man), but I only actually performed with 5 boys, 1 girl, and 1 animal. I've had the most long-term success with 1 Olsen-made little boy dummy, 1 Verna-made little girl puppet, and 1 mass-produced fish puppet.

So, these reflections confirmed for me that I still desire just one strong, universal character. So, I reflect further: Do I want a hard figure? Well, I did get a nice custom-made boy figure recently, which I ended up selling. Is this because I realized don't like using hard figures, or was it because I don't want a little boy, or was it because I didn't want that particular little boy? Probably a little of all of the above. Do I then want a soft puppet? If so, should I get a person puppet like Dan Horn, or an animal puppet like many respected vents? If I get a person - it'll probably have to be a little boy or girl, because while I may be able to pull off a decent young person's voice, I can't do an old man's voice justice without sounding stereotypical (much less an old woman's!). But I also don't want to be too hackneyed with a little boy. So, then what about an animal? I have used a fish, but I wonder how universal that could be. Plus, my fish puppet was necessarily but unnaturally floating out in mid-air when I was using him, although that didn't seem to bother anyone but me. I think dogs, ducks, and frogs perhaps are not too original (especially since vents like Jimmy Nelson, Bill DeMar, and Tom Crowl do them so well), and I don't really want to go for animals that are overly exotic like ermines and okapis. One thing that I am sure of, I do not want a made-up creature, alien puppet, or novelty-type puppet. Jeff, of course, is brilliant at it with Peanut, Achmed, and Jose but that's just not my style.

So what can I conclude from these ramblings?

- I'm obviously looking for a strong universal character I can use in a variety of settings with all types of audiences.
- Although I have always wanted a custom-made hard figure, I probably don't really want to actually perform with one.
- I don't think I want a little boy character, but perhaps a little girl character may work.
- I am open to getting an animal character, but one that most people can relate to and one that not too many other vents use.

So, that's about where I'm at this point. Feedback welcomed!

Thank you for reading! If you didn't, or if you stopped in the middle, I completely understand! ;o)
Ony Carcamo
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Keith I believe I was the one who started the thread before about your topic. And I am with you, I still prefer a very few but solid characters.

When I started vent many, many years ago I accumulated a LOT of puppets and figures. I guess at one point I had 30+ of them. But over the years I decided to focus more on developing the characters I loved more than add more puppets to my cast; that's why currently I only have 3 major characters in my shows--2 hard figures (a Hartz and the one I made) and 1 soft puppet (a piglet).

I may not be able to do the one-character vent (like Willie Tyler) idea very soon, but I'm very happy with what I have now Smile
Ony Carcamo
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ColinDymond
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I most admit to having several figures, some I have just because I liked them others are for particular routines in my schools shows. But since I now have my custom dragon I want to use him all the time. I'm not sure if I can put him infront of an adult comedy audience but I might try it soon.
Servante
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I have five...but I have specific characters and voices for 'em.
1. A cheeky boy, Huck.
2. A "Mortimer" style, Louie.
3. A "Mr. Horowitz" type, Cooter.
4. A wild old lady, Sylvia.
5. A baby, Niblet.

I also have a Wanlu soft puppet duck. Haven't quite got him figured out or named...but he's so beautifully designed, I'm including him in the act somehow or other. It is my firm belief that I am done buying vent figures. Honest.

-Philip
Dickens & Dave
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At one time I was up to about 30 hard figures, and a good assortment of soft figures, etc., although I never intended most of them to be a regular or main figure or main focus. Some of the hard figures, it was a collecting thing - the soft figures, it was usually a case of one catching my eye and thinking I could use it for a couple small bits - sometimes with both the hard and soft figures, it was just a question of a good deal coming my way, so I took it, especially with the hard figures because I just like most that I see.

But as far as using the figures, I've always had an "old school" attitude about it. I like the idea of the "classic" scenario of a vent and a one main sidekick, and specifically for me, that also meant the "classic" hard figure. Some of them may have used other figures, but for many of the well-knowns and not so well knowns of the past, that's the way it was, they had one main sidekick. Sure, many had other characters, like Bergen, but most people, when they think "Bergen", they immediately think of "McCarthy", the others may also come to mind quickly, but the initial thought will be those two names. Same with "Winchell" and "Mahoney", "Nelson" and "O'Day", etc., etc. - they used other figures, but there was that one they were most associated with and the "team" that first comes to mind (for most).

So that was always a goal for me, to have one main character, and as Keith said, "a strong universal character I can use in a variety of settings with all types of audiences", and "one that most people can relate to and one that not too many other vents use", although that second part means for me, a figure that was different than others readily available.
I was able to accomplish the first part pretty easily, having a figure that could be used in a variety of settings with all types of audiences, which is really the most important part of it, but for me me personally, the second part was important too - having a main figure that was different than most.
My first main figures were stock figures - yes, if buying new, you can order a specific eye color, hair color, different animations, but they were still "stock" figures. I got a Hartz classic Marshall-looking figure, and even though it's a figure I consider one of my "top-of-the-line" figures, it is a standard look like so many have, and I even felt like I was just imitating some of the well-knowns that used the same Marshall-looking figures.

Fortunately, the day finally came when I was able to get that figure that fit the bill completely for me, but it did seem like a long process before that day came.
But I think that only makes sense. I think it would be a mistake for someone just starting out to go out and get a custom figure, I think it's good to start out with "stock" figures until they've had time to get into it, figure out the direction they want to go, the type of figure and character they're the most comfortable with. Maybe along the way, developing in their mind, an idea for a character and figure and look they want for their main partner.
And I should add, I'm not saying that a "stock" figure can't fill that bill just fine, the part about it being one that's different, or at least not common, was just a personal desire and priority of mine.

For secondary figures, I wasn't as worried about it because I think of secondary figures, like my one "goof" figure, as "sometimes figures". While my main figure has priority, there are of course, times and routines that just wouldn't fit him - for example a Mortimer type character - that just is not my main figure's character, or look, and I couldn't even begin to use him for such a routine. And it's not a character I would be using all the time, so I was content to have one that just fit the first part of the bill of being a universal character that could be used for a variety of audiences.

Hmmm, looks like I rambled a bit, hope it at least relates a little to the op.
http://dickensndave.bravehost.com/index.html



"Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest."
Bob Baker
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For 40 years I had just one figure, Oscar, who is pictured in my avatar. He served me well in a variety of circumstances. When the opportunity to purchase a used, mint condition Selberg "Granny" came about, I grabbed it, not knowing what the character would be. After a number of false starts (sweet old Granny, Mrs. Doubtfire type), I came up with Mrs. Lucille Goldman, whom I describe as elderly, angry, and horny. She has quickly jumped to the fore as the character I'm mainly known for. Audiences love her, and Oscar has had to take a secondary role.

However, as good as Lucille is, I only have about 10 really strong, unpadded minutes of material for her. That's fine for brief comedy club "guest spots," but when I do 20-40 minute shows (which are getting more common now) I need to bring in other characters to fill out the show. I open with Oscar with a routine that ends with Bill DeMar's "Taper Over Mouth" bit. Then comes Archie P. Nelson, the besotted Cockney. Next is Lucille. Then, I have starting doing a routine in which I demonstrate my skills as a "lingual ninja" (Scott Alexander's "Blades"). This breaks up the vent and adds a nice texture to the show. I then close with a routine using 2 of Wanlu's masks. I have nothing to follow that.

I guess I am less concerned with being a 1 character vent and more with wanting to give my audiences a good show. They seem to like the variety, and I like performing with different characters.

Bob
CaptKirk
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Certainly nothing wrong with having just one vent character in your routine. But I think most of the fine vents on this fantastic forum prefer and have more than one to call upon. I personally have 4 figures in my vent family:

Cletus L.C. Jones: a true "hillbilly" who looks and talks the part
Buckley Barnes: a midwestern farmer who spouts colloquial wisdoms like they were water
Grampa B: a grouchy and cantankerous old fellow who actually does "know it all"
Bobby Barnett: a smart mouthed 10 year old who thinks he "knows it all"

These 4 figures give me a wide range of characters to write for and perform with. I certainly could pare down my vent family BUT I never would because I just couldn't be without any of them. I love them all and they depend on me all the time:o) None of these guys were in my original vent family. I started with 2 other guys, a Barry "mortimer" hard figure named "Willy" and an Axtell "Big Bear" named "Chubs". I upgraded to all hard figures when I fell in love with Albert Alfaro's work and was able to afford 3 of his superb figures. I already had adopted "Bobby" from a great guy in Canada and decided I wanted to stick with the multi-movement hard figures. Just personal prefference I suppose but they all make me very happy. It can be a real challenge to develop so many characters and write material for so many guys but I find that a real task of love as well.
harris
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I use 3.

1. Boy soft puppet
2. Animal puppet (Lion)
3. novelty puppet...trash can (lid becomes the mouth) tennis ball...(cut on the seam..squeeze gets the "mouth" to open)

I have a traditional figure. "John" is a size 7 figure with moving eyes, eye brows....
He doesn't get out much due to his size, weight and tendency to "freak/scare" people.

Since I have had cats as pets for a long long time. I have thought about adding a cat (house, not lion) to my schtick) The cartoonish one from Folkmanis was the closest that I have come to purchase.

My latest purchase was a clown marionette on roller skates. "Clarence" does not speak. He is my second professional marionette. I purchased him last December. Pervis a 50's rock and roller has been in the show since 1987.


Harris
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Harris Deutsch aka dr laugh
drlaugh4u@gmail.com
music, magic and marvelous toys
http://magician.org/member/drlaugh4u
Ony Carcamo
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These days when I'm headlining nights clubs/bars, where I do around 50 minutes to an hour, I only use ONE figure (either my Hartz boy or my drunken middle-age man)--and a occasional appearance of my piglet puppet.

But when I do a full night show (around 90 to 120 minutes), I use my 3 major characters.

By the way, Bob, I loved your granny character!
Ony Carcamo
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Bob Baker
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By the way, Bob, I loved your granny character!


Thank you, Ony. I am truly honored.

Bob
Dickens & Dave
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Quote:
I guess I am less concerned with being a 1 character vent and more with wanting to give my audiences a good show.


Apparently that's true of everyone that even thinks about being a one character vent since most of us have more than one character.

I suppose, in thinking about it some more, the one character thing back in the day may have been more of a necessity than a desire. Traveling the vaudeville circuit, traveling light was probably a good thing, and for some it may have been matter of economics in not being able to afford more than one good figure. (and yes, I do know there were some that did have more than one character back then as well)
Of course too, that recognition of being known for one main character is something, that for the most part, is only a concern or something that really happens for the really well-knowns, which that may be a good thing too.
I love my main figure, I can't imagine not having him, and the reason why he'll be going to Vent Haven when I'm gone because I can't imagine him being anyone else's partner, but even so, there's times when he's just not the character I feel like using. Like right now, I recently got a new figure that I really like a lot, while I don't see him replacing my main figure, if I didn't have a main figure already, this one could have been it, so he's the one I really feel like focusing on now.

And there goes some more late-night ramblings.....
http://dickensndave.bravehost.com/index.html



"Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest."
KeithS
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On 2011-04-25 23:21, blueshawk1 wrote:
Quote:
I guess I am less concerned with being a 1 character vent and more with wanting to give my audiences a good show.


Apparently that's true of everyone that even thinks about being a one character vent since most of us have more than one character.


So are you guys saying that those who only want one character are not concerned with giving their audiences a good show? I KNOW that's not what you guys are saying - I'm being a bit tongue-in-cheek. However, speaking for myself, there are some other reasons for wanting one good, strong character. And that is the type of shows I'll actually be doing. I have no illusions that I will make any money, much less make a career as a vent. The shows I'll be doing are as a classroom teacher, and perform in my classroom, faculty luncheons, as a warm up for the drama club shows - things like that. In addition, I may be open to do shows at hospitals, libraries, churches, and the like, with no thought about making money. In the future, I also may be open to do open mic nights and coffee house performances. I do not see myself, nor do I have a desire, to perform 45 minute - 1 hour shows at schools or parties. These are not my personal goals.

Instead, my goals are to be the best, most competent, entertaining vent that I can be. And wherever I perform, I hope it to be the best, most enjoyable performances I can give - whether that's with one character or ten.

On his deathbed, the Buddha said, "Be a lamp unto yourself." That's a fancy way of saying "be true to yourself," just the point that Taylor Mason makes in his book. Great advice. The most successful people in any field do just that. Sometimes that's difficult, especially when there are others advising one to do the opposite.

I think it's important for all serious vents, to be successful, no matter what type of shows we do and what type and number of characters we use, to follow what's right for us as individuals.

End of rant! ;o)
Dickens & Dave
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Not "you guys" - remember, I'm the one who wants to have one main partner like they did back when.
On my follow up statement, I more was not thinking about it being 'necessary' to have more than one character to have a good show, but that most of us have more than one character as part of it, or to use as a different character from time to time.
http://dickensndave.bravehost.com/index.html



"Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest."
Servante
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I had only one character, Louie, for forty years or so, and it worked out fine. Slowly I cut down my shows from many to a single one every Christmas for a local hospital for the developmentally disabled. Louie was still featured. A few years back somebody offered me a deal on a figure (A hundred bucks for a Maher Lovik-built figure) and I took it...and then bought four more in a two-year period and began to contemplate doing more shows with more figures. Louie and I were good together for decades...and I "retired" from the field over time. Now there's the chance I'll get back into a few more shows per year...and I've even got a new Louie who is Hartz-built. What anybody should do is what inspires...and what feels best, I think.

-Philip
KeithS
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On 2011-04-26 11:47, blueshawk1 wrote:
Not "you guys" - remember, I'm the one who wants to have one main partner like they did back when.
On my follow up statement, I more was not thinking about it being 'necessary' to have more than one character to have a good show, but that most of us have more than one character as part of it, or to use as a different character from time to time.


Thanks, blueshawk1. Please know that no offense was meant in my post!
Bob Baker
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On 2011-04-26 13:49, KeithS wrote:

Thanks, blueshawk1. Please know that no offense was meant in my post!


And none meant in mine.

B
kidshowvent
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You guys (and gals) are the best! Just take a moment to look at how many of the other groups seem to be at each others throats over everything and anything..and then compare it to the civility and the actual WANTING to help a brother or sister vent on this list. I am proud of all of you. The world of venrtiloquism is a better place thanks to all of you!

Sorry if this post sounded a little "sappy".

Mark
markwade@kidshowvent.com
Dickens & Dave
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You're right Mark, that's why I enjoy coming in here.

As for the topic, in the end, I'll just quote Patrick Henry;
"I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me one figure or ten." (.....wait a minute, that quote might not be quite right....)
http://dickensndave.bravehost.com/index.html



"Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest."
Servante
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I have noticed the same thing around these parts. I often take refuge in here while the winds blow and crack their cheeks.

-Philip
Dickens & Dave
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I often take refuge in here while the winds blow and crack their cheeks.

Now that's a very poetic way to put it.
http://dickensndave.bravehost.com/index.html



"Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest."
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