I first read about this interview with Terry Fator in this Post on WorldVents Mailing List by email@example.com :
There are some great articles in the summer edition of Distant Voices magazine.
First: Stealing Material: This fascinating article explores the artful habit of stealing material and how some ventriloquists have stolen from each other and the fights that ensued. One ventriloquist found himself on the floor of his dressing room after one such encounter while another gave his entire act away only to take it back years later.
Terry Fator Blasts Other Ventriloquists. Terry Fator's broadcast on radio in which he said other ventriloquists were "Really Bad" and" Horrible" has offended many ventriloquists. Terry Fator's comments are bluntly rebuffed in an exclusive report by Distant Voices.
Distant Voices magazine is now in its 8th year. Check it out at www ventriloquists.net
I shared with Terry that some vents are offended by his comments. Here is his reply:
Date: Sun, 11 Jul 2010
Thanks Steve. My intention with those comments is a call for vents to step up their game. There is a reason people have such a negative stereotype of vents, and it's up to all of us to help change that perception. I absolutely do not apologize for the comments, and if anyone feels offended then by all means, please prove me wrong! That's all I ask.
Come on everyone! Prove me wrong!
You are more then welcome to post this response on your site if you wish.
My Point of View
July 12 2010, 7:24 AM
I'm deeply offended because I'm a vent myself and second of all that statement isn't completely true. Sure there are bad ventriloquists out there, but there are a bunch of really good ventriloquists, For example there's a vent on YouTube by the name of Dirk Golden. He does move his lips every now and again, but he's really good at creating the illusion that his characters are real. I seriously do think lip control is very important, but at the same time I also believe that even if you have awful lip technique, but can create the illusion real well, and are funny, then you're a good ventriloquist.
July 12 2010, 10:38 AM
I wasn't at all offended by the interview. I would recommend that you listen to it. The mp3 is above.
In the middle of the interview...Terry was very complimentary of Jeff Dunham.
He then listed other great vents that he wanted his name listed with...
....just for the record, that is not the same as saying that every ventriloquist other than he and Jeff is horrible. I have spoken with Terry many time and he has great respect for other vents he didn't mention above. Remember this is all live recording...not a book he's writing where he can make sure he didn't leave anyone specific out.
He is calling you to be the "BEST" you can be.
He is stressing the importance of intense rehearsals, practicing,excellence.
To me this kind of insightful interview is INSPIRATIONAL! My thoughts. Ax
July 12 2010, 10:58 AM
I'm glad I was able to hear Terry's interview. It makes me want to work harder so that, one day, he might mention me as a good ventriloquist.
Not every vent is good, some shouldn't even pretend to be vents... but words of encouragement from one of the masters in the field -- certainly the most profitable vent of all time -- can only make us stronger...if we take it in the vein he intended.
Magical Montana Santa
July 12 2010, 11:16 AM
I guess I didn't really understand what he was trying to say. My thought when I first read it was "Oh crap that Vegas fame has finally gotten to his head. Thank God you posted that interview. I do respect Terry and I guess I just mistook it. My apologies.
July 12 2010, 3:01 PM
Yeah, I'm rather offended too....
I will happily lump myself into the comment made about Dirk Golden, one of my newest vent buds. I too can't help but let my lips wiggle from time to time. Some voices are harder to be made heard than others and can cause this. I know my puppetry is good enough to distract from this, as I've worked at it for over 30 years. I believe praise/encouragement go much farther than being called "bad/horrible", or issuing challanges.
Regardless of how good or not a vent may be, encourage them. Praise what they HAVE accomplished. Encourage them to keep at it. They may never reach the "perfection" of Terry Fator, but at the end of the day they have what all vents have....a deep and undying love of the art. Personally, I would hope I'd NEVER say anything that could cause a starting vent, or any vent for that matter, to pack up their dummies and give up ventriloquism. Comments like Fator's could do that.
Me? I'll stick with Jeff Dunham, Mark Wade, Jimmy Nelson, Dirk Golden, Steve Axtell, Jay Johnson, Pete Michaels, and so many others who choose to teach, encourage, and take a more kind stand with vents who need/want that encouragement and mentoring.
July 12 2010, 3:56 PM
I just finished listening to Terry Fator's interview and want to state, for the record, that I am up for the challenge.
I have always held myself to a high standard where ventriloquism is concerned and don't want to grow complacent; I want to be constantly improving, evolving. Like Terry, I have also run into ventriloquists that didn't appear to take pride in their craft, but that just made me happy that I, too, strive to take what I do to a higher level.
I want people to be excited when they hear that a ventriloquist is going to perform. I don't want to see them rolling their eyes and looking for an exit. We vents have a unique gift to share with the world. Let's go the extra mile for our craft and for those we entertain/serve.
I understand a challenge but....
July 12 2010, 5:20 PM
I too was somewhat offended. I was raised to believe it'snot what you say but how you say it sometimes.
I think Doodles was right when he said comments like that could make a beginner think "If I can't be perfect I should give it up"
I know not all vents are great and some ARE bad, but I hardly found that comment encouraging.
To me ( and this is only my opinion) it screamed of ego. His words were "almost every one is horrible"
Seems pretty cut and dried to me, especially when Terry's reaction was to firmly stand by it, and while I don't think an apology was needed (it was HIS opinion to which he is entitled) but he could have been a bit more gracious and realized how some people could have been hurt by his words.
How would you like the person you admire and look up to say "if you aren't as good as me, you are just horrible"?
whole new level?
July 12 2010, 8:28 PM
He mentions him and Jeff Dunham taking it to a whole new level never seen before. I guess Paul Winchell and Jimmy Nelson didn't have any fans anywhere. And of course, Edgar Bergan didn't make any movies, he just had a radio show. Glad I listened for a real education on the art! I thought I knew a thing or two about ventriloquism, silly me!
July 12 2010, 8:38 PM
I believe it was Jay Johnson who once said,
"If someone sees a bad magician they say, I don't like THAT magician. But if they see a bad ventriloquist they say, I hate VENTRILOQUISM".
I think that's the besy way to put it, not; "hey, you other ventriloquists are lame!"
My work here is done.
My 2 cents
July 13 2010, 10:25 AM
I think Terry had a lot of good advice in the interview. I remember going to the Las Vegas convention several years ago and being amazed at how bad so many ventriloquists were. I literally left thinking, "I should quit because I must be that bad myself." Most of us don't realize how bad we are. We do great looking in the mirror, but we don't get to see ourselves at a show.
Does this mean we should quit? Nah. We still entertain. It does mean that we should concentrate more on our lip movement, diction, and pacing.
Terry gave tribute to the former greats, Edgar Bergen, Jimmy Nelson, and Paul Winchell. When it came to actual lip movement we all know that Edgar Bergen (the most famous of all) was not as good since he spent so much time on the radio. But nobody could beat him at comedy. New scripts for SO MANY shows! He was wonderful.
I have also judged competitions and written down comments for many ventriloquists. Very few are horrible, but MANY move their lips. Most quiver. I have to say that I have bad days myself.
Thanks, Terry, for the tips. Thanks for the wake up call. It really isn't enough for us to say, "Well, they focus on the puppet...so" That's like saying, I don't care if they know how the trick is done as long as they enjoyed the story. (Whoops! I've said that to myself before, too!)
Let's just practice more.
Steve Axtell (For Terry Fator)
From Terry Fator
July 13 2010, 7:13 PM
Terry has been checking in and he emailed this reply for me to post:
I have been reading your posts and I truly am sorry that I offended some of you. I still don't take back my comments or apologize for them, but I do regret that anyone may take issue with them.
I guess I'm the type of person that doesn't take offense, I prove dissenters wrong. My entire career I have listened to people bash ventriloquism. Just recently Larry King was complimenting my show to Bill Maher and he was extremely sarcastic that any ventriloquist could be a success. Larry King commented that I was headlining at the Mirage and Bill said, "Wow! The Mirage must be losing money!" I simply laughed and thought, "Well, if Bill Maher ever comes to the show I'll just have to make sure I'm at the top of my game." To me any "offensive" remark is simply a challenge to work harder and be better. I'm sorry that some of you don't feel that way.
I am very proud of the many great vents out there, and I certainly don't think that Jeff Dunham and myself are in an "exclusive club". But believe me, I also know that it is because of many amazing vents that Jeff and I are as successful as we are. I studied videos of Dan Horn, Ronn Lucas, Edgar Bergen, Jay Johnson, and others for thousands of hours in order to develop my craft. And please do not think that lip movement is the end-all be-all of good ventriloquism. I regard Edgar Bergen as one of the greatest vents ever and we all know that his lip movement was horrendous. My challenge to all vents, including myself, is for all of us to create engaging characters and clever material that is delivered naturally. If you are doing a routine and you have to pause between each line because you have to try to remember what comes next I have problem with that. All of those issues can be resolved by two simple steps: practice and preparation. Feel free to hate me if you wish, but I would much prefer to hear that you are encouraged to be the best you can. That is my only motivation with my comments.
I will not be responding any more, but I can assure you I will read what you write. Feel free to offend me!
July 13 2010, 8:38 PM
I'm willing to bet that not one of the top working vents out there was offended by Terry's comments. Why? Because like him they got to the top by dint of their hard work, their dedication to practice and rehearsal, and their experience of performing thousands of shows. Learning and improving all the while. They knew he wasn't talking about them.
I think only people who thought that they might be among those Terry considers bad vents would be offended. I say if you were offended by what Terry said, take a good hard look at yourself and your performances.
I was truly inspired by Terry. I thought to myself, "You think you're pretty good? Be better. Work harder, rehearse more." I have always thought that the moment I was satisfied with my performance, I was dead as a performer. Terry reminded me of this, and I'll think I'll be a better vent for it. I know I have plenty of flaws as a vent; I video every performance and force myself to study every one. I know I'm never going to be one of the greats or anywhere near it. But at 58 years old I know that I'm too young ever to stop trying.
Thanks, Terry! No offense taken. Inspiration gained.
July 14 2010, 5:13 AM
Remember that there are a lot of great thoughts in this interview. It seems that only one comment is being heard. That's like looking at a beautiful flower garden but only seeing the weed. I particularly enjoyed the comment about shows that never change and the info on the new crash test character. I saw Terry Fator's show in February and loved it. It's nice to know that when I take my family next time I'll get to see something new myself.
For you Terry Fator
July 14 2010, 5:47 AM
Terry I hope you do read this! My personal e-mail address is listed also. If you want to call me, brother AX has my phone number or I will e-mail it to you.
I am at the bottom of the totem poll right now as far as anyone having a clue who I am. I have been writing scrips, working on props, writing music, working on staging and extras. I feel my job/passion is to entertain. To do that I must practice and study my art. I must do so as if I was a surgeon preparing to do heart surgery. This is not just blow, I feel what I say. It is important.
When I was in pro-sports often guys would do just enough to get by. Many of those who went the extra mile, polished their work, they became millionaires or very popular. Those who just gave enough to get by are still complaining about not getting the right shots. I watch hours and hours of video of vents and comedians. I study movement, timing, voice, and etc. I don't want to just get by.
It's like anyone who says they will just wing it. If they are going to just wing it, I would perfer they went to Washington and joined congress, they are good at it. But all it does for Vents is make them harder to book, and to look like jokes for hollywood to make fun of. One event planner said to me about a vent, "that dude was doing that same show five years ago, can't he write anything new?" By the way that guy didn't get hired and the job paid very well. He was good but he was still using worn out materials. Mostly because his geographical area was just four states. If he was global he might have been able to do it better and get by with it, I don't realy know!
I plan to go into this business full time at some point and I want to do more than just get by. I want to be one that helps build the art and the vent industry at large. Time will tell if I have it or not.
I have a few mentors that I look at: Taylor Mason, Jeff Dunham, Ron Lucas and you, plus a few others. These are people who put their all into what they do. It never seems to be just a wing it and a prayer. But well rehersed and professional. Some do the same act to much without change and it gets old, but I like change and freshness myself. I only hope after all of the hard work and hours I put in to my craft that someday I can stand with you! Terry your (30 ?) years of over-night success is well heard. Good job! Thank you for the motivation and professional input. I appreciate it myself. I hope to get to see you perform live someday, it would be an honor. Dwayne Foster
July 14 2010, 8:35 PM
I had to laugh today when a parent came up to me after a show today and said, "You were horrible!" He had a big smile on his face and I knew that he had been the one laughing and groaning the most from the adult section. He explained, "I loved your show, but those puns are horrible!" I laughed and agreed. Puns are meant to get groans as well as chuckles.
Why do pirates only wear one gold earring?
Ans: Because they can't afford two. They're a buck an ear!
July 14 2010, 10:34 PM
DV article and now Paul Zerdin
July 15 2010, 7:16 PM
July 15 2010, 6:47 PM
Wow... I read the Distant voices article today. (someone faxed me a copy of the article) I don't feel it was a fair representation of that interview I heard. Terry has paid his dues and honed his skills for years and years before hitting it big. His words should be taken as a wake up call.. a positive challenge to change the perception of ventriloquism. Anyway, I'm surprised that DV spun it like this.
Today another interview came out with ventriloquist PAUL ZERDIN. Hmmmm... interesting... he also talks about his observations of other vents also ...
The little niche of novelty is waking up and becoming main stream! Its no longer just weekend vents doing birthday parties... its on its way to the big time. I guess these are growing pains, but let's get used to it and let's get better!
Here is Paul Zerdin's interview and what he had to say about "other vents"...
"It's definitely had and I suppose still has a bit of a bad reputation. Ventriloquists are always portrayed as mentalists in films and things, and to be honest I think it's with good reason because most of them are.
"I went to a ventriloquist convention a few years ago in Kentucky, where about 500 ventriloquists take over a hotel for the weekend, and they were bonkers," laughs Paul, a well-known face from Royal Variety Performances.
The tide is slowly turning, and in America in particular, ventriloquists are more likely to be found at the cutting edge of subversive alternative comedy.
The poster boy for this new movement is Terry Fator, winner of America's Got Talent..."
What can we take away from all this? It's exciting times! We are experiencing a movement of vent into the main stream. Will we grow with it?
July 15 2010, 9:36 PM
What's wrong with being bonkers? Normal people are weird
July 16 2010, 7:55 AM
Terry was just saying what the average person thinks. Don't shoot the messenger. Anyone offended by his remarks need to open their eyes and see that the public's feelings are what matters, not yours. Need encouragement? Get out of comedy, then. People owe you politeness? You are selfish and arrogant. Get out of town. You don't belong in comedy, period. ANYONE who encourages a beginning or bad vent with politeness only destroys our art. This is comedy, people. Warfare. It's brutal. Polite audiences mean you have bombed.
I repeat, ANYONE who was offended by Terry's remarks only care about themselves and their own unearned egos. It is the PUBLIC who is offended by these so-called vents. They are the only people's feelings worth considering.
Look, burn those flyers and business cards and start over and do what Waylon Flowers did. If you move your lips, make that part of your image like Waylon did. He didn't HAVE to be a ventriloquist. Quit foisting yourselves off as something you are NOT. The PUBLIC thinks that Bergen was a LOUSY ventriloquist. Sure, they loved Charlie, but the entire nation thought of him as ROTTEN and that becamse a lovable thing. Don't sit there and tell me you think a good vent just has to be funny. It is only the PUBLIC's idea of what a real ventriloquist is is what matters. Guess what? You move your lips? Then do what Waylon Flowers did - make it a point to let peopleknow you are not a vent! Did he ever claim to be a vent?? NO!!!
Madame's first line in a club was always - "As you can see, Waylon is no ventriloquist. But then, I'm no f------ dummy either!"
IT GOT ROARS and made it okay that he was flapping his lips. Why can't yopu people get it? You are FRAUDS ruining our reputation. Grow up and quit being so selfish. Those that are offeded by Terry's remarks are simply selfish, period. They don't care about anyone's feelings but their own.
July 16 2010, 10:33 AM
We here in this forum work hard to educate and train new vents. I am aware that many beginners see pros using Axtell puppets and want to emulate them. Because of our basic low costs many get started with ours and stay with them. Because of this, many of the newbies that are learning are working with our stuff. MANY Young people are getting into vent now because of the top vents bringing the mass spotlight on ventriloquism as a legitimate form of entertainment. That's a good thing but its also one of the reasons we try to push for AXcellence.
Take a moment to check out our Learning Center and read about puppet manipulation, ventriloquism techniques and more
LEARN FROM A PRO
In our International Performer's Directory Vents can list themselves and many of them note that they teach Vent lessons. We do not pre-qualify the listings so please check them out first and make sure they are pros before you contact them. You can see the many entertainers listed herehttp://www.axtell.com/performers.html Pete Michaels in NY is also teaching vent classes and right now is teaching VIP classes at Vent Haven
This Axtell Forum, Vent Haven, World Vents, Ventriloquist Central, Belly Talkers, Distant Voices, etc. all have resources to help you learn and grow. Join them all and ask questions. Learn all you can!
STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE
Work hard, practice hard, put in the time, develop great characters, polish your presentations and showmanship. Don't settle to be one of the horrible, bad, bonkers, mental ventriloquists they are talking about. Be one of the amazing, professional, perfectionistic, hard working, funny, enjoyable, captivating ones!
I do have to say that not everyone rises to the occasion with harsh words and hard knocks. Some do need encouragement to do better and strive harder, and I try to do that here. Not everyone will become a headliner that can step on a stage with Keith but we can all be better. A little better everyday and soon you will notice that you no longer suck. People will actually be laughing and clapping, and asking for your card, and wanting to have you back! : )
Jay Johnson Speaks Out
July 16 2010, 12:31 PM
Jay Johnson joins in the fun....
"The Vent ConVENTion is convening at the DrawBridge in Kentucky this week. I am not there due to some other pressing obligations. However, I am sure the topic of conversation is about the Terry Fator interview. In a radio sit down Terry says that ventriloquists have been "horrible for the last 15 years". You know the old yarn.....You get two magicians together you have a convention. Get two ventriloquists together and you have a fight.
Steve Axtell (member of the Vent Haven Board of Advisors - vent- puppet maker and nice guy) posted the entire interview on his discussion site. You can listen to it yourself at Terry Fator Interview......"
I know I said I wasn't going to respond to any more of these posts, but I feel I must give at least one more response. I promise this will be the last I respond to this!
Believe me, I had no idea I would ever spark any kind of reaction like this. It's hard for me to realize that much has changed and that other vents will be scrutinizing things I say. I truly have an intense desire to be an active part of the vent world that I have respected for 35 years. When I was on America's Got Talent I was terribly hurt by the fact that vents were arguing over the way one statement I said was worded. Some attacked me viscously, others defended me, but I guess it's very hard to understand that anything one can say can spark a such firestorm. I still have a very hard time remembering that my life has changed so drastically. When you are completely unknown for 42 years it is difficult if not impossible (at least for me) to remember that things have changed. Very often these days when I go out strangers call out my name as if they know me (this has been the norm since August 2007), yet it always still surprises me every time. Maybe I'm just an old dog who can't learn any new tricks, eh?
All this being said, please accept my sincere apology for the way my comments were worded. I have been asked countless times why ventriloquism has such a bad reputation, and I have developed my own theories. The main one is that too many of us don't prepare properly or perhaps we don't take the kind of pride in our work that we should. I hoped my remarks would spark us to be better, but obviously some were hurt by them, and for that I am truly sorry.
I tend to speak in hyperbole and gross exaggeration ("That's the best hamburger in the world!" etc.), so my comment was a blanket statement that I wish in retrospect that I had explained a little further. Fact is, I have seen many truly great vents in the last few years: Jay Johnson, Taylor Mason, Dan Horn, Jeff Dunham, Gary Owen, and many others. I was certainly not lumping all of the creative and good hard working vents out there making us all look good with my silly statement. I am so sorry that I didn't make that distinction and I hurt some of you. I am so proud of every vent that is out working and making life easier for us all by changing the negative perception of our incredible art! My intention was to truly spur all of us to strive for excellence, and I am sorry it came across so negative. I really am a very upbeat, positive guy! (My sister calls my Terryanna!)
So if you can forgive me, let's all work together to make the world more vent-friendly. And if you can't forgive me, let's STILL work together to make the world more vent-friendly. Either way we all win!
July 16 2010, 2:08 PM
Thanks for that clarification Terry. We all win indeed. Okay everyone....group hug! Ax
The Two and Only
July 16 2010, 4:28 PM
Jay Johnson has always been so sweet and humble it makes me fall in love with him. He actually thought Terry Fator was referring to him when Terry says vents have been horrible for the last fifteen years. Oh Contrare! Mr. Johnson is one of the most sterling ventriloquists the art has ever seen. Jay has been a truly unique superstar of ventriloquism for over thirty years.
I think when Terry was talking about the last fifteen years, he was referring to Jeff, that lazy lip-moving @(#*%&!
- Keith Singleton
This message has been edited by axtell from IP address 188.8.131.52 on Jul 16, 2010 4:49 PM
LISTEN AGAIN ....it's GOLD!
July 16 2010, 5:08 PM
Okay now that the drama is over and the wounds have been licked.... listen again to the GOLD in this interview. Do not let this go down as an interview where vents were called horrible. Go back and listen again to the experience and the wisdom in this. It's more than the average quickie publicity interview, this is relaxed and candid and insightful... almost like a Charlie Rose PBS spot.
For example - one nugget of gold was when Terry was talking about how back with Texas the Band he missed a word and froze up. He kept making mistakes that night because he was perfectionistic and really pushed himself hard to never make a mistake. Then over time he began to realize that he was there to entertain, not to give a perfect performance. Once he realized that, it freed him up to enjoy the job of entertaining his audience. If he made a mistake, he would laugh and let the audience laugh along with him... that became his new paradigm. Entertain them, not deliver a flawless perfect performance. What a great nugget! That's something big to take away from this.
Keep listening... there is much, much more!
This message has been edited by axtell from IP address 184.108.40.206 on Jul 16, 2010 9:06 PM
July 19 2010, 9:38 AM
Terry said: "I promise this will be the last I respond to this!"
Give me a break!
July 19 2010, 12:20 PM
When I first got into comedy and vent I was amazed that this business was so supportive of me and appeared to not bash others when they heard something they didn't like from others in the biz.
I guess I was just in the right place at the right time. I have been blown away by the number of people who are acting the way they are over Terry's thoughts. It's not hard to say what you think without being a jerk about it.
I for one do not put much into people's remarks when they don't leave a way to contact them or put their real names on their remarks.
Some people are not happy unless they are starting stuff and stirring it up! I feel like I have been back in high school lately with the remarks and attitudes. I am ashamed for our business.
But, I also feel (there are more people who are positive) than negative. Let's support each other and when we do rebut a remark, do so with some taste. This is a forum to build each other, not a wine line!
July 19 2010, 1:02 PM
I attended the convention this year. There was virtually no discussion of the controversy surrounding Terry's comments. I had intended to use the topic for a joke in my open-mic appearance, but when I casually mentioned the incident in various circles, no one seemed to know about it. So it might be an isolated issue.
I didn't use the joke. I didn't want the audience members looking at one another and saying, "What?"
Jeff gave an effective lecture during which he addressed the relative importance of technique to a vent's career. He did not downplay its importance, but each time he mentioned some positive aspect of his recent phenomenal (my term, not his) successes, he said, "And it didn't happen because my lips don't move."
July 19 2010, 2:23 PM
I wish I could have been at the convention. I have enjoyed seeing the pictures and videos from many. I have met many very nice people on Facebook that are vents, magicians and clowns. I look forward to meeting more as I work to better myself as a vent. Have a blessed week, all! Thanks for your kind e-mails. I agree!
Vent discussion around Terry Fator's radio talk
July 20 2010, 10:37 AM
I'm glad Terry mentions the importance of having ENGAGING CHARACTERS and good material.
I'm glad that it was noted that Edgar Bergen's lips moved. But on the movie screen, the audience didn't watch his lips that much. Bergen was less interesting than Charlie McCarthy, Mortimer Snerd or Effie---he was kind of in the background, so to speak. The CHARACTERS were strong characters, and they said funny things. A ventriloquist's "non-moving lips" can add to the illusion, but good manipulation of the figure and strong personalities of the puppets or vent dummies is more important, as Wayland Flowers or Edgar Bergen BOTH proved repeatedly.
The timing of the figure's movements, and the manipulation that gives life to the figure (basically good puppetry) are elements lacking in a bad vent act, and unfortunately I've seen bad acts.
A bad puppet show or a bad vent act makes it harder for good acts, yet a bad violinist does not make it harder for a good violinist. I think that's because there are a lot more violinists, and a lot fewer puppeteers and ventriloquists.
Terry Fator simply raised a subject that needs to be aired. Pay attention and don't shoot the messenger.
International Puppetry Museum
Magical Montana Santa
re: group hug
July 20 2010, 6:45 PM
No more group hugs until you guys start using deoderant!!!!