Comedy – 1979 – HBO Special – Blockheads – The Art Of Ventriloquism – Host Mariette Hartley


Ventriloquism, or ventriloquy, is an act of stagecraft in which a person, a ventriloquist, changes his or her voice so that it appears that the voice is coming from elsewhere….typically a puppet or “dummy”…..as in the act of ventriloquism is the ability to do so is commonly called the ability to “throw” one’s voice…. while making the dummy appear to be talking….as the entertainment of ventriloquism came of age during the era of the music hall in the United Kingdom….and in vaudeville in the United States…..when George Sutton began to incorporate a puppet act into his routine at Nottingham in the 1830’s….but it is Fred Russell who is regarded as the father of modern ventriloquism….when in 1886, he was offered a professional engagement at the Palace Theater in London….and took up his stage career permanently. His act, based on the cheeky-boy dummy “Coster Joe”….who would sit in his lap and ‘”ngage in a dialogue” with him in a highly influential form of entertainment format….and was adopted by the next generation of performers. 

Fred Russell’s successful comedy team format was applied by the next generation of ventriloquists….as it was advanced forward by the British Arthur Prince with his dummy Sailor Jim….who became one of the highest paid entertainers on the music hall circuit….as well as by the Americans The Great Lester, Frank Byron, Jr., and Edgar Bergen…..when Bergen popularized the idea of the comedic ventriloquist.….when Bergen and his favorite dummy, Charlie McCarthy, hosted a radio program that was broadcast from 1937 to 1956…..and was the # 1 program on the nights it aired….as Bergen continued performing until his death in 1978….and his popularity inspired many other famous ventriloquists who followed him including Paul Winchell, Jimmy Nelson, David Strassman, Jeff Dunham, Terry Fator, Ronn Lucas, Wayland Flowers, Shari Lewis, Willie Tyler, Jay Johnson, Nina Conti, and Darci Lynne Farmer…..as both Tyler and Johnson are featured herewith in this video of Blockheads.  This HBO production of Blockheads is hosted by actress Mariette Hartley….as she introduces the best of the best at comedic ventriloquism of the 1970’s and 1980’s….and is well worth the watch for any person who just loves the “dummy”…..and by anyone who simply just likes to laugh.

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