Complete Program

The Maher Ventriloquist Course will teach you the various types of voices, the secret of "voice throwing", how to talk without moving your lips, how to throw your voice to distant places, and more. You will receive instructions on script writing, obtaining publicity, and booking shows.

To visually supplement the 30 sixteen page printed lessons of the Maher Course we will include the DVD, Successful Ventriloquism, which will explain and demonstrate the techniques taught on the lesson pages.

A Basic Certificate is awarded after completion of Lessons 1-15, and an Advanced Certificate is awarded after completion of Lessons 16-30. You may purchase the entire Maher Ventriloquist Course program (Thirty Lesson Booklets, DVD, and Support Services including Completion Certificates) from Mr. D. for $129.95 (free shipping).

Anyone can learn!

All you need to begin is a normal speaking voice and the desire to learn. You provide these two items and the instruction in the Lesson's text will provide the rest. This program has been designed for a student of any age. (Our beginning students have ranged from ages 7 t0 87!). A minimum of 15-20 minutes daily practice and most students begin performing within six weeks!

Personal assistance!

Best of all, you will receive all the personal asisstance and support you need (during and following your study of the lessons) by email. You will also want to take advanage of Mr. D's Daily Ventriloquist Journal , a daily ventriloquist blog where discussions and posts frequently are designed to aid the beginner ventriloquist.

Nationally recognized program!

The Maher Course has been featured nationally on the NBC Today Television Show, on the front cover of the Wall Street Journal, in the prestigious Smithsonian Magazine, in the Atlantic Monthly, New York Times and many other visual and print media - all for the same reason - the Maher 30 Lesson Course is unique and proven effective!

Basic Lessons 1-15

Lesson 1 - Introduction to Ventriloquism, Speech Production, and A Word to Pre-Teen Students.

Lesson 2 - The Ventriloquist Voice, Voice Throwing, Breathing and Breath Control, and The Ventriloquist Mouth Position.

Lesson 3 - More on the Ventriloquist Mouth Position and the Ventriloquial Voice, The Ventril-o-aid and its use, and Resonant Sounds.

Lesson 4 - Secret of the Ventriloquist Voice, Voice Placement, The Breath Streams and Voice "Throwing", plus Practice Suggestions and Tips.

Lesson 5 - Ventriloquist Figures and Puppets, "Hard" Puppets vs. "Soft" Puppets, Novelty Puppets, Selecting a Figure or Puppet.

Lesson 6 - Mouth Synchronization, Tips For Practicing Daily, and Naming Your Puppet.

Lesson 7 - Manipulation of the Ventriloquist Figure, Real-Life Actions, Taking Advantage of Mistakes, plus Practice Tips and Secrets.

Lesson 8 - Making the Most of Eye Movement, Pantomime Practice, "Rule-of-Three", and Positions for Performance.

Lesson 9 - Daily Practice Secrets and Suggestions, The "Magical" Word, Dealing With "Pucker" Words, Moods and More, and Pre-Show Preparation.

Lesson 10 - Letters W, H, and Wh, Care of the Ventriloquist Figure, and the Slam-Bang Close.

Lesson 11 - Labial Preparation, Substitute and Alternate Letters, "Focus on F", and "Visit with V".

Lesson 12 - "Bothersome Labial B", "Pesky Labial P", plus Variations and Tips.

Lesson 13 - Technique vs. Entertainment Skills, The Success of Simplicity, Dangers of Comparison and Imitation, and Tips for Practice.

Lesson 14 - The Importance of an Act, Gestures for Greatest Impact, Pantomime Practice, Practice Dialogue, and Tips For Practice.

Lesson 15 - Banquet Performing, Involving the Audience in the Show, Reacting to the Unexpected, Mannerisms, Movement, and Courtesy.

Advanced Lessons 16-30

Lesson 16 - Developing a Character, Straight Man & Comedian, Put Downs and Insults, and Effective Joke Telling.

Lesson 17 - Writing and Rewriting Jokes, Adding Punch to the Punch Line, Ventriloquist Comedy Storytelling, and Situation Comedy.

Lesson 18 - The Value of Visual Humor, Remarks to Cover Unexpected Events, Proper and Consistent Phrasing, and Encores.

Lesson 19 - Writing Effective Routines, Polishing and Perfecting Dialogues, Getting the Most From Dialogue Delivery, and Professional Pointers.

Lesson 20 - Creating Original Comedy, Impromptu Ventriloquist Shows, Movements for Misdirection, and Wardrobe.

Lesson 21 - Always Give a Good Performance, Audience Participation, Performing With Multiple figures, and Robotics.

Lesson 22 - Overcoming Stage Fright, Confidence Building, Theatrical Sense and Timing, and Dialogue Memorization.

Lesson 23 - Introduction to Distant Ventriloquism, Voice Throwing, The Muffled Voice, and Distant Voice Illusion.

Lesson 24 - The Far Distant Voice, Variations For Use of the Far Distant Voice, Practice Pointers, and Summary of Rules for the Distant Voice.

Lesson 25 - Closeup Use of the Far Distant Voice, Polyphony and Imitations, Length of An Act, and Adding Song to the Show.

Lesson 26 - Audience Types (an Overview), Children's Audiences, and Twenty Suggestions for Making the Most o a Performance for Children.

Lesson 27 - School and Li bray Shows, Senior Adult Shows, Church Opportunities, Family Shows, Civic, Club, and Corporate Shows.

Lesson 28 - Television for the Ventriloquist, Take Your Hobby to Work, Making Your Hobby Pay, and How Much to Charge.

Lesson 29 - Amateur, Semi-Professional, and Professional Performing. Dare to Dream!

Lesson 30 - Entrance, Bow and Exit. Audience Warm-up. Atmosphere, Poise, Showmanship, and Applause. Gospel Ventriloquism.

Lesson One


You have just begun an exciting adventure into the fascinating and ever expanding world of ventriloquism!
How good a ventriloquist you will become depends a great deal upon YOURSELF. You will learn from this Course in direct proportion to what you put into it of your own interest and sincere effort. But all effort on your part will be FUN because your little ventriloquist pal will keep you company as your faithful partner during study and practice.

And we’re here, too, to answer any of your questions that arise during your study. And we’ll have some laughs together as well. Even your ventriloquist partner will make YOU laugh many times.

Everybody enjoys a good laugh. Wit and humor are loved by all. The individual who has these qualities and shares them with others is always loved and admired. YOU can be that person! If you will faithfully follow the instructions in this Course it will be easy. So, let’s get started!

To be a Ventriloquist is to be an Actor. A ventriloquist has two parts to play. The part of himself is called the "Straight Man" in show business. The part the vent figure (dummy) or vent puppet plays is that of "Comedian." While your little pal will help you, you are always the actor. You will ACT as one person and you will make him ACT as the other. When you are a good Actor/Ventriloquist, people will actually feel as though they are watching two very ALIVE personalities holding a conversation together. Through this Course you will learn how to make your little pal seem very much alive! At times you may even find yourself being caught up in the
act! Perhaps this is a good time to explain briefly the two most popular types of ventriloquism. Two examples follow in the next paragraph.

There are two primary types of ventriloquism: NEAR and DISTANT.

When the Ventriloquist holds the vent figure (dummy) on his knee or lap, or has placed it on a vent stand next to himself and makes it appear and sound as though the figure is alive, this is called "NEAR Ventriloquism." But if the ventriloquist is standing on one side of the stage and makes it sound as if the figure is calling from its suitcase which is sitting on the far opposite side of the stage, this is called "DISTANT Ventriloquism." Both are considered throwing the voice by the layperson. This Course will teach you both near and distant ventriloquism. So as not to get "the cart before the horse" we will begin by learning Near Ventriloquism.

When you attend a play or watch a movie you become very much involved in the story as it unfolds. The characters seem very real to you at the time. You want the hero to be happy and the bad guy to get his due. Although you know it isn’t at all REAL or TRUE, you are caught up with the excitement or suspense at the time. You are drawn into the MAGIC of the act. If the production is well done you really LIVE the parts with the actors. If their part is sad, you feel sad. If their parts are happy, you feel happy and laugh with them. In reality you know all the time that it is an ILLUSION and yet you enjoy it as being quite REAL at the moment. For a brief time you are drawn away from everyday life and you step temporarily into the world of MAKE-BELIEVE. Not unlike what we all did often as children and aren’t we always children at heart to some degree?
Almost everyone enjoys entertainment. Ventriloquism is one of the most ancient forms of entertainment which in its contemporary presentation continues to captivate and entertain modern audiences throughout the world! So, the curtain is now opening and the SECRETS of ventriloquism will be revealed to you. They will become your own. Learn them well so that you can step out on your own stage and delight audiences of your own.

Ventriloquism is an illusion; a very enjoyable, harmless illusion. Everyone knows that a little puppet can’t talk by himself. When it is alone it is nothing more than pieces of fabric and wood. But, in your hands, smiling up at you with it’s bright painted smile, and looking all around tossing wise-cracks at the audience, it will be seen as a very cute and ALIVE personality. This is because you are lending the puppet your voice, your spirit, and your wit, Your vent partner will become one of your best friends...your faithful pal. At times YOU may even be surprised with the things he says or does! At such times it will convince even you with its real life actions. Your puppet will become REAL to you and will often "put one over on you" as you perform.

It’s all in fun...more FUN than you could possibly imagine. But experience will prove this to be true. When you hear the audience roaring with laughter and thoroughly enjoying themselves, you will enjoy a THRILL such as you’ve never enjoyed before in your life. It’s all because of YOU and your little pal! And, every time you perform you will find it is still just as exciting, just as worthwhile, just as much FUN.

Ventriloquism is more than just entertainment, however. There are an ever increasing number of very practical uses of this fascinating art. Education, sales, therapy, ministry and religious instruction, speech correction, motivational talks and prevention programs - these are just a few examples. These will be covered in detail in later lessons. There are two ingredients common to all such applications. The very presentation of ventriloquism ( for any purpose ) is enjoyable to the listener, and is rewarding to the performer.

Magic and ventriloquism have similarities. Ventriloquism is to the ear what magic is to the eye. The illusion of magic is made possible because "the hand is quicker than the eye." Both art forms are made possible
through misdirection. The magician uses misdirection to cause the audience to see only that which he wants them to see. In a unique way the illusion of ventriloquism is made also possible assisted by sight.

The human ear has difficulty judging accurately the direction of sound. Knowing this fact, the ventriloquist furthers the illusion with some act, word, or gesture that directs the attention of his audience to the place from which he wants them to believe the sound was produced. It’s all very convincing and believable to the listener and some will even argue that they actually heard the voice come from the puppet’s mouth! You, however, know the truth - the voice cannot be actually thrown to some point apart from yourself. That’s impossible. But you WILL be able to convince people you can "throw your voice." Only you know the SECRET: it’s always an illusion and a very convincing one at that!

Voice "throwing" - Fact or Fiction?

Ventriloquism has always been a mysterious and fascinating ART. History records the art being practiced centuries ago in the ancient temples and places of religious worship. Some ventriloquist historians feel the Old Testament account of the Witch of Endor involves the ancient practice of ventriloquism. However, it is our opinion that the spiritist used no form of ventriloquism, nor is there any other Biblical record of an instance where ventriloquism was used. Certainly there were those in Biblical times who practiced ventriloquism in one form or another. In fact, it is likely that voice illusion and trickery are as old as the human race. Ancient tribesmen certainly used voice illusions, sounds and vocal mimicry to capture game for food or trick their enemies for protection.

During games of Hide and Seek as a youngster we used vocal sounds to trick the person who was "it." While the term "Ventriloquism" is a fairly recent one in history, voice illusion and trickery is nothing new.

The SECRETS of modern ventriloquism have been closely guarded for the most part. This has resulted in an art that has not been common nor easily acquired.

Most people think the ventriloquist has a throat or voice box that is capable of doing something that ordinary people are unable to do. While this is not true, it has certainly helped keep the secret of the art from being learned by more than just a select few people. Ventriloquism has remained mysterious, and therefore - very fascinating.

Today’s public is more educated about the art of ventriloquism and it is rare to meet someone who still believes the puppet’s voice originates from some hidden recording device. Listeners know the ventriloquist is producing the additional voices and that is exactly why they will be entertained and fascinated by your skills. YOU are doing something they cannot!

When an admiring fan asks, "How do you do that?" we suggest you continue the mystery of the art by withholding the secrets of ventriloquism. When you possess this mysterious, entertaining ability without divulging details, your talent will be appreciated more and YOU will be more interesting and appreciated. You can answer the above question with a joking reply such as, "Very carefully!" or "Very well!"

If someone asks "Can you throw your voice?" give them a humorous non-answer such as, "I’m still new at this so I have to be careful...once I threw it too far...and it left me SPEECHLESS!"

Like any other art or subject that requires study and practice for accomplishment, so does the art of ventriloquism. The student must have a very sincere desire to learn and dedication to the task. You will need to give these lessons and their instructions your focused thought and undivided attention. It is extremely important that you do the exercises as directed. This will be a team effort with you doing your part while we assist as needed to insure your success. From experience and from other student’s testimonials we can assure you that any time you spend in study and practice will prove to be time well invested. In addition to your dedicated practice sessions you’ll find many creative ways to include brief times of practice throughout your normal daily schedule, as well. And you’ll be richly repaid for your efforts!

One person talking for two?

As a ventriloquist you are to sound like two people talking in conversation together. Difficult? Not really - not if you follow our step-by-step directions. First we’ll discuss YOUR responsibility as the Ventriloquist. Then we’ll turn our attention to your puppet partner and the talking you will be doing for him. Both voices in the conversation must be spoken with a clear voice. All who hear you must be able to understand the words of your funny jokes and witty comments.
Incidentally, we should probably pause a moment to explain the ventriloquist’s use of the term "Dummy." The "Dummy" is the ventriloquist’s good friend so in no way does the ventriloquist intend to imply that his partner is stupid or dumb. "Dummy" is actually an affectionate term when used by the ventriloquist, we suppose. However, not every lay person understands this fact. This is why most ventriloquists today refer to their partner as a "Puppet" or "Figure." Some also call their sidekicks "Dolls," but this is less common and somewhat confusing. We recommend "Puppet" or "Figure" as a generic term.

There is one very simple solution to this problem, and that is for you to always refer to your pal by its NAME. You’re going to learn to think of it as a "real" personality so it makes practical sense to refer to it by name just as you would any other real person.

Throughout these lessons we’ll use the terms Figure, Puppet, and on occasion, "Dummy" when referring to the little character at your side. It won’t be long before these terms bring a specific face or personality into your mind and that’s as it should be.

Now that you understand some of the terminology of ventriloquism, let’s turn our attention back to the subject of "Clear Speech." There’s nothing more frustrating than to hear a ventriloquist tell what you’re sure must be one funny joke after another, but you can’t understand what’s being said. It’s frustrating to both the listener who doesn’t laugh because he could not understand the punch line, as well as to the ventriloquist who can’t figure out why no one is laughing at his jokes!

YOU now own the secret of clear ventriloquist speech. The Creator has give you marvelous speech organs with which to make sound. You’re using them already; we’re just going to help you discover the secret to using them in wonderful new ways. Let’s do some exploring of your speech will be like a treasure hunt!
We’ll quickly discuss what goes on within your mouth when you speak. It’s a fascinating combination of things. You may want to get a small mirror and try this while looking into the mirror: open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue. What do you see? That’s right...a face with a tongue sticking out at you. And what does that have to do with clear speech? Nothing at the moment...but if we brought a smile to the reflected face in your mirror, then we’re getting in the proper mood.

As a more serious exercise, slowly yawn and feel the back of your throat open. Do it gently. Do you feel it? Okay. Now say the following words and stretch that arch in the back of your throat wide open and let the words flow out BIG and CLEAR: "Ahh...I’m so glad I’m alone..." Let your mouth and lips move normally. This
lesson has nothing to do with Ventriloquial Speech. That will come a bit later.)

Vowel sounds flow primarily through the mouth from the wide open throat. Say the above sentence (in bold print) and you’ll feel it happen. There are consonant sounds, however, which restrict and even stop the flow of sound from the mouth. Try saying this: "Bears growl...grrrr; bees buzz...bzzzz. Grrrr - Bzzzz - Grrrr - Bzzzz!" (If you spot anyone looking at you curiously at this point, just tell them you’re doing your homework!) Such sounds as these create slight vibrations. You may have felt a tickling sensation on the roof of your mouth. Sound vibrations create voice resonance which is very important to the ventriloquist.

Time out for a riddle: What makes "Tall Ventriloquists" unique? We’ll give you one hint. It has something to do with our discussion here and the answer will on.

Let’s explore the inside of the mouth a bit further. Start with the tip of your tongue at the back of your upper teeth, moving the tongue backward and upward along the roof of your mouth. You will feel a point where the tongue passes over a hump and suddenly moves upward. This bump you feel just in back of your upper teeth is called the "Alveolar Ridge." The Alveolar Ridge will play an important part in your ability to speak ventriloquially without moving your lips.

The front portion of the roof of your mouth just behind the Alveolar Ridge has a hard surface and is called the "Hard Palate." Sound is produced by vibrations on a solid body and this portion of your mouth acts as a sounding board. Just as the fingers of a musician play an instrument, so your tongue touches the Alveolar Ridge and Hard Palate to form various sounds. You do all this without thought when you speak. But now as you begin your study of ventriloquism, we’ll teach you to use these features for some vocal tricks and speech variations which are quite amazing.

Try this vocal test (without trying to hold your lips still). Say the following words and listen to the sound of the vowels:
A as in Cat
E as in Get
I as in Pin
O as in Cot
U as in Put
Say them several times over and notice that your tongue points to the back of your lower teeth while the middle part of your tongue changes positions with the various vowel sounds. This changing of positions governs the vibrations of air you force from your throat. The tongue assists as a sounding board, helping to make the varying sounds. You may have tried filling a drinking glass with varying amounts of water and upon striking the glass with a spoon, you have listened to the different tones, governed by the varying amount of liquid. The action of your tongue during speech is very much like that, continually changing position and shape to govern the amount of sound vibrations and thus changing the tone.

By the way, do you remember the riddle mentioned earlier? What makes "Tall Ventriloquists" unique? Well, here’s the answer. The two words, "Tall Ventriloquists" contain all five vowel letters, and in their alphabetical sequence. Just an intriguing bit that a past student shared and we pass on for your enjoyment.

If you run the tip of your tongue over the roof of your mouth from front to rear, you will feel the point where the roof of your mouth becomes soft. The soft portion is called the Soft Palate. It is a continuation of the Hard Palate. You may even be able to feel where the soft palate ends in two veil-like fleshy arches, the Palatine Arches. The thickness of the soft palate and the palatine arches also change from vowel to vowel as they are spoken. And all without any conscious effort on your part. Amazing!

The rigid and bony surfaces in your mouth, throat, and head are very important to the ventriloquist voice you will soon be practicing, for they act as sounding boards that will brighten and project the tone produced by the vocal chords. But the soft surfaces in your mouth and throat are equally important as they will soften and mellow tones where that is advantageous.

In the center of your throat, directly in the middle of the arch opening in the back, hangs an amazing little item called the Uvula. Like a circus acrobat, the very active uvula at the back of your throat becomes vital during speech production. It raises for the vowels and lowers for the consonants and resonant sounds. The letters M, N, and NG produce the greatest resonant sounds.

When you say a sound such as ahh, you’ll notice that your uvula curls upward to open the throat wide so the tone flows freely with pureness and volume. On the word CAT, however, your tongue and uvula team up to first block the back of the throat in preparation for the explosive C, and then immediately pull away to open the throat fully for the smooth flow of breath carrying the sound of the A, which is immediately followed by the action of the tip of your tongue instantly stopping the vowel sound when it presses in an instant against the alveolar ridge for the sharp sound of T. One short word of only three letters, yet saying it requires more than three distinct actions of your tongue and uvula. Wow! (Notice how your tongue gets totally out of the way when you say Wow, but what happened with your lips?) So what’s the big deal with all this word study? just wait!

V: What time of day did God create Adam?
F: I think it was just before Eve...
Adapted from Who Was the First Man, #845 Short Bible Routines

Time out for a word about the large cartilage known as the Adam’s Apple. Just where is the Adam’s Apple located? (No, not in the Garden of Eden - at least not the one we have in mind.) Touch your throat at the point where you feel your Adam’s Apple (and with some people it is more easily felt than on others). Directly behind your Adam’s Apple is your Larynx which houses your Vocal cords or voice box. The voice box is probably the most sensitive, most valuable sound producing instrument ever created. And, it is ALL YOURS, belonging only to you. And you are the artist who can make it do what you will, and as a ventriloquist, you will learn to make it do some amazing things!

If you place your fingers on your Adam’s Apple and say "zzzzzzzzzzz" you will most certainly feel the "buzz" or vibration. It is made by the flow of breath through your vocal cords producing tone inside your throat. Now say "oooooooo" and you will likely feel the vibrations from this sound as well.

The vocal cords lie horizontally within the larynx. They have tiny lips which assume different positions as each sound is formed. Perhaps you have tried slitting a piece of grass or reed and then when you blew through it, it made a screech or whistle. The air passing through the reed causes it to vibrate which makes the sound. Just so with the little vocal cords. And the Adam’s Apple with it’s neighboring cavities form the resounding body.

Breath passes from the lungs to the back of the throat through the trachea, more commonly called the windpipe. When your breath reaches the back of your throat it comes to the Palatine arch where the Uvula either lifts to let the vowel sound flow freely through the mouth, or the tongue and uvula team up to divert the resonant tones (such as M, N, and NG) upward into the resonant chambers and then through the nose. This somewhat nasal RESONANCE allows sound to be carried a comparatively long distance without shouting, a great asset to the ventriloquist.

You’ve certainly on some occasion tossed a rock or pebble into a lake and watched the ever enlarging circle of ripples that spread over the water as a result. Well, this is what happens to sound when it is projected. The invisible circles or vibrations of sound are just as real as those seen upon the water, only the vibrations of sound are heard and not seen.

Resonance: Ringing; capable of returning sound, or - to ring again.

We’ve already mentioned the resonance chambers that are located throughout the nose and head. Humming sounds take the greatest advantage of these important chambers. You can prove this to yourself by humming while holding the sides of your nose gently. Feel the vibrations of sound tingling through your nose and cheeks?

While we offer no extra credit for this, here is a simple yet fascinating experiment taken from the book Song, Speech, and Ventriloquism (now out of print) by Larry Kettlekamp. Blow across an empty glass soda bottle or similar glass bottle. Listen carefully to the tone the bottle makes. Now ask a friend to sing the same tone. To help, blow a long tone on the bottle while your friend vocally runs up and down the scale to find the matching tone. If the bottle is large you may want to partially fill it with water to raise the tone making it easier for your friend to sing.

When the tone is found by your friend, hold the open end of the bottle to your ear but do not block the opening to either the bottle or your ear. Ask your friend to stand quite near and sing up and down the scale. When the note sung matches that of the bottle, the bottle will amazingly produce a soft tone just as though you had blown across the opening! Why? Because the vibrations (ripples) of sound produced by the singer’s vocal cords passed through the air to the bottle. Whenever the tone matched that of the bottle, the vibrations also matched that of the air inside the bottle "magically" producing the same note.

The working of the resonators within your head and nose is very similar. The task of the resonators is very important for normal speech, but the quality they add to the ventriloquial voice is even more important.
Okay, we’re not mind readers, but we know by now you are wondering why we spent much of this entire lesson focused on the voice producing mechanisms of our bodies. Good question. Ventriloquism IS voice production. So all the time we spend here to help improve your understanding of vocal production will help make you a better ventriloquist. Here’s another tip - students have found that voice, speech, and drama classes have aided their ventriloquial effort. And, vice versa, of course.

This Lesson One is the most technical lesson of the entire Maher Course. But your voice is the instrument upon which you will play your wit and you must know your instrument. The more you learn about your "instrument" the better you will care for it and the more you will appreciate what has been entrusted for your use.

By using your voice as a ventriloquist you become a performing artist just as much as a pianist, guitarist, or any other musician! You have in your possession a delicately constructed mechanism that is more sensitive, more powerful, and with greater possibilities than the most valuable Stradivarius violin in the entire world!
In Lesson Two we will take up the subject of Voice Contrast, vitally important to your ventriloquist effort, since the voice for your "puppet" must sound different from your own voice. And there will be some special exercises designed to improve the quality of both your natural and ventriloquial voices.

Lesson One, Maher Ventriloquist Course, copyright 2002 by Clinton Detweiler, PO Box 420. Littleton, Colorado 80160