Howdy-Doody, Charlie McCarthy, Willie Talk, Bozo the Clown, Danny O’Day, Emmett Kelly Clown, Mortimer Snerd, Micky Mouse: Do you know who these guys are? If you guess correctly you guessed that these are ventriloquism dummies. I was probably 9 or 10 when I was introduced into the world of ventriloquism. You won’t see them often and I’m not sure what fueled my fascination but for about 3 or 4 years, every birthday, Christmas and every dime I earned went into buying the 8 guys listed above. I’d do shows for my sister and brother and some of the neighborhood kids (Johnny, JP, Chuck, PJ - if any girls lived in our neighborhood I didn’t know about them at that age - they couldn’t play football or basketball so they were unimportant then).
I seem to remember that my brother, Carey, had a Charlie McCarthy dummy too. One year Miss America’s talent was ventriloquism. And there’s the occasional adult performer who’ll entertain with them. And then there’s my friend Zeke and his traveling companion Jerrie. Some folks called them “dolls” but I never liked that - boys didn’t play with dolls in my world. I was never really good at it but I was fascinated by them. You pull a string, and “throw” your discussed voice to try to make it appear the dummy is talking.
As I’ve seen it basically there are two kinds of “shows”. One method the “dummy” pokes jokes at the expense of the “handler”. The other the dummy serves as the passive aggressive voice of the handler. With the dummy saying things that the handler would never say with his own voice and the handler rebuking the dummy for being so off the wall.
Ventriloquism can be pretty funny but it also could be pretty brutal.
Especially hurtful are the “church ventriloquists”. Yes, church ventriloquists. She’s the lady who comes to you saying: “Someone told me they didn’t like it that...” That invisible “someone” is just pulling her string. My experience more often than not it’s a real ventriloquism show as the “someone” who she is “talking” for is really herself, she just doesn’t want to own her words. Or he’s the guy who says: “A lot of people are saying.” Again this “lot” (typically he and one other person - most often his wife) is just pulling his string.
Sometimes it’s someone with good intentions in their own heart trying to warn but even then they’d do so much better when someone starts to stop them and send them or bring them with their concern (i.e. “concern” for the purpose of this article most often equals “gripe”).
I do honestly appreciate the effort and when someone comes with their own voice it is rare that Christians can't come to a godly understanding. I want to believe the best of all but I’ve had so many ministers and church leaders who in their hurt have been discouraged by the anonymous “church ventriloquist”, please don’t be them.