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Henry Rox ( Fedor Wittkowski ) with ventriloquist doll Max

A ventriloquist , sometimes Latinized as a ventriloquist (from the Latin venter 'belly' and loqui 'talking'), manipulates his voice in such a way that it appears to be coming from another person, a doll, or from another direction. Often art is used to entertain people.

Sound formation

Bringing words out without moving your mouth is an art. In the past, people actually believed that the voice came from the gut. In fact, there are different ventriloquism techniques. None of them have anything to do with “speaking from the gut”. Contrary to popular belief, anyone can learn ventriloquism, as no special physique is required. When learning ventriloquism, a distinction is made between “jaw sounds” and “lip sounds”. Jaw sounds are letters of the alphabet that do not have to be formed with the lips (a, e, i, o, u, l, s ...). When practicing, only the jaw needs to be kept still.

Lip sounds are more difficult to form (b, p, f, m, w). Forming them without the use of the lips takes practice. Aids here are the tongue and the palate. Some ventriloquists make do

  • by avoiding words that contain lip sounds in their dialogues,
  • that substitute consonants are used, for example a "b" is replaced by a "d" or "w" or an "m" is replaced by an "n". The right word is “recognized” by the audience from the context (the dialogue with the human part) or the doll is spoken in such a high-pitched voice that this trick is not noticeable.
  • by staging the performance in such a way that the perfectly rehearsed dialogues with the lip sounds fall to the human part and the doll reacts to them without having to use lip sounds or repeating the words with the substitute consonants. What seems like a chance conversation between ventriloquist and puppet is actually a rehearsed text that can be varied after some practice.

History and famous ventriloquists

Edgar Bergen with Charlie
Sebastian Reich with Amanda
Kliby and Caroline

The most common form of ventriloquism today, which is performed in variety shows - previously also in the vaudeville theater - is just over 100 years old in this form. In vaudeville it was not the humor that was in the foreground of a ventriloquist piece, but the ability of the artist to deceive his audience with quickly changing voices with as many people or dolls or animals as possible.

A well-known ventriloquist of antiquity was Eurykles of Athens . In the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Era, ventriloquists were sometimes burned as magicians or witches, but were also used by monarchs as court jesters .

In the United States , Jules Vernon was a famous ventriloquist in vaudeville who demonstrated his skills on several characters. Perhaps the most famous was The Great Lester , who used only a single doll, named Frank Byron, Jr. , and who used it to establish many standards that are still performed in performances today. In Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, the ventriloquist Fedor Wittkowski performed under the stage name Henry Rox not only in variety shows with his doll Max , he also trained dogs that he disguised (as a sailor, among other things) and allowed them to speak.

In the middle of the 20th century, a student of The Great Lester , Edgar Bergen , became extremely popular with his doll Charlie McCarthy not only in variety shows, he even appeared with her on radio shows where the doll could not be seen. In these shows, the doll, actually Bergen, etc. a. Word battles with actor WC Fields . In the 1950s and 1960s in the United States, Paul Winchell became very famous for his dolls on television.

The most famous English-speaking ventriloquist in recent years is Jeff Dunham , while Sascha Grammel and Sebastian Reich have brought the art of ventriloquism back into the limelight through their television appearances.

The Swiss Urs Kliby with his cheeky donkey doll Caroline achieved great popularity - also outside his home country - in the 1970s and 1980s .


In the Batman comics , the villain Arnold Wesker appears as a ventriloquist (English Ventriloquist ) .

Web links

Wiktionary: ventriloquist  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Ventriloquist  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Theodor Simon Flatau, Hermann Gutzmann: The ventriloquist art: Historical and experimental investigations . Ambr. Abel, Leipzig 1894, OCLC 11405495 .