Frequently Asked Questions
Vent News & Events
The Secret
Asked Questions



Listen to Charlie McCarthy
and Edgar Bergen!

"Edgar Bergen and
Charlie McCarthy Show."

(unknown) (0:19)

(mp3 format)

Where do you
want to go?


You have questions, Ronnie and I have answers. We've received lots of interesting emails over the years from people of all ages looking for information--students, teachers, stay-at-home moms, retired folks, and people simply interested in ventriloquism. Here's one we recently received that was particularly thoughtful:

"Hello Mrs.Gollnick, My name is Ben M. I am a 7th grader doing a report on Ventriloquism and I was wondering if you could give me answers to some of the questions I've had.

  1. What is some of the History of Ventriloquism?
  2. Could you give me a list of people who were famous and what were they like?
  3. How did Mr. Joy Cummings and Willy influence you to become a ventriloquist?
  4. How did you use Ventriloquism in your childhood?
  5. What was your day job other than Ventriloquism?
  6. Did you ever meet any other famous Ventriloquists and if you did, what where they like?

  7. Thank you so much for listening and I await your response!"
    ~ Ben M.

You can read my answers to Ben below.

"Dear Kimn, I am new to Ventriloquism but have a wealth of experience in theatrics, music and puppetry in the church world and have always had a desire to have this 'partner'. Can you send me resources as far as where I can get a simple but colorful 'Dummy'? Thank you!" ~ Becca A.

Congratulations on your desire to perform as a ventriloquist! Sadly, my favorite supplier, Maher Studios, closed when the owners retired in April 2006. I suggest visiting One Way Street, Inc. and Axtel Expressions. I believe they also provide links to other sites you might find helpful.

FYI, the entry-level vent figure (semi-pro) costs around $300-$400. Custom-made dummies run $700 and higher. I suggest beginners start with a soft full-body puppet like those available at One Way Street.

~ Kimn Swenson Gollnick & "RONNIE Smith"

Ronnie says, "Be careful--why would anyone want to become an expert in talking to . . . themselves? HeeHee!"

"Dear Kimn, in highschool I had a cheap figure I use to play with. Now I am 44 and still wanting to be a ventriloquist!! I work in Activities in a Nursing home and decided to pursue this dream, I do Devotions and thought it would be great. I bought a figure and started to work at it. I would also love to be able to do skits at Bible School for kids. How can I put together some good skits?"
~ Bonnie

Hi Bonnie, congratulations on pursuing your dream of ventriloquism! The best source I've found for Bible skits is through Maher Studios in Littleton, Colorado. UPDATE: This company closed in April 2006, so their inventory is now handled by Another great source for skits as well as music (accompaniment tapes) is One Way Street, Inc., also in Colorado.

And don't forget, you can practice your labial sounds (B,M,F,P,V) while driving in your car, practicing sentences like those on our SECRETS page, or while singing along with your radio or favorite CD.

~ Kimn Swenson Gollnick & "RONNIE Smith"

"I have a 6yr old that has been doing some ventriloquism. We are currently looking for a few cute songs that she could do for entertaining purposes. Do you have any that you could recommend? We currently have a hairy dog puppet, but have started looking for a little girl puppet. Any information you could provide, I would greatly appreciate. Thank you." ~ Carissa V.

One of the best resource for puppets and music is One Way Street, Inc. Also check at your local library for song cassettes or CDs that your daughter and her dog puppet can sing along to. Local music stores could also help you find accompaniment tapes or CDs. For holiday and religious songs, consider exploring the titles available online at sites like or your favorite children's karaoke songs. How cute would it be to see them singing "Who Let the Dogs Out," taking turns singing the lines? Best wishes to you and your daugher!

~ Kimn Swenson Gollnick & "RONNIE Smith"

"Kimn, I have a 9 year old son, Aaron. His goal in life is to have a TV show. He makes balloon animals, juggles, face painting, vents, and magic (he belongs to a local magic club). I found one of your web pages and wanted to contact you. Any guidance would be appreciated. He loves all forms of entertainment--mostly magic and vents. Next time you see "Ronnie Smith" tell him hi."
~ Tom (& Aaron)

I started ventriloquism when I was 9, too. That's a very common age for kids to explore their interests in magic illusions and puppetry. Did you know famous entertainers like Johnny Carson started with magic and ventriloquism between ages 9 and 12? Aaron is in good company! Ronnie says: Aaron, check out all the joke books you can find in your library. Ask for any collections of old-time radio shows with my heroes, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy--you can learn a lot about comedy timing listening to them! How about vidoes, DVDs, or short biographies on famous vents--Edgar Bergen, Paul Winchell, and Shari Lewis. Oh, and Catch any magic acts on TV like David Blaine or David Copperfield. Hey! If you're really serious, ask your parents about taking a family vacation to an international magic and ventriloquism convention held every year in July. They offer workshops for all ages in magic, ventriloquism, clowning, balloon animals, and lots of free shows! Good luck!

~ Kimn Swenson Gollnick & "RONNIE Smith"

"Mrs. Swenson Gollnick, my name is Michael. I came across your website while searching for information on ventriloquism. I was trying to find a camp that taught ventriloquism. I am not sure, if you know of anyone that does this, but I thought I would ask.

My son, Joshua, will turn 12 next month. He has been very interested in ventriloquism since we attended the Ronn Lucas Show in Las Vegas. The thing that makes Joshua unique is that he has a type of Autism known as Asperger's Syndrome. Normally he has extreme difficulty interacting with peers. Most of the time he stands at a distance and just listens to them. He avoids most activities...however, when you put a puppet on his hand he begins to interact with others.

I want to pursue ventriloquism for him as I feel it will help him learn to engage others. Also, because he enjoys it so much. Are you aware of any one-on-one or small group instruction on ventriloquism?

Dear Michael, I felt truly honored that you wrote to me with your questions. You deserve praise for pursuing an avenue in which your dear son shows interest! I can recommend a few specific sources for ventriloquism instruction, which I hope will help.

  • Fellowship of Christian Magicians - Lots of caring people involved who might be able to help with your question. They also offer an annual convention with workshops and performances.

  • Paul Winchell's "VENTRILOQUISM FOR THE BEGINNER" DVD/VHS - Check at your local library, or my resource page. I think your son might thoroughly enjoy watching it. HIGHLY recommended.

  • One Way Street, Inc. - They offer the widest variety of resources for ventrilouqist (books, puppets, CDs, DVDs, and lots more). They also sponsor several training events, and might know of a camp like you are asking about.
  • ~ Kimn Swenson Gollnick & "RONNIE Smith"

    "I'm so happy to find your web site, for me it contained some really valuable information. My name is David and I'm working on putting together a clowning show that I have incorporated magic and now ventriloquism, thanks to your web site. I'm preparing to use these talents and new friends at nursing homes and children's hospitals. It's allot of fun working with "vent figures" and making them come to life. I think it's like opening a whole new world to a whole new group of 'friends'." ~ David

    Thank you for taking time to send your kind comments, David. Your plan to entertain at hospitals and nursing homes is wonderful. Here's an impromptu bit you can use if you ever forget a line in the middle of a show. It's a proven tip from my pal, Ronnie:

    Kimn (appearing flustered): "I don't know whether I'm coming or going...."

    Ronnie (shaking head): "Well, you don't look good either way. Haha!"

    ~ Kimn Swenson Gollnick & "RONNIE Smith"

    "We have a dummy marked JURO 1967. Looks like Jimmy Nelson's DANNY O'DAY. Were curious of what it's worth. And where it's made. Thanks." ~ FRAN

    Hi Fran, JURO made celebrity vent dummies in the 1960's, but the company no longer exists. I understand that Maher Studios acquired the rest of their stock (UPDATE: Maher closed in April 2006 and turned their inventory over to

    I own one of these Jimmy Nelson "Danny O'Day" figures and asked several years ago what he may be worth. A dummy collector in Seattle named "Captain" Dick Wightman told me these Juro dummies aren't considered valuable since so many had been produced in the '60s--so they're worth about $50. During a recent search online I discovered that the stuffed-body version of Danny O'Day sells for $49.99 new; the hollow-body version (with the headstick inside like mine) sells for approx. $200 new. You can still find these classic JURO dummies with hollow bodies and headsticks on eBay used for around $25-$80, depending on condition.

    "Hi Kimn - Could you possibly answer a ventriloquism/grammar question for me? I'm wondering if there is a verb form for the root word ventriloquist. I checked a couple of dictionary sites, but to no avail. I'm thinking there might not be such a word as ventriloquized. Maybe you can shed some light? BTW, I tried your little v-test. Yeeks! That's hard!" ~ Linda

    Hi Linda, Yours takes the cake for one of the most interesting e-mail requests I've received to date! :o) I am not aware of a verb form for the word "ventriloquist," although I have used the term "ventriloquially" in describing the act of ventriloquism--as in, "I performed ventriloquially for my school last week." But I like your version of "ventriloquized." If you need to use it in a sentence, however, instead of "she ventriloquized..." how about stating simply, "she said, without moving her lips." Sometimes simpler is better. Hope that helps!

    ~ Kimn Swenson Gollnick & "RONNIE Smith"

    Remember Ben's questions above? Let's tackle them one at a time.

    Q: What is some of the History of Ventriloquism?
    A: Ventriloquism can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece when priests made vocal sounds to represent a spirit speaking to the person who came for advice (see more about the history of ventriloquism, then click "BACK" to return).

     Back to Top

    Q: Could you give me a list of people who were famous and what were they like?
    A:The most famous American ventriloquist by far is Edgar Bergen. His daughter is famous, too--Candice Bergen, who played Murphy Brown on television for several years, and is currently starring as a lawyer on Boston Commons, another TV show. Her mother, and Edgar Bergen's wife, died on October 2, 2006. Frances Bergen was 84 years old. Edgar died of kidney failure just hours after his final performance at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas in 1978. He was 20 years older than his wife Frances, so that's why she lived this much longer than he.

     Back to Top

    Other famous vents include Paul Winchell (dummy Jerry Mahoney), who died last year June 2005. He was incredibly talented and you might be able to get a video about him at your library, "How to Become a Ventriloquist." He's also famous for being the voice of TIGGER for Disney's movies and television shows. And he invented the first artificial heart about 40 years ago. Visit his website at

    And of course, there was Shari Lewis with Lambchop, the most famous female ventriloquist. She died about three years ago of cancer. Her daughter Mallory Lewis has given Lambchop a voice identical to her mother's vent voice, and is continuing the legacy.

    Jimmy Nelson was famous during the 1960s. I saw him doing the Nestle Quik commercials with Danny O'Day and Farfel the Dog--he's still alive and is retired in Florida. He comes every year to the annual Vent Haven ConVENTion in Kentucky.

    Willie Tyler is a famous African American ventriloquist who still travels with his dummy, LESTER. They appeared last month on David Letterman's Ventriloquist Week. Other vents who were featured that week include these current ventriloquists: Ronn Lucas, Jay Johnson, Jeff Dunham, and Todd Oliver.

     Back to Top

    Q: How did Mr. Joy Cummings and Willy influence you to become a ventriloquist?
    A: I was 8 years old when Mr. Joy Cummings came to my church with Willy to lead a week-long children's crusade in the evenings. It was magical! I asked my parents to invite Mr. Cummings to our house for dinner. Read the rest here.

     Back to Top

    Q: How did you use Ventriloquism in your childhood?
    A: Many people would be surprised to know that I was terribly shy as a child. Ventriloquism helped me grow past my fear. Having RONNIE at my side made me feel like I wasn't alone up there in front of all those people. Later I realized I could speak without Ronnie--and knew at that moment how much he'd helped me get over my fright in talking in front of people.

     Back to Top

    Q: What was your day job other than Ventriloquism?
    A: I've enjoyed a wide variety of jobs. I've worked as a sales clerk at JCPenneys, assistant manager at a fabric store, graphic artist and copywriter at a Seattle graphics firm, insides sales/receptionist at an electronics firm, office manager at a business office, personnel administrator at a hardware/software development company, benefits specialist at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer working with reporters, photographers, and business staff, an enrichment teacher for 6th-12th grade students, a workshop speaker, and now freelance writer, author, and columnist.

     Back to Top

    Q: Did you ever meet any other famous Ventriloquists and if you did, what where they like?
    A: I met my hero, Jimmy Nelson (he's the one whose record album taught me ventriloquism). I've also met Jeff Dunham who paid for college with his ventriloquism act and has quite a large dummy collection! (Actually, years ago some friends at a ventriloquist convention tried to match us up, because we were the same age and both ventriloquists.) He's a very nice man. We only chatted a couple times at the conference and he showed me the dummies he'd collected. We didn't keep in touch after that conference, but I've always thought he was very nice. Another vent I've seen in person is Ronn Lucas, at a conference. He didn't know anyone was watching when he bent down to talk to a little girl and show her a little ventriloquism. Very cool. I'm a fan after seeing that kindness. Actually, all the vents I know or have read about share this streak of kindness and generosity. I appreciate this legacy they've modeled for future ventriloquists.

    Ronnie and I met ventriloquist celebrity Jimmy Nelson at the Society of American Ventriloquists' ConVENTion
    in Kentucky in 1983.

     Back to Top

    | Vent News & Events | Conventions & Workshops | History | My Story |
    | FAQ |The Secret | Resources | Credits | Fun Extras |
    | Letterman's Ventriloquist Week |
    | Blog | Home |