Monday, July 21, 2014

Imagination

Back to reality after visiting the realm of Ventriloquism at the 2014 Vent Convention.  It was great to see friends and fellow peers as well as meet some new ones.

Almost from the first moment I became a ventriloquist people were telling me it was a dying art.  From what I could see last weekend it is far from drawing its last breath, in fact there is a new generation of "voice tossers" that seem ready to carry the torch.

I gave a rather detailed lecture on the physiology of ventriloquism and the voice during the week. I ended it with part of a talk I give on Imagination.  I got a lot of nice compliments on the lecture and everyone seemed to agree they enjoyed the Imagination talk as much as the "how does it work" section.

I am an evangelist for the idea of Imagination. It seems to me that with all the advancements of technology we have forgotten the importance of imagination.  Apps on an iPhone seem to do the impossible, so you rarely see a kid without one.  But because we have access to the product of someone elses imagination does that exercise our own?  I don't think so. After all, the very app or toy that kids enjoy today was first created from someone's imagination. 

I grew up in a time when I could spend hours watching rain drops in a puddle.  Admittedly I did not have the extensive availability to toys that kids do today, but I was not impoverished.  I distinctly remember a time in Abernathy, Texas when, as a five year old, watching rain drops hit a puddle just outside my bedroom window one morning.  At the impact of a droplet,  the puddle seemed to rise from a level surface and expose a small explosion on the watery stage.  To me it looked like small members of a choir standing to deliver their musical contribution to an unheard song.  I could envision the refracted drop as a conical choir robe with the round head of a small singer rising up from the water's surface in random order to deliver a musical solo.  I can still remember that moment and these jumping choir members standing for their individual solos.

I am not saying we should go back to the Stone Age and make children play with rocks but we need to encourage them to use the greatest force on earth... Imagination.  Nothing has been done that was not imagined first.  

I am blessed from having a Mother who had  incredible imagination.  She did not know at the time she was not only preparing me for my ultimate career, but a life time of excitement and joy.

Albert Einstein said, "imagination is more important than knowledge".  Can't we teach that important ability along with math and science in our schools.  But it seems like the first thing that is cut from a school budget are programs for the arts. When will we acknowledge that Albert Einstein was right.

As you were,

Jay

Monday, July 07, 2014

One of my Favorite Scenes


Although Chuck and Bob were not dialogue heavy in this scene, it is still one of my favorite memories. I know it was submitted for Emmy Consideration. The producers choose individual scenes from the show to submit and this is the one they chose for that season. Although the show itself never won an Emmy several members of the cast did receive individual Emmys.
I remember clearly that the tag line was mine.  During a rehearsal I threw in a line as we were going out the door.  I yelled to the Bartender, "Bob will pick up the check".  The crew laughed.
The next day there were re-writes. This time at the end of the scene the Bartender comes up to us with the check.  Burt says, "He'll pay." Indicating Bob who is passed out on the table and we walk out.
Richard makes it funny but it was my line. I wrote it for me to say.
It doesn't matter now but at the time I felt really slighted by the producers. They never even acknowledged it was anything but their original line. If they weren't going to give the line to me, at least say "Good job, good line, way to go, may we give it to Burt" something... but I got no pat on the back of any kind.
In my one person show, "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only" I tell some of the funnier stories from the SOAP days. How I got to work with Bob and what happened to SQUEAKY.  That show will be available on iNDemand starting August 1st.  Please continue to spread the word.
As you know a major part of the money from the sale of the DVD of this show goes to support the
Home For Wooden Children.  

As you were,
Jay

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Vegas Ventriloquism


A lot of people know who Jeff Dunham is, Terry Fator is also well known, but who is Jason Scavone?  By the tone of his article "Welcome to Puppet Land" in an on line publication called Vegas Seven, it is obvious he suffers from ventrilophobia!  Mr. Scavone believes that Las Vegas has "jumped the Shark" with double headliner Ventriloquist shows running at the same time in Las Vegas. To quote his review/opinion "America, what is your deal? Why do you have an insatiable lust for cheap puns delivered through 80 bucks worth of felt?"



 Really? In a town built on ketchie excess of everything from neon lights to artificial breasts, having two ventriloquists headline shows in town is too much?  Seems to me there are more than two magicians working the strip. There are also several "singers" headlining shows (doing mostly the same songs) and you can't throw a rock without hitting a Cirque du Soleil show.  In fact I think Vegas "jumped the shark" when the last Cirque show opened.  Now the entertainment venues in Vegas are choices between the same balancing and acrobatic acts with different costumes and music. 
 "Doris, what Vegas show do you want to see tonight? Do you want to see circus acts set to Beatles music or circus acts with weird music set in a swimming pool?" 

Sharing a position on the advisory board of Vent Haven Museum with both Terry and Jeff I may not be the most objective observer when it comes to ventriloquist shows. But, it seems that the art form itself provokes naysayers who continually question its entertainment value.  One critic of my show in New York wondered if ventriloquism belonged on Broadway. The American Theatre Wing thought it did and awarded my show the Tony® Award for "best special theatrical event" in 2007.  

What is it that this guy is worried about? 

To quote Mr. Scavone
"What we’re really worried about is the Puppetpocalypse this portends."

Two vents in town and it is  the beginning of a "puppetpocalypse"?  If 150 Elvis impersonators have not caused an Elvispocalypse what impact will two of the hardest working- best known Vents in the business have on the city? 

Here is his answer: 
"If one more guy turns up with a trunk full of dead-eyed characters, we’re getting the hell out of here....We’ll be in San Diego." 

Mr. Scavone,  I am willing to be that guy with the trunk if you will promise to really "get the hell out of" Las Vegas. I can be there in a few hours so start packing. But let me tell you something. The only entertainment San Diego offers is SeaWorld, an entire theme park of performing fish.  It is definitely a Whalepocalypse! 

To Terry and Jeff.  I remember when Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were in town at the same time. Two Italian singers know for singing the same kind of songs. No one screamed "Wopocalypse" and they both did really well.  Best wishes to both of you. 
As you were,
Jay

What we’re really worried about is the Puppetpocalypse this portends. - See more at: http://vegasseven.com/2014/07/01/jeff-dunham-terry-fator-welcome-to-puppetland/#sthash.eOxBu8Gw.dpufWhat we’re really worried about is the Puppetpocalypse this portends. - See more at: http://vegasseven.com/2014/07/01/jeff-dunham-terry-fator-welcome-to-puppetland/#sthash.eOxBu8Gw.dpufWhat we’re really worried about is the Puppetpocalypse this portends. - See more at: http://vegasseven.com/2014/07/01/jeff-dunham-terry-fator-welcome-to-puppetland/#sthash.eOxBu8Gw.dpufWhat we’re really worried about is the Puppetpocalypse this portends. - See more at: http://vegasseven.com/2014/07/01/jeff-dunham-terry-fator-welcome-to-puppetland/#sthash.eOxBu8Gw.dpuf
America, what is your deal? Why do you have an insatiable lust for cheap puns delivered through 80 bucks worth of felt?

- See more at: http://vegasseven.com/2014/07/01/jeff-dunham-terry-fator-welcome-to-puppetland/#sthash.eOxBu8Gw.dpuf
What we’re really worried about is the Puppetpocalypse this portends. - See more at: http://vegasseven.com/2014/07/01/jeff-dunham-terry-fator-welcome-to-puppetland/#sthash.eOxBu8Gw.dpuf
America, what is your deal? Why do you have an insatiable lust for cheap puns delivered through 80 bucks worth of felt?

- See more at: http://vegasseven.com/2014/07/01/jeff-dunham-terry-fator-welcome-to-puppetland/#sthash.eOxBu8Gw.dpuf

- See more at: http://vegasseven.com/2014/07/01/jeff-dunham-terry-fator-welcome-to-puppetland/#sthash.eOxBu8Gw.dpuf

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Week-end Off?

The one thing I learned on Broadway is:  "job one" of a show that is currently performing is promotion.  There is never a time you can stop promoting a Broadway show.  
My sister-in-law has been in Chicago for 17 years give or take, and she is still called upon to do publicity almost on a weekly basis.  You would think a show that has been running that long would not need to remind the public, but that is not the case.
The first run of a movie is less than 6 weeks. They may lead up to the opening day with months of publicity, but by the week that it opens the publicity machine switches. Three weeks after the opening of a movie you will rarely see the star on tour or doing the Kimmel show. Not so with Broadway, there are eight shows a week you have to fill if you want to continue to run.  
I was talking to some actors in New York last week and they said something that is a sign of the times. It seems, in today's world, during the audition process one of the things they consider when hiring someone is the number of followers they have on Twitter.   Two actor/singer/dancers that are equal in all other areas of talent will finally be judged by the number of social media friends they have.  Perhaps the new lyric for the song in "A Chours Line" should not be "Tits and Ass" but  "Tits and Followers" that make the difference in getting the job.
It used to be that one could throw money at a show and get the name out there.  A few full page ads in the Times, and some well placed (expensive) billboards and you would attract the curious. Direct mail used to be the bread and butter of Show business promotion.  The big ad agencies used to say that direct mail was the best value for the buck.  They claimed an average return of 20% on direct mail. Direct mail is no longer top of the budget heap.  Direct texts, Facebook blasts,  and targeted email has replaced the color postcard in the mail.  Still people are more likely to make a decision to see a show based upon someone's tweet rather than a review from the paper.  The goal remains the same, "You need to get thousands of people saying positive things about your show."  However, instead of going to one media outlet to reach thousands of people,  thousands of people have to independantly "share."  The process is so new there are no hard and fast rules about how one gets anything to "go viral".  
With that said, I have spent all week trying to figure ways to reach the 55 million households which will soon be able to view "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only" as a pay per view.  (AUGUST 1st on iNDEMAND) 
So here I sit at my favorite Coffee Bean and Tea feeling the Broadway anxiety of constant promotion without the thrill of doing the show nightly.  It's the week end and I really want to take the day off to write about something else.  But with a promotional/marketing budget that is non-existent, all I have is a couple social media accounts and my words. Have a great weekend.
As you were,
Jay

Friday, June 27, 2014

I want my, I want my VOD

The problem with instant communination is the shelf life.  It used to be a Circus could put up posters around town with the date and time of the performances and everyone would mark their calendar.  Back then it might be months before any other announcement posters would detract from the Circus.
Today we get the equivalent of a circus poster announcement with every other Facebook post.  And even if the post is not about an up and coming event it still competes for attention with every other puppy picture, cat pose and funny YouTube on the Internet. 
So with the attention span becoming smaller toward information which is expanding, how do you get the word out?  I suppose you have to keep publishing digital posters on a regular basis.  I am trying to do that on a daily basis.  If someone has to be reminded of an event on more than a daily basis, then perhaps the task of finding a place in that person's schedule is hopeless. 
Here is the deal. Starting AUGUST 1st you will be able to see "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only" in HD super rez from the comfort of you own livingroom any time you decide to watch it.  It will be offered to 55 million households, along with every other iNDEMAND event.  The only viewers who will try to find it are the ones that know it is available. And those who know that it is available will have to decide when they want to watch it. 
In the coming days we will be announcing a "Virtual Opening Night Premier". This will be a specific day you can mark on your calendar with a time and see "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only."   Sort of like the day the Circus will come to YOUR town.  But you don't have to dress up or drive to the theatre to be part of the celebration. iNDemand will bring the Circus to you including the monkey.
This will be a major event and perhaps we can cover the red carpet arrivals of the stars of the show via a live video feed.  (Think Skpye from the hallway of my house. I am pretty much the only cast member who can actually "walk" the red carpet so... it will be short.) 
Those who particapate in the "Virtual Opening Night Premier" will be part of a greater digtal audience who will be experiencing the show at the same time in the comfort of their own living rooms linked in a cyber theatre.  Attending this premier in pajamas is acceptable and encouraged. 
However, in the mean time please virally let everyone you know that AUGUST 1st  the day the show will be exclusively available on iNDEMAND.  More later from these same viral stations.
As you were,
Jay


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Correcting the Course of the TAO

After circulating the WWW for a day, several of my detail oriented friends noticed this typo on the DVD Cover art. To a dyslexic like me I thought "the wonder fart of ventriloquism" was a new hip term for throwing your voice. (words like new and hip are rarely associated with ventriloquism). Actually that correction had already been made, and it was me who posted the incorrect proof.
Although several people noticed the "wonderfulart" typo, only one noticed that the original Broadway producers names were left off the credit list. That mistake was caught, of course, by one of the original Broadway producers.
So...37 days before you can "pay-per-view: Jay Johnson: The Two and Only!" and help children of the forrest. Yes the proceeds for this iNDemand release will go to aid the Home for Wooden Children of Encino. AUGUST 1st-.
As you were,
Jay