Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ventriloquist Goes Crazy?

It is my belief that most ventriloquists aren't crazy; it is the people around them that assume they are crazy. Case in point:
I am working on a project with my friend Harry. He is in North Carolina and I am here in California. Our collaborations in the past have taken place in a shared office in the same state.  This long distance partnership is more difficult.  It means that we have several conversations on the phone almost daily. Depending on the matter at hand we can talk for an hour. If I don't end up laughing out loud more than twice it was not a very long conversation. 
Harry and Jay. Collaborating? Playing? or just Crazy?
Harry and I have always enjoyed the process of creation, often, more than the actual completion of the job. When we were producing shows for network television we used to say: Creating the show is like meeting a dream girl and taking her back to your house for a fantasy evening. Actually doing the show is like trying to get her out of your house a week later when you have lost total interest in the relationship. 
I like to pace when I think. Since modern phones do not require you to stay in one place anymore, I can pace while I am thinking and talking on the phone.  In conversations with Harry I find myself strolling around my yard conversing.  When I am talking to Harry I am pitching jokes, talking plot twists and character development for our story.  It never occurred to me that the conversation was being "shared" with anyone else.  Evidently I was wrong.
Although in Los Angeles you can go days without seeing your neighbors, when I returned from Wilmington last week I saw my next door neighbor Dale. Dale is retired and spends most of his time puttering around his house. He said, "Well, I guess you are getting ready to do a big show?"
I was taken back thinking that he might be a follower of JJtwoandonly on FaceBook or might even be a  blog reader.  However, I don't see him of an age or generation that would do much more than email on a computer.  I said, "Yes, in Wilmington in a couple of months. How did you know that?"
He said, "I've heard you rehearsing in your yard."
As first that didn't make any sense until I realized that he had been listening to my conversations with Harry over the last few weeks.  If one could not see the phone in my hand one might think that I was conversing with myself. In my profession it would be acceptable and in context... normal.  It might have been easy to say that I was just talking on the phone to a friend, but for some reason I didn't go there.  I just said, "That's the great thing about what I do, I can rehearse anywhere." 
I guess it is easier to let him think that I am talking to myself than trying to explain a conversation that wouldn't make sense to him any way. Although I didn't correct his misconception of what I am doing in my back yard, I will be aware that when I am pacing the perimeter of the yard I might be monitored by the neighbors.  Although, having your neighbors think that you are crazy is a good way to keep them at a friendly distance. 
All if this is NOT to say that I don't sometimes talk to myself or Bob when I am alone around the house. It is possible that Dale also heard one of those moments in my life. Who knows? 
So here is to being perceived as crazy while not really having to be so.... I love my work.
As you were,


Bob Conrad said...

You don't have to be crazy to be a ventriloquist, but it helps. No offense I'm a member of the same club.

Dave Robison said...

Just watched The 6th Annual Young Comics Show on HBOGO from 1981, with none other than your best friend, Harry Anderson(a young and up and coming stand up magician/comedian) along with other unknowns such as Jerry Seinfeld, Rick Overton, and Richard Lewis with an excitable Howie Mandel. All hosted by the Smothers Brothers. To this day I still want the Folding Wooden Chair prop Harry used.

1981--when Harry could pull a hat and a human's foot out of a rabbit, and get big laughs. I think it could still work in 2012 for your current project.