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Ventriloquist figures, popularly known as vent figures, are manufactured replicas of human begins that are used as part of an entertainment act. Referred to as a ventriloquist dummy by the general public, the vent figure serves as the companion to the ventriloquist during the course of the act. Vent figures are equipped with openings in the back that allow the ventriloquist to insert the hand and cause the head on the figure to turn, the eyes to move and the lower jaw to move in a manner that is reminiscent of natural human movements.
Vent figures are usually not designed to be perfect replicas of human beings. Rather the vent figure will clearly be modeled after a human male or female, but possess some type of exaggerated physical characteristics. The brow of the head may be larger than normal or the ears may be out of proportion with the rest of the head. It is not unusual for the nose, eyes, or eyebrows on the figure to be constructed to convey visual cues of various levels of mental acuity. The choice of clothing on the body of the figure usually helps to create the perception of the mental and emotional state of the figure that the ventriloquist wishes the audience to assume about the vent figure.
In recent decades, vent figures have also included replicas of various types of animals that are imbued with a few human characteristics. As with the human-modeled figures, these recent innovations are usually constructed to allow some movement of the eyes and the jawbone that allow ventriloquists to mimic common human emotions and movements during conversation.
While the use of vent figures and ventriloquism acts are often associated with the days of vaudeville and the early years of television, there are still a number of working ventriloquists today. Some continue to work in nightclubs or tour small supper clubs across the world. In many cases, the working ventriloquist will not make use of only one figure as part of the act. Instead, the comedy routine makes use of several different vent figures, adding a degree of diversity to the overall performance.
Due to the continued demand of vent figures, there are a number of companies that manufacture different types of these simple but effective entertainment props. While many of the figures are mass-produced, it is also possible to special order a vent figure that is made to the specific requirements of the customer.
I am a huge fan of Jeff Dunham. He is one of the most talented ventriloquists I have ever seen. Each one of his figures has their own personality and their own voice. They are all clearly distinct from one another.
My kids and I love to watch his performances. We usually laugh all the way through it!
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