I’m No Dummy (2009)

For a few years as a kid, I was really into puppets and The Muppets and ventriloquism. In second grade for Christmas I got my very own ventriloquist doll, Charlie McCarthy. I spent a few months practicing the art of talking while keeping my mouth closed, and even remember working up a little routine for my friends. After almost getting my ass kicked by some older kids for bringing “a big doll” to school, I decided to retire the act. Sorry, Charlie.

I’m No Dummy is a solid documentary about the history and current state of ventriloquism. This documentary traces ventriloquism back to its vaudeville roots. It’s full of clips of performing artists. In the film, you’ll see clips of Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Senor Wences (“S’alright? S’alright.”), Jay Johnson (from Soap), Sherri “Lambchop” Lewis, Paul Winchell, and of course lots and lots of Jeff Dunham, the modern savior of the art. A few lesser-known ventriloquists are interviewed as well, along with a few ventriloquist-related collectors. Unless you’re a die hard fan of ventriloquism, I suspect every ventriloquist you’ve ever heard of probably appears at some point in this film.

I wish I had more to say about this documentary. It’s as good and thorough as a documentary about the art of ventriloquism is probably going to get. The history the form, the mechanics of the art, and the force driving some of these artists are all covered. For most people, this is all the information about ventriloquism you will ever need. The only downside is several appearances of the “f-word,” which makes this a tough sell for children — again, what a shame.

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