Wishing you the coolest of Halloweens!


Mr. D's Cake Decorating Class

Today is Hannah's first birthday as a teen. Congratulations and Happy Birthday, Hannah!

Long before I became a puppet maker I was a cake decorator. So with the grand occasion of Hannah's special day, we held a cake decorating class for Hannah, sister Nicole, and Joy, their mother - with Grandpa/Dad as teacher. It was a very fun day and we did it all - from sifting (or "shifting" - a family joke) the powdered sugar, to cleaning up the leftovers some four hours later! TWO sport's themed cakes were created (you see one here) with all four participants taking part in the artistry.
The cakes are now history and all that remain are these pictures and some fun memories. Personally, it was refreshing to revive and employ some retired sweet artistic skills, but I do believe I prefer making puppets. So far, no one has cut up and "destroyed" a dummy the day after I've worked hard to complete it. At least, not that I know of!
A teen at last!
Happy Birthday!
(Go Broncos!)


The view at 7 am this morning through the same kitchen window!
2-3 feet deep and still falling. (I need to see if I can find my shop!)

The large year-round indoor nativity display over our basement stairs seems especially appropriate today!

We are being treated to yet another of Colorado's amazing Autumn 48 hour snowstorms! While the depth of the snow keeps many from going to work; it makes it impossible for me to escape from my work! But the extra hours spent in my shop are put to good use. When I took the above picture yesterday afternoon the number of inches of snow outside my door actually exceeded the unusually large number of heads in progress inside! And today - I'm no longer counting nor measuring - inside or out!

From our kitchen window,

6 am, yesterday.



Question: I have a question regarding copyrights for vent figures. May a Maher vent figure be used on television? Are they copywritten? Just wondering.
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Answer: Other than the Goldberger Celebrity dolls, any figure purchased from Maher Studios or from me personally, is yours to use as you please - on television, DVD,s, ticketed shows, etc. Enjoy!


What would you advise?

Okay - I need some advice. I pulled these fellas out of my warehouse over the weekend. Anyone know the details on these dolls (names and manufacturer)? Are they worth my spending the time to restore? Clinton


New from Animated Puppets

Kevin Detweiler writes:

Here's one of the cutest Ventriloquist Bear figures you will ever find. "Bear" with me while I describe him to you. A beautiful 22" bear, handcrafted hollowbody headstick, turn head full circle, tilt, nod etc. He also has open & close eyes, so he can blink or act like he's falling asleep. He can raise the upper part of his nose...so cute.. It looks like he's smelling or sniffing and of course he moves his mouth. You can open his mouth and his nose at the same time, it looks like he's talking extra loud or singing! We can "bearly" part with him, but he can be yours! Great for all ages. Christmas is just around the corner!
For sale now on eBay auction.
Here's the link:
Bear Vent Puppet



By William Andersen

If you are asked to do your ventriloquial act at a party, at a store, in a club room, in a Sunday School room or some similar place not normally used for staging programs, you may have some difficulty with the lights.

The people sponsoring or running the program probably are not experienced in all the little things which are important to a performance and may place you in a very poor location. You should arrive early enough to check out the setting for lights, as well as sound and other things you need. Look for lights behind where you will do your act. If there are lights behind you where people can see them they will definitely distract the eyes from you. Turn off or cover such lights. If there is a window behind you with light coming through, cover that, too. It is not easy to see a person work if he is silhouetted against a bright light. Look for a way to turn lights to face you rather than onto the audience.
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Condensed from the chapter on "Lighting" found in Andersen's book, Ventriloquism From A-V. See post below.


Puppets To Go

From Barb Phoenix

I had a great day doing vent for children in Bronte for Canada Day. It was a great marketing opportunity as well. I did walkabout with my figure Otto... He was an instant hit with the kids.

I had also made sock puppet kits, and called them Puppets To Go... Each kit had a Puppets To Go label and a business card. I put double-sided tape on the eyes, nose and hair. and explained to the parents that they could hot glue the add-ons to make them more permanent.

The kids had a blast making them, and then talking to my puppet. I even had an opportunity to teach some rudimentary ventriloquism. Also had free colouring sheets that I had laid out out with crayons so the kids could colour. I hope I get the opportunity to do it again.


Crazy Bird for sale

Reader writes: I just saw on your blog where someone was looking for a Crazy Bird figure. I have a blue one in great condition and while I hate to part with it, my family and I now live on the road and there's just no room for more than one figure and "Roger" won the coin toss. Jay

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Email me, Clinton, if you'd like to contact Jay about purchasing his Crazy Bird and I will forward your email to Jay. mahertalk@aol.com

Rare eVent

Reader Comment: I was talking to a lady this morning from an elementary school about an entertainment need she had. I wasn't able to entertain for her since I am already scheduled to be at another school that morning. She asked if I knew of any other ventriloquists in the area. Of which I said, "Not really". It is interesting to see how unique ventriloquism is. There are definitely more magicians out there then ventriloquists. Thank you for the work you do in keeping us ventriloquists going and supporting us. Lowell Tauszik
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Ventriloquism is definitely a unique form of entertainment. Even in the Denver metro area there are only a handful of experienced vents. Considerably more magicians - you're correct in that observation. I believe that is true of most communities. Marketing statistics a vent should take advantage of when possible.


Changing wigs to change characters

Question: I'm thinking I could use the same figure for different characters if the wigs were easy to remove. I could either change the clothes between sets or have another body. What do you think?
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Answer: It's very difficult to make a male wig that can satisfactorily be taken on and off. So I suggest the male wig be installed permanently and then covered with a removable female wig if you want to change the characters in the manner you suggest. This procedure is more practical and acceptable if you do not work with the same audience frequently. Those who learn to know your characters are more likely to see the male figure as appearing in "drag" when used as a female.


Headlock question

Hi Clinton! This is a dumb question, but one I haven't figured out for sure so I will go ahead and ask. Are you supposed to undo the safety rubber band at the end of the head post while using the figure or leave it fastened all the time?
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Answer: Not a dumb question at all. More people should ask it. Personally, I prefer to unhook the headstick during performance. I like the feel of totally free movement of the head. (I even unhook the headstick when I take photos of the figures and only hook the headstick when setting it to one side, or for storage.) However, many vents like the feeling of security the "headlock" provides and never unhook it at all - for performance or otherwise. The reason I use rubber bands rather than metal springs, is due to the more elastic tension a rubber band provides. Even when connected a rubber band allows a nice range of silent motion. My suggestion is that you try operating the figure both ways, and decide which you prefer. Clinton


20,000 Courses sold = 20,000 vents?

Question: You once estimated that as many as 20,000 people have taken the Maher Course over the 55+ years of its existence. Do you think there are 20,000 Vents out there now?
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Answer: No - there's nowhere near that number. Even if everyone who took the Course were still living today there would be nowhere near 20,000. The truth is, most people who take up ventriloquism only do so for a brief period of time (months or years). Those who continue on for a lifetime are but a small percentage of those who take the Maher Course. (Not unlike dieting . . . How many who start with great intentions follow through for a lifetime of healthy eating?) But for those who do follow through, the rewards and satisfaction are more than worth it! I'm happy you (and I) are among that number!



From Bob Abdou:

Hello, Clinton. After seeing your blog about the toby jug repair, I took a photo of where it is now displayed, and realized where it sits is next to your other items I have collected over the years. Like your owl puppet, the red crazy bird, the Prince Albert in a can, the talking tennis racket, the repaired toby jug (with another version toby jug), and Bill Boley display plate. Behind the 2 toby jugs is a Boley purse puppet - you turn down the handle and a puppet head appears with a moving mouth and the handle becomes the hands, very ingenious.

PS: I was going to use the talking tennis racket in my show at the Clown Convention in Denver when you came to see my show, but I was so nervous performing for you that I totally forgot to use it, and I never get nervous before a show but I was that night :)


From Start To Finish...

V: Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd like you to meet my best friend, (Figure's name). We have worked together for a long time now, and there's absolutely nothing I wouldn't do for him.
F: And there's nothing I wouldn't do for you either.
V: Why, thank you, (Figure's name).
F: Which is why we've spent our lives doing nothing for each other.
* * * * * *
F: Before we go, can I leave these folks with some words of advice?
V: Okay. Go ahead.
F: (To audience) Be nice to your friends. If it weren't for them you'd all be total strangers!

From the book Start To Finish. A collection of 100 ventriloquist dialogue gags to be used in opening and closing shows and all in between. By Pam Sterner. This book is among the many for sale at www.maherbookstore.blogspot.com


For Sale: Skeleton Doll

From Kevin Detweiler

Okay. Here’s your opportunity for a awesome one of a kind character. I’m sure you have heard of “ACHMED by Jeff Dunham. Meet his cousin “ACNE”. With a name like that, be ready to break out with laughter! This guy will truly come alive in your hands. Just in time for Halloween or any occasion that you need to add some life to the party!

This is a true 35” Ventriloquist figure. He has a hollow body with head stick, turn head full circle, tilt, nod etc. ADDED FEATURES INCLUDE!.. crazy “POP OUT EYES”- yeah, that’s right, his eyes extend out 1½” from their sockets and then return. "LOWERING EYE BROWS" so he can look angry, frustrated, or mean! Also a "RAISING RIGHT EYE BROW", a little odd I know, but you can see it on my eBay auction (link below). And, of course a "MOVING MOUTH". All easily controlled with one hand from levers mounted on head stick.

There are a variety of ways to use this guy including “drug & alcohol abuse programs”. Be creative and you will come up with many more ideas. For extra help on ideas, we are also including a 36 page book written by Clinton Detweiler & Craig Lovik called “Dem Funny Bones” Many dialogues that entertain without compromising family values. Just a few titles of routines in this book are, “I’ve been everywhere”, “Get connected”, “What happened to you?”, “Carbon dating”, and many more. BID NOW before it’s to late!


Toby repair

Built by Col. Bill Boley; repaired and repainted by Clinton Detweiler; owned by Bob Abdou.


Lederhosen Oktoberfest

An exceptional find, perfect for the season. I'll ship Priority mail FREE. Authentic and traditional German Boy's Lederhosen. Pre-owned but they are in good condition - I can find only one spot of wear which is on the dark green center breastplate. Genuine Suede leather - the main color is gray with green and red trim. There are 2 pockets on the front and a small right side pocket . The waist is adjustable as are the suspenders. German sz .98 (which appears to be US boys 5-6). The inner waist band is embroidered "HOSE ECHT LEDER" full circumference. Add a pair of long stockings and a white shirt and I believe this Lederhosen would be appropriate for a full size vent figure or dummy! For sale now on eBay auction: Click Here

Maher Graduate

From James Tucker:
Here is a photo of my friends and I with certificate of graduation. Again thank you very much for such a wonderful Course. Presently I am gaining publicity by performing at places that I go, and on a volunteer basis. I took Carlos into a doctor's waiting room and entertained children. I entertained at a local daycare. I sit in Walmart's entrance and entertain people as they enter and leave. It is lots of fun for everybody. Everyone loves Charlie and Carlos.


"Get a Grip!"

From Sandi Stricker

I tried something that really works great and thought I would share it. I saw a soft figure once that had a bump in the cavity where the hand fits to work the mouth. The bump helped give the fingers a better grip inside to control the mouth. I have two soft figures that I wanted to be able to have a better grip on - my hand/fingers wouldn't stay firmly in place & kept slipping on the fabric. I cut a wine cork in half the long way and applied hot glue to the flat side and quickly, but carefully, slipped it into the top hand cavity that controls the mouth of the soft figure. I did it to my granny lady and also inside the top beak of my bird. Wow, what a difference it made in keeping my hand and fingers in place to control the mouth. The bump of the half cork was just enough for my fingers to curl over and have a better grip inside to control the mouth. For me it was an easy fix and a great solution.

Carrying Cases - Last Call for 2009

Once my current stock of custom carrying cases has been sold, I will not order more made up until next Spring, so if you have been intending to order one but have been putting it off, here's what I currently have in stock as I post this:

#351 Custom Case: 20"x11"x8" (fits 30"-32" figures) Lined & Padded Case $150.00 (2 remaining in stock)

#353 Custom Case: 21.5" x 12.5 x 8.5" (fits 33"-35" figures) Lined & Padded Case $160.00 (3 remaining in stock) .

#355 Custom Case: 24.5" x 13.5" x 9" (fits 36"-40" figures) Lined & Padded Case $170. 00 (2 remaining in stock) .

#357 Custom Case: 27" x 14" x 9" (fits 41"-44" figures) Lined and Padded Case - SOLD OUT.

All prices include domestic shipping. Sold "first come, first serve". See photos and detailed description here: http://maherstudios.blogspot.com/2008_11_01_archive.html#882502278915460187

To order, simply send me an email: mahertalk@aol.com



This little guy (left) arrived with this note:

"Please treat me with TLC like you do all the other special kids. My eyebrows and strings need replacing and I have a small crack in my skull. Please do what is necessary! Thanks and God bless you!" Jared

Well, we did all that was necessary and a bit extra and he's "fit as a fiddle" (photos right). Jared became a bit extra special to us when we learned his owner, Virginia Feldman, is with the same mission organization (SIM) as our daughter, Dawn, her husband, Steve, and family. And has been to Ethiopia where Dawn & Steve live. Small world!


"Woody" (with before and after)

"Clinton: Thank you for the ministry that you have had over the years in creating figures like 'Woody'. I took your Maher Ventriloquist Course many years ago and used Woody in the ministry for many years. I do not minister as much any more but perhaps it is time to bring Woody back to life." Laurie Colborne

(Left) Before

(Right) After



By William Andersen*

Ventriloquism is accomplished by the use of the spoken word. It is essential to the act that the ventriloquist speaks clearly and correctly. That means that the performer must know and use correct grammar. . . . Most people hear good grammar on radio and television, from speakers, and acquaintances; and they can quickly identify errors in grammar.

When you perform you will be evaluated by the audience. If you speak correctly they recognize it ... however, if you do not speak properly it will be noticed and a negative judgment made. They may think you cannot be much good if you do not even know how to talk correctly.

Sometimes errors by the figure can be humorous and receive a good laugh. The listeners do not expect the little fellow to be perfect and when he makes a mistake they may laugh. That does not work the same for the ventriloquist. They expect him to know better and to be proper in his usage.

The moral of the story is quite simple. If you want to be accepted by your audience, and you want them to think about what you are saying rather than how you say it, you had better be certain to use good grammar in your act. ... If you are not certain of your grammar, get some help.
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*This post was condensed from the chapter on "Grammar" from Andersen's book: Ventriloquism From A-V. See more about this book Here.


You made my day!

One of the more rewarding aspects of figure making and repair is receiving the feedback from satisfied owners. More than once such comments have provided just the "boost" I needed to get on with the next job! But even better than reading an encouraging word is being able to see the pleased facial expressions and hear the comments of a delighted owner. And that can only happen when the figure is hand delivered face to face - not a frequent happening when clients are spread worldwide such as they are in the ventriloquist field.

But this week I had one of those delightful opportunities to deliver a freshly repainted figure with new wig to his owner, Lori Schnell, who lives right here in the Denver area. There were smiles all around! (Figure by Jerry Layne.)

(Before photo at left and after photo above.)


Change of pace

It's not all about building dummies here. It took two weeks working part time some days and all day a couple days, but the steps in our garage have been replaced with a ramp. That was the easy part. Moving the entire wall of cabinets (and everything that was in them) to make a place for the ramp - that was the biggest challenge. Now that the job is done, we like it! Hannah and I did the work. Unseen in these pictures is my new cozy packing and shipping space. I'm going to enjoy using it.


"Ears to 'ya, girl"

Howdy Doody converts into a very cute "tom-boyish" girl, but it is difficult to fit a wig over the original large ears. So I cut off the original ears and build new ones that hug the side of the head more closely (photo left).


"One of my best purchases ..."

Reader Comment: "Clinton, I always have to smile when someone writes about or talks about a "Crazy Bird." (See post for 10-4) I wore out my first Crazy Bird and purchased a second one from you many, many years ago. I only use it in schools, cub scout programs, fairs and other "family" type shows ... but it's always been a hit. For cub scouts I actually take the puppet apart to show them how it's made out of a tin can head and plastic milk jug body. Then we talk about how they can go about making their own puppets out of household items. In my 30 plus years of being a vent, the Crazy Bird was one of my best purchases." Dale


A word from the performer

Clinton, I just wanted to write you a note to tell you how much I enjoy the vent figures I purchased from you--"Bart" just before you "retired" from Maher Studios and the old man figure you built for me in February/March of 2008 (photo right - also number 111 in your Super-Supreme photo album.)

The head-stick controls on your figures "fit my hand" better than those on my other two figures. The control levers on these seem to be in just the right position for my fingers. The mechanics of this figure are very smooth. My DummyWorks "Clappy" with brass control rods is not as comfortable to me as yours. The positioning of the control levers is just a little awkward for my hand. Please do not take this as a "criticism" of the figure.

Also my Lovik living-mouth figure (which you repainted in June 2006) is not as comfortable and the mechanics are not quite as smooth as on the ones I purchased from you. And the "ball" that controls the moving eyes is harder for me to use than the eye "lever" on yours. Again, this is not meant as a criticism of the other figures. I just wanted to say thanks for your great work.

Best wishes, Allen Fuller
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Note: To see all the Super-Supreme figures referred to, click here: http://maherphotos3.blogspot.com/


Crazy Bird

Question: Hi Clinton; Years ago you used to sell a Crazy Bird Figure. It had turning head, moving mouth, flapping wings (winker, blinkers, and spitter). Kind of looked like a penquin. Johnny Main used to use one. It might have been made by Bill Boley. Do you know if any of them are available, or where I might find one? Thanks. Bob
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Answer: I do not know of anyone with a "Crazy Bird" for sale. If I was wanting one I guess I would just watch eBay...long shot. I was the person who designed the Bird. The building of the puppet was done by my Brother-in-law, Jay Yoder. Jay now resides in his heavenly home, so I guess if more were to be built it would once again be up to me. But there was just too much hand work involved to tempt me to build any more - at least not in that same manner. I will admit, the "Crazy Birds" were some of my favorite puppets. Clinton
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Col. Joe Boley figure

Question: Hi Clinton, The latest figure I won on ebay just arrived. It's signed "Col. Joe Boley 2007" on the inside of her head. I have heard of Col. Bill Bloey but I have never heard of Col. Joe Boley, maybe they are relatives? Originally this was an African American female figure, but I want to do some re sculpting on her then send her to you for a repaint and new eyes and some control repair. I want to make her a Caucasian female figure. I ordered her glass eyes, they should be done in 2 weeks. The control for her mouth is loose. She has eyelids. She will need new eyelashes also. What do you think her head is made of? It's a lightweight material that feels like wood.

* * * * *

Answer: Joe Boley is the son of Bill Boley. Bill was the better figure maker (my opinion) but Joe has done a lot of work as well. I have ideas about how the head is made but I'll wait to study the inside before I can tell you for certain. I think I could make the mouth fit better, and a repaint will work wonders, as it does most characters.


Captain Jacque Finch

Here's proof that even a character type often thought of as mean and scary can be made up as a fun friendly puppet character! He is a recent arrival at The Dummy Shop - meet Captain Jacque Finch, the nicest pirate you would ever want to be attacked by. Send your purchase inquiries to: dummylady01@gmail.com


Wilfred - a winner!

From Canon John Jordan


I'm "over the moon" with pleasure today. As you will have gathered, the "PTP" puppet was waiting for me right after lunch, and he's now sitting on my sofa resting up after the long trip from your workshop.

I use a mobility scooter to get around, and the shipping case was a little too awkward (no handles on the cardboard) for me to get it up to my suite, and so with great difficulty I had to exercise the virtue of patience until our maintenance man could bring it up to me. Fortunately, it was only about a five-minute wait, and I was all ready with my tape-cutter to open it up. In only a few minutes, I had him sitting on my left arm, and showed him around his new home while getting the feel of the controls. He's an absolute delight, I find the controls easy to use even with the arthritis in my hands, and while I want to do a lot of mirror practice in the next while, I'm comfortable with the voice I've been working on. I don't think it will be too long before he visits the dining-room an chats with the fellow residents.

One look at him, and I can see the care and attention you've poured into constructing him, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. The hair with the slightest hint of grey is perfect, and all-in-all, he's even better than I'd been imagining. The forehead wrinkles, and the laugh wrinkles around his eyes and mouth show the work and skill you've poured into making him.

Before I close, I want you to feel free to tell anyone who raises the "age" question to tell them "Wilfred's" story, and even tell them to contact me if they won't take your word for the fact that no one's "too old" to enrich their lives and those of others. If they'd like a new hobby and follow your instructions in the Maher Course, all they need is the will to get going.
Thank you, and God's Blessings to you both.