Over the past 25 years, Ronn Lucas has entertained four U.S. presidents, Queen Elizabeth and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. He has had three TV series and numerous TV specials, performed on Broadway and starred in his own Las Vegas show for nearly a decade.
The constant in all his acts: Boys’ Life magazine.
“My earliest shows were for my fellow Scouts,” Lucas says. “I often used jokes found in Boys’ Life. To this day, I’m pretty sure there is at least one joke floating around my act that was borrowed from Pedro.”
The son of a U.S. Army employee, Lucas’ family was constantly on the move, city to city and state to state.
The constant in his life: Scouting.
“Scouting kept me grounded. I started as an 8-year-old Cub Scout and finished as a 17-year-old Life Scout.”
Lucas never really finished, though. He continues to participate in Scouting and even performed his act at Philmont Scout Ranch last summer.
Lucas started with Boys’ Life. Now, you can, too, as this awesome ventriloquist shares the secrets of his art.
WHAT IS VENTRILOQUISM?
Ventriloquism (say ven-TRIL-o-kwism) is the art of talking with the tongue and not moving the mouth or face. When a skilled ventriloquist does this sitting beside a figure (or “dummy”) that has a moving mouth, it looks like the figure is talking. It works because humans use their eyes to find sound sources. When the ventriloquist is not moving his mouth but the puppet’s mouth is moving, people think they “see” the figure talking.
LEARN THE EASY ALPHABET
Sit in front of a mirror and make a slight smile with your lips parted. Make your teeth lightly touch. Your tongue should have room to move. If you see your tongue moving in the mirror, then change your smile until the tongue is hidden. Your goal is to breathe easily and read aloud these 19 letters without moving your lips:
A, C, D, E, G, H, I, J, K, L, N, O, Q, R, S, T, U, X, Z.
Practice the following sentences until they sound clear but your lips don’t move: “Hey, this rocks, dude! It is sooooo easy. Anything you can say, I can say, too!” If you sound muffled, try making your voice come from some higher place in your head as well as your mouth.
MOVE ON THE THE TRICKY LETTERS
There are seven trickier letters: B, F, M, P, V, W and Y.
These letters normally require you to move your lips. To say them without moving his face, the ventriloquist borrows from the easy alphabet, some other letters or combined sounds to “fake” the tricky letters. Use these substitutions:
B = D, F = “eth,” M = N, P = T, V = “thee,” W and Y = O+I
B = D
Instead of saying “The Bad Boy Buys a Basket” the ventriloquist says, “The Dad Doy Duys a Dasket.” Try this in the mirror. At first, this substitution won’t sound right; but with practice, D can be made to sound like B. [Hint: When your tongue rises to the top inside of your mouth to make D, let it stick to the roof of your mouth a little longer before releasing. Also, say D but think B.]
F = ETH
Instead of saying “Phil is a Frisky, Funny Fellow,” try saying, “Thil is a Thrisky, Thunny Thellow.” Say the “eth” sound but think F as you do it.
M = N
“Mary Mashes Many Mangos” becomes “Nary Nashes Nany Nangos.” Make the N vibrate against the roof of your mouth. Keep thinking M.
P = T
“Peter is a Practice Pilot” becomes “Teter is a Tractice Tilot.” Try holding the T a little longer, then release with a little puff of air behind it.
V = THEE
“Vinnie Very much Values Victory” becomes “Thinny Thery nuch Thalues Thictory.”
W AND Y = O+I
W and Y are treated alike. By quickly sliding the letters O and I together you can say “O-Aye” and it sounds like Why. Try putting a fast O to the front of the following: “Why Would Wally Walk?” You’ll be saying “O-Aye O-ould O-olly O-alk?” Now drop the O (or say it silently in your head), and you’ll be saying a clean W sound without using your lips.
In a short time, these substitutions become automatic. Practice for 15 to 20 minutes a day and in about a week you’ll see some serious results! Practice your ventriloquism with a relaxed puppet-like voice that is higher or lower than your own.