Alice Bradley talks to one of the world’s greatest comedians and one of Australia’s personal favorites, David Strassman, who will be gracing our shores this November to introduce some new characters and wow us again with his revolutionary ventriloquist act.
1. What kind of paradigms have you shattered in order to gain the title, ‘post-modern ventriloquist’?
I took an amusing art form and brought it out of the realm of jugglers and mimes by putting ‘theatre’ into my show. I’ve also given my puppet characters the same parameters you’d find in a play; they have hopes, dreams, neuroses… separate lives from me and each other. I’ve also introduced state-of-the art robotics and robotic controlling devices to give my characters even more independence and life-like movements.
2. Your friend at NASA reportedly helped you bring puppets Chuck Wood and Ted E. Bare to life. What do these cutting-edge robotics mean for your ventriloquism?
My first routine using robotics shocked audiences. Chuck sacked me, I left the stage, and he came to life. No one had ever seen that before in a ventriloquism performance. The added drama of being ‘sacked’ and the argument that preceded it brought the element of drama into what was usually a music hall comedy act.
3. Do you always use the technology, or do you sometimes prefer to go old-school?
Actually, 90% of my show is traditional ‘hand up the bum’ ventriloquism. Robotics and high tech are only used to augment parts of my show. I never rely on it.
4. Without giving too much away, what sort of groundbreaking theatrics can audiences look forward to experiencing this November?
My new show and production utilize three massive projection screens allowing my show the ability to be anywhere one can imagine. From Ted E. Bare’s actual room at home… to the surface of the moon! There are jaw-dropping visuals and a Monty Python-esque video, all intermixed with my ‘laugh every 10 second’ material and routines. New characters abound in this production, making it new and fresh!
5. You’re one of the top 5 comics in Australia, why do you think your material resonates so well with Australian audiences?
I love Australian humor and you love mine. I think that’s because we’re both a bit naughty and irreverent… we both enjoy that type of humor.
6. You’ve travelled all over the world introducing Ted and Chuck to people, everywhere from Las Vegas to Johannesburg. Would you say the spectacle and humor of ventriloquism is universal?
Humans love miniatures. We have since before the dawn of civilization. The first known carved object from the Neolithic age is that of a fertility goddess, a miniature. We love model trains, puppets, dolls, etc… Maybe it makes us feel a bit more powerful?
7. To give those who haven’t seen your show before a little heads-up, can you give a brief character profile of your puppet stars, Ted E. Bare and Chuck Wood?
You can find all my puppet bios on my website: www.chuckwood.com.
8. And how did you come up with these opposing personalities? Based on anyone you know? Do they represent sides of your identity? Or are they more like old friends?
As I said earlier, my characters have their own well-researched, imagined puppet lives. I guess the tension between Chuck and Ted E. Bare is loosely based on the sibling rivalry between my brother and I. But, apart from that, each character life has grown over the years.
9. Be honest, do you have a favorite puppet?
I used to say I don’t have one, but, my latest new character, “Buttons the very pissed Clown”, is really stealing the show. He’s completely pissed and just wrong.
10. Lastly, I’ve got to ask, how do you do it (ventriloquism)? Years of practice in front of the mirror? Or is it a natural talent that can’t be learnt?
Gottle of geer. Read the book, “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. He claims the secret to success is being in the right place at the right time, having a little bit of talent, interest, and 10,000 hours to practice. I had all three; a class in Ventriloquism in year 8, an interest in magic and illusion, and 10,000 hours over 15 years of busking, live gigs, and performances at 3am in front of very drunk patrons, all to become a 15 year “overnight” success!
Thanks David for taking the time to talk to Couturing. See you soon!
Be sure to snap up tickets to ‘Strassman- Careful What You Wish For’, showing at the Athenaeum Theatre from the 7th of November. Tickets available from the theatre and Ticketek.