Perspectives of a Writer and Musician

Issues related to writing, publishing and playing jazz music: One man's muse.
by Al Stevens

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Location: Florida, United States

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Really Big Show

My music and comedy show was last Friday, the 26th of January. The second set was all comedy, and I featured my three main figures, Dexter, Uncle Sweeter, and Aunt Sally.

Aunt Sally's material was mostly tried and true stuff with some new original material added. Dexter's was mostly new. Uncle Sweeter's was all new unless you saw the trial performance I did at the VentHaven convention last year.

I posted a video on youtube of fragments of Uncle Sweeter's part of the show. It's embedded at the end of this article. The material shown there consists of jokes I collected from other sources. I edited out my original jokes. The material I left in comes from joke books, jokes I've been told, and, in one case, a joke told in an old movie. (Two exceptions: I left in the material that is targeted specifically at members of the band and the audience; and I left in a joke that bombed big time.) You might have heard some of these other jokes told by other ventriloquists. I have, too—maybe two or three of them—but I heard every one of them somewhere else first and always from a source that predates any of the performances in which I heard them. Which makes them fair game.

Here's why I don't publish my original stuff. Recently a fellow ventriloquist told me that he had gone to my other Uncle Sweeter video on youtube and to Jeff Dunham's latest DVD to, in his words, "steal some jokes" for a nursing home performance.

Consequently, I have a new—to me—policy about publishing my original jokes on a free forum. I won't do it. If someone wants to steal my material, they can buy my DVD or pay to attend one of my performances.

Why such a harsh decision? Well, you might think it harmless to rip off some jokes to tell in a nursing home. But is it really? It puts my material out there where others can hear it—not only the old people, but their visitors, the staff, and so on.

People not in the entertainment business tend to believe that the first place they hear a joke represents the joke's origin. If they hear it again, they dismiss the teller as using old, perhaps purloined, material, even though the person they fault could be the originator of the material. Consequently, a comedian can be misjudged simply for doing his own stuff.

Doctors, accountants, lawyers, and real estate brokers have to abide by rigid codes of ethics designed to keep them from harming one another's businesses and reputations. Violate the ethics and you get into trouble and might lose your privileges to practice. Ventriloquists and other entertainers don't have any such protection, copyright laws notwithstanding. No matter how right you are and no matter what remedies a court might award you, the blemishes on your reputation don't fade.

All that said, please enjoy a performance in which Uncle Sweeter says things that have been said or written before. And please realize that this 10 minute segment is a small extract from a larger performance that is mostly original material.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Infrequent Posts, Comments and a Show Tonight

Infrequent Posts

I haven't been posing much for three reasons:
  1. I've been busy getting ready for tonight's show
  2. I have a complex workshop project for a client that takes a lot of time and about which, by agreement with the client, I may not yet make any public announcements
  3. I'm having vision difficulties caused by the complications of diabetes, which make it difficult to do much of anything with my computer

Don't worry too much about that third reason. I'm working on it. If necessary, I'll get a large screen monitor to address the problem.


I've made it as difficult as blogspot allows to post comments to this blog. Spammers are attacking blogs right and left hoping to sneak their insidious messages through. If you wish to comment, just go to my website and send me an email that way. If it's just an attaboy, I'll probably read it and file it for personal use.

Big Show Tonight

I'm doing a concert tonight with jazz music. The second set is comedy mainly. I'll do an hour of ventriloquism. I hope to get some good video clips. The schedule on my website has details, but here's a link:
Heidi's Jazz Club
Click the Calendar link at that site.

Friday, January 19, 2007

"I Want To Be Happy"

A friend sent me this video recently. It's a jazz band I played in 30 years ago. It has nothing to do with ventriloquism, but most of these guys are gone now, and it's what I have left of them. Everyone looks so young. I hope you like it.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Al and Dexter meet Dieter-Lee and Big Fred

Dieter-Lee and Big Fred came to Florida for a swim with the dolphins and we got to spend some time together yesterday. Their trip was made possible in part by the generous contributions of the ventriloquist community when I first took on the project to build Big Fred for Dieter-Lee. You can find accounts of this project in earlier posts to this blog.

We met the entire family and had a wonderful day.

From left to right are Dane, Susan, Dan, Dieter-Lee, Sebastian, Big Fred, and Michael.

Susan and Judy (my wife) found that they have a lot in common, not the least of which is the profound experience of raising, caring for, and loving a child with special needs. A strong bond and close friendship formed between them almost immediately.

We were joined in this visit by three other members of the Central Florida Ventriloquist's Association. Dan Bratton, Johnny Parisi, and Don Woodford were there, and they all brought ventriloquist figures.

Dieter-Lee had a great time going from puppet to puppet and getting us all to make them talk. Dieter-Lee can speak, but he doesn't say much, and usually it is to repeat something he hears others say.

Yesterday was one of the best days I've had in a long time, and I usually have really good days.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Smart kid

I did an afternoon family Christmas party on Friday. Because children were there, I had to tone down my material. It was fun coming up with the occasional impromptu double entendre that would go over the kids' heads yet keep the adults amused.

The kids ranged in age from five to eleven. Dexter and I did about a half hour. One of my kid bits is about Isaac Newton and the story of the apple falling from the tree. I begin asking Dexter if he knows what Isaac Newton discovered. "Fig Newtons?" he guesses. Then Dexter asks the kids if they know. An eleven-year old boy who looks a lot like Harry Potter held up his hand. "I know," he said. When I asked him to tell us, I was expecting him to tell the story of the apple falling. Instead he said, "The three laws of motion." That was a surprise. Not only is it right, but those discoveries postdate Newton's observations about gravity and are what establish him as the father of modern physics. And eleven year old kids don't generally know about them. I learned later that the young man is a prodigy who has already finished much of his college work. I talked to him later and found him to be an engaging kid with the usual interests of an eleven year old. And a superior brain.

You never know what to expect. I wondered then if my veiled adult quips got by the young genius but didn't want to push it. So I asked him instead how he liked the show. "It was funny," was all he'd say. Good enough for me.