To the person or persons who came up with the concept of YouTube, my sincere appreciation. Anytime I get in the mood to see some comedy routine or performer that enters my mind, all I have to do is plant myself in front of a computer and I enter a world of video treasures. And as you know, I often will post a YouTube video at the end of a blog entry, as I will with this entry.
Today, I was at my friend Melodie’s desk and suddenly started talking like Johnny Martin, the little friend of famed ventriloquist Senor Wences. You may not remember him by name, but when you view the clip, you will know who I’m talking about. Senor Wences would have a little headless doll, and would put lipstick and eyes on his hand, add a mop of hair, and Johnny came to life with his high-pitched little voice with the Spanish accent.
Senor Wences lived an incredibly long life. According to Wikipedia, he lived to be 103. Wences was born to a poor family in Spain in 1896 as Wenceslao Moreno. He studied ventriloquism at an early age, and moved to the United States in 1934. Along with Johnny Martin, another of Senor Wences characters was Pedro, a gruff-speaking head in a box. Wences would knock on the door of the box and shout “Hello in the box! Sawright?”, and when he opened the box, a voice would respond “sawright.” Wences came up with Pedro when one of his full-size dummies was destroyed in a train accident on his way to Chicago in 1936.
Throughout the rest of the 20th century, Senor Wences and his characters performed in nightclubs, Vegas and occasionally in movies. But with the advent of television, Senor Wences popularity soared, due mainly to his frequent appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show. Senor Wences was just the kind of act Sullivan loved, and he was always a favorite guest, even though Ed would often pronounce his name wrong (par for the course with Ed).
I was always amazed by ventriloquists growing up. I would love to watch old Edgar Bergan routines with Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. There was also Paul Winchell, with his characters Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smith (influenced, no doubt, by Bergan’s characters). There was also a female ventriloquist, the ever-popular Shari Lewis with Lamb Chop, Charley Horse and others, and even a black ventriloquist, Willie Tyler, and his dummy, Lester.
In the later 70’s, ventriloquism got a shot in the arm in the form of Chuck and Bob from the ABC sitcom Soap. Chuck was portrayed by ventriloquist Jay Johnson, and was mild-mannered and soft spoken. However, he always had Bob with him, who was rude and abrasive.
Today, Jeff Dunham carries the ventriloquism torch with characters like Walter and Achmed, the Dead Terrorist.
But I still think Senor Wences is the best I’ve ever seen. He would hold rapid-fire conversations with his characters, and seemed to never make a mistake. Plus, he could even make his characters speak in muffled tones. He was a genius.
So take a few minutes to enjoy the genius of Senor Wences. Saw-right? SAW-RIGHT!