I'm No Dummy

A documentary about ventriloquists—or “vents,” as those in the trade call themselves—sounds like a Christopher Guest mockumentary, a put-on. But anyone with a memory extending back to ’50s or ’60s TV programming, and later the Johnny Carson show, and still later Soap, will find the documentary I’m No Dummy unexpectedly fascinating. On the ’70s sitcom parody Soap, for instance, that possibly insane blonde guy with the dummy he couldn’t control is Jay Johnson, who recently earned a Tony Award for his stage act. He and other present masters of the craft are knowledgeable interviewees, with a strong connection personal connection to the early TV pioneers. (Old television clips, including the famous Señor Wences, are amazing.) The circle of vents is small and tight-knit, and also likely shrinking. After the form graduated from vaudeville to nightclubs to early TV networks (which needed cheap programming), ventriloquism appears to be receding to regional theaters and Branson, Missouri. If not quite a lost art today, in a few more decades I’m No Dummy may serve as a eulogy for ventriloquism. But to prove the art isn’t dead yet, Tom Noddy (and his dummy) will perform before the screening. (NR) BRIAN MILLER

Tue., March 30, 7:30 p.m., 2010

 
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