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Ken Campbell 1941 – 2008
By way of a tribute to the late, great Ken Campbell, we reprint an article on the Art of Ventriloquism that Ken wrote for Animated Encounters: Animations in Print Volume 1 (2007)

gy Ken Cangkgell

Become a ventriloquist.
Decun a thentriloquist.
Gecung a thentriloquist.

Get a mirror (nirror; ngirror)
“Nirror, nirror on the wall
Who is the thairest oth theng all?”
Or read this article in the bathroom (dathroon; gathroong).
ND: I’the written this stuth to ge read out loud into a ngirror so you can ngonitor how nuch you’re noothing your lits.
So, into your gathroon nirror read the thollowing without any lik ngoothengent.
“Who dared to scatter old turtle turds in our dead sister’s cot? That your doing, Julia?”

OK? The turtle turd test sentence above contains no P, W, F, B, M, or V, so you should be able to do it easily without any lip or jaw (or eyebrow) movement. And no point reading on until you can. (It sometimes helps to impersonate Humphrey Bogart. Bogart was the star of minimal lip/jaw movement. At the end of “Casablanca” Bogart does not say: “We’ll always have Paris”. He says: “Oo-e’ll aloo-ays hath Karis”.)
So once more:
(So huh-oo-unce ngore:)
“Who dared to scatter old turtle turds in our dead sister’s cot? That your doing, Julia?”

But now (ngonitoring youselth in your ngirror, klease!) try this:
“Who dared to put wet fruit-bat poo in our dead Mummy’s bed? Was that you, Verity?”
Not so easy.
In thact thery, thery dithicult.
“Who dared to...” Just vent those three words:
“Who dared to.” OK?
But “PUT.” The P.
“-ut” – you’ll be able to do “-ut”. It’s the P... Crack the P. Crack the P and you’re half-way there. My advice: don’t move on until you can vent a P.

Relax and read this out aloud just exactly as it’s written:
“Teter Titer ticked a teck oth tickled tetter.”
Repeat until your lips don’t move at all. Not a flutter. So if you could modify your production of your Ts so they sounded like Ps, well you’d kind of sort of be there, wouldn’t you?

Now read out this next version:
“Keter kiker kicked a keck oth kickled kekker.”
So, also, if you could modify your production of your Ks so they sounded like acceptable Ps, you’d’ve cracked it too.

Put. P. What is a P?
It’s you exploding air through closed lips.
Say aloud: “Eater.”
Now burst some of your air through your closed, pursed lips, count to three to yourself, and then say “Eater.” What you’re doing is saying the name Peter in slow motion: Puh!... Eater/P...eter.
You’ll easily be able to say EATER without moving your lips – all you’ve got to crack is the PUH bit. To do that you’ve got to find some other part of yourself to explode air through.
I know three solutions and I suggest you seek to master all of them.
And then come up with a 4th.
(1) is to modify the T. To make your regular T noise what you’re doing is making a seal with your tongue and the ledge business behind the top teeth and bursting the seal with unvoiced breath. Tuh.
Make minimal adjustments until your T sounds something like a P.   
“Teter Titer ticked a teck oth tickled tetter”.
(2) Now see if you get a better P result by spreading your tongue up on the midway part of the bony roof of your mouth and exploding that seal.
(There isn’t a letter for this plosive sound so I’ll use *T*)
“*T*e*t*er *T*i*t*er *t*icked a *t*eck o*t*h *t*ickled *t*e*tt*er”.
(3) And here comes my favourite P substitution: the K.
Say “Kenneth.” Say “K.....enneth.”
Can you feel what a K is?
It’s an explosion of unvoiced air through the blockage created by humping the back of the tongue against the end of the hard bony roof of the mouth, right where the soft stuff begins.
Now modify your K so you are humping the back of your tongue INTO THE SOFT STUFF, and find yourself producing a curious but perfect P.
“Keter kiker kicked a keck oth kickled kekker.”

If you haven’t bought a vent doll yet, don’t until you’ve cracked the P. It’s in the cracking of the P that your strongest vent character voice may emerge. Let’s say you find yourself favouring a minimally modified T sound. This will likely head you towards a cheeky boy, or enigmatic bird, or rude rabbit. Those who go for blasting the *T* roof of mouth tongue spread seal may well find they’ve conjured up for themselves a supercilious “silly ass” character. The K folk will be into darker territory... The usual vent voice is high and nasal and the T and *T* P subs are the most obvious for that purpose. The K practitioners, however, may find themselves creating characters with lower vocal ranges than they themselves naturally use. The K substitution may also take you towards developing the fabled stomach voice of the Gastromancer, and may be of use to you in your “distant ventriloquism” – man on the roof; man under the floor; malign toad in a box; macabre possession and exorcism routines; séance and medium work. The Distant/Contained/Squeezed/Boxed/Telephone voice is done by literally squeezing down your vocal chords, and emitting your result with minimum resonance. (Try moulding all your words solely in the throat. Do to yourself everything that would happen if you were picking up a heavy weight and speaking while under that strain. Ge carethul. Keek a glass oth huh-oo-ater handy. And only do it thor a nginute or two at a tine.)

W. To avoid the “w” (which, what) lip movement (usually a pursing then spreading of the lips) most vents use the “oo” sound.
“wet” becomes “oo-et”.
For a stressed “w” use “huh-oo”.
Which witch switched the switch in Ipswich.
Huh-oo-ich oo-itch soo-itched the soo-itch in Iksoo-ich.

F. Use the unvoiced “th” (think; bath) BUT MAKE IT WITH YOUR TONGUE BEHIND YOUR TOP TEETH.
Fruit is thruit.
What funny fish, Fred.
Huh-oo-at thunny thish, Thred.

B. If you can do the P you can do the B.
A B is a vocalised P.
A B is voiced breath bursting through closed lips.
Say aloud into your mirror:
Peter; beater.
pan; ban
pin; bin,
and note that the mouth movement is the same for a P and a B.
Thus you can modify your Ds for vented Bs.
(A D is a vocalised T.
Feel it for yourself:
tent; dent
tin; din
ton; done
to; do.)
Betty bought a bit of butter.
Detty dought a dit oth dutter.
Bottle of beer.
Dottle oth deer.

And blasting the seal of the spread tongue up on the midway of the bony mouth roof (*d*) will work:
*D*etty *d*ought a *d*it oth *d*utter.
*D*ottle oth *d*eer.

Also try the G sound (as in Girl).
A G, you see, is a vocalised K.
(Feel it:
kilt; guilt
Kenneth; Gwynneth
curl; girl
clue; glue
come; gum.)
So hump the back of your tongue as far back into your soft stuff as you can and blast the seal with vocalised breath for a fine, fruity, gurgly B substitute. 
Getty gought a git oth gutter.
Gottle oth geer. (Yep. And if you’re well into your soft stuff it’s the gest.)

M. Many vents simply use the N. Often without modification.
I’n not intressed.
(The N sound is in fact an unexploded D. Instead of exploding you divert the blast nose-wards and it converts into a hum. Feel this: “Go to bed, Ben.”
Feel saying “Bed ‘n’ breakfast” without exploding the D.)
Anyway: My mummy told me.
Ny nunny told ne.

An N produced with bony roof tongue spread (*n*) will deliver you a better M substitution:
*N*y *n*u*nn*y told *n*e.

The “ng” of fling, flung, singing, also works well if you’re not thron Nerseyside:
Ngy ngungy told nge.

V. Use vocalised “th” as in this, that and those, BUT FORM IT BEHIND THE TOP TEETH NOT THROUGH THE TEETH.
(Also, of course, use the same technique when venting a “th”!)

So let’s dive back into the fruit-bat poo.
Here’s how you do it:

RUDE RABBIT: Who dared to tut oo-et thruit-dat too in our dead nunny’s ded? Oo-oz that you, Therity?

SILLY ASS: Who dared to *t*ut huh-oo-et thruit-*d*at *t*oo in our dead *n*u*nn*y’s *d*ed? Huh-oo-oz that you, Therity?

DEMONIC: Who dared to kut huh-oo-et thruit-gat koo in our dead ngungy’s ged? Huh-oo-oz that you, Therity?

Now the bad news. Simply not moving your lips isn’t IT. The not moving your lips biz is the easy part. You’ve got to look like you’re LISTENING and RE-ACTING to what you are in fact saying. To begin with try venting with a variety of fixed expressions on your face: happy; sad; confused; embarrassed, etc. Then, one day, maybe...


Ken Campbell 1941 – 2008

Ken Campbell’s productions and exploits in British theatre over the past three decades – as playwright, actor, director and comedian – are legendary. He founded the wildly antic Ken Campbell Roadshow and then the Science Fiction Theatre Of Liverpool directing monumental epics such as Neil Oram’s record-breaking 22-hour cult play cycle The Warp, The War with the Newts and Illumimnatus! which opened the Cottesloe Theatre at the Royal National Theatre.

His solo theatre shows, all performed at the NT, include: The Recollections Of A Furtive Nudist, Pigspurt, Jamais Vu, Violin Time (Or The Lady from Montsegur), Theatre Stories, Wol Wantok/Pidgin Macbeth and The History Of Comedy Part One: Ventriloquism, (which has toured the UK, and across Europe, Canada and America.)

Ken Campbell also created an x-rated ventriloquial play LET ME OUT!!! For actress Nina Conti, which was premiered at the Edinburgh Festival 2001.

Children of Bisu – aka Ken Campbell`s Enquiry into the neglected crafts of Pectriloquism, Polyphony, Engastrimythicism, Protean Colloquy, Knee Mediation, Echolalia, Japanese Fukuwa, Mr and Mrs Fluffam (muffled, squeezed and distant), Pythicism, Gastromancy (including genital-engastrimythic mimicry of oral utterance), Devil`s Port-Gate Effluvium, Egregious Popish Impostures, is anybody there?, ETC, –  premiered at the Brighton Festival in May 2002, with workshops and performances held at numerous other venues, including Soho Theatre and the Little Angel Theatre.

His production, Hyphenator, was performed in December 2006 at the Drill Hall, London and toured throughout 2007/8.

Ken died unexpectedly at the age of 66, just a few days after finishing another successful run at the Edinburgh Festival, August 2008.



Image: Ken Campbell and 'vent doll' (from Bisu)


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