To Stand or Not To Stand

That Was The Question

Now and then, someone asks on the vent email list about using a stand for their vent figure.
A few years ago, I conducted a little survey on the list about this and I posted the results, but also wrote up a small article about it for the vent magazine available at the time. The article ended up not getting used, so I put it all up on a webpage for anyone to see who might be trying to decide whether to use a stand or not.

So, what follows, is the survey article as it was written then, along with some of the replies that were sent in response to the question.


By Scotty Dickens (& Dave)

Recently, Dave was complaining about having to hold me all the time, so, being the brains of the team, (and being tired of listening to his whining) I suggested he use a stand. Since he can be somewhat slow making a decision, (if he were Columbus, he'd still be trying to decide which ship to get on) I suggested he ask around on the ventriloquist e-mail mailing list.
So, with my guidance, we launched a survey asking the question;
"What is your favorite performance position?"
We received 27 replies to our question and here's what we found;
(Excuse me please. Scotty forgot to note that if a vent replied that they used more than one position exclusively, i.e., they sometimes used a stand or sometimes stood and held their figure, then they were added to both categories. I didn't want to get letters about the numbers not adding up because Scotty would blame me.
Thanks, Dave)

No. of vents who use a stand: --------------------------------------16
No. of vents who stand and hold their figure: -----------------------10
No. of vents who stand with figure sitting on their knee: ------------- 7
No. of vents who sit with figure sitting on their knee: ---------------- 1
No. of vents who use other objects for a stand, (i.e., trunk,etc.)------3
No. of vents who use more than one position-------------------------8


No. of vents whose stands are homemade: --------------------------6
No. of vents who do not use a stand, but considering trying on:------ 3

So that's what we ended up with, using a stand being in the lead with standing and holding a figure being a fairly close second. Of course this did nothing for Dave's decision making ability.................

Dave here, making a decision to end Scotty's use of this article to insult me, and get on to important matters.
I noted in the responses that the vents who primarily used a stand did so because they liked having a free hand for gesturing or for using props. The vents who sit their figure on their knee all mentioned that they felt they got the best animation this way, and those who no longer use that position for some reason, felt they lost some animation ability. For many, (about a third) the positon they used varied which they stated was based either on the figure they were using or the performance situation. The survey was a curiosity thing. In the final analysis, the only answer is to try the various positions and decide what's most comfortable for you while providing the level of animation you desire.

When I announced the results on the list, I broke it down two ways, this was the second;

Report 2 - I broke it down differently so that the totals would add up to 26.
Some use different positions based on the figure and/or situation and I listed them accordingly in this report.

No. of vents who use a stand: ------------------------------------------------------------------------11
No. of vents who stand and hold their figure: -----------------------------------------------------------7
No. of vents who stand with figure sitting on their knee:-------------------------------------------------3
No. of vents who use a stand or stand and hold their figure:---------------------------------------------1
No. of vents who use a stand or stand with figure sitting on their knee:-----------------------------------2
No. of vents who stand and hold their figure or stand with figure sitting on their knee:---------------------1
No. of vents who use a stand or sit with figure sittting on their knee:--------------------------------------1
No. of vents who use a stand, or stand and hold their figure, or stand with figure sitting on their knee:-----1

Total: ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------27

Next are some of the replies that were posted to the list;
(Before anyone points it out, I know all the following should have quotation marks, but if anyone seriously thinks I'm going to go through and put them on every one, they're crazier than my boss thinks I am for talking to dummies.) 8^)

Here was my original post to the list;

To: ventriloquism-list@lists.Stanford.EDU
Date: Sun, 27 Oct 1996 14:23:46 PST
Subject: Performance Positions

After watching a vent video the other day, I started thinking about whether or not I'd like using a performance stand. But not knowing if I'd like it, rather than spend the money, I decided to take one of my old mic stands and make my own.
I've tried sitting with the figure on my knee, I've tried standing with my foot on a chair so my figure could sit on my knee, but so far, the way that works best for me is just standing and holding him.
Anyway, it gave me an idea for a list survey that everyone might find interesting.
So here it is;
What is your favorite performance position?
(and if you'd like, why it works best for you). far as the position I find best, I feel that I base it on the situation. I don't really do shows, but when I pull out my figures for my children or their friends, I have to go with what is best for the setting , location of the kids etc. I have a stand and like the ability to have a free hand to gesture. I also like to sit down at their level and in this case I usually have my figure on my knee.

My vote? I like to perform standing with one foot up on a small stool, the figure seated on my knee (I use multiple characters, but never at the same time). I've found that this allows for a lot of interesting manipulation possibilities.

I usually operate my vent puppets with one hand while supporting them with the other hand. If I'm using the Bird Arm Illusion (with a bird or animal puppet) my other hand is freed up to handle props and gesture.

A related question, I believe that I caught the tail end of a similar question just after joining the list but do most vents use their dominant arm to operate their puppet or keep it free to use other props etc. I have always used my right arm (I'm right handed) but am now considering purchasing a bird puppet with the arm illusion and pondering whether it might be better to have my right arm free . . .. As for the survey in progress. I haven't been using my woodie much when I do its been with a foot up on a stool. Mostly I use soft type puppets held with one hand and operated with the other.

My Performance position is to stand my figure on the vent stand to my right. His suitcase is to my left, so if I need to pull a prop out of the case, I can do it with my left hand. This set up would be similar to the way Jeff Dunham performs with Peanut, for instance.
For some reason, I use my right hand for operating most of my puppets, even though I'm left handed. Go figure.

My wife and I both use homemade vent stands (we don't like the frills on most vent stands so we made our own that look more professional). I just plain like a stand better for a figure unless it doesn't need one. We always stand to elevate ourselves so people can see us.

It's not what I do now because it's not practical for me due to the fact I use a mixture of vent figures and hand puppets in my act, but if I was to go back to one figure I would certainly use the figure on the knee because I feel you can put so much more life in the figure by being able to swing your knee, etc. That's what I used to do before I started using multiple characters and really feel there's been a little loss in animation by having him sit on a stand.

When I first started doing ventriloquism I would walk around with the puppet (normal ventriloquist boy figure) but my arms got very tired so I moved onto using the table. Now I have moved into lighter puppets I no longer use the table and just stand holding the puppets.

So far, it's between using a stand and having my guys on my knee (while standing). I have 3 dummies and one puppet. I feel more freedom using a stand, but you can get a few more animation's from having the dummy on your knee.

As to position of the figures in my act..I use soft puppets exclusively now so I hold them when I work. I do sometimes vary this and use them standing up on a table top (ala our friend Jeff), but for the most part I find it just as easier to work them standing up and holding them in my arms. I can also balance the puppet on the one arm and free up myother for more manipulation


For my hard figure, I always use a stand, unless for what ever reason it is not avaiable and then I use my knee on a chair. I very much like Mark Wades suggestion to me to use a table on either side of me. I use a Maher table top, and a radio Shack legs,, the only thing I do not like about the Radio Shack stand is that it is a little to long for my liking, in terms of packing away. I found another sturdy stand that folds down shorter and it is easier to pack a way. I also use stands for my soft figure but like most others hold the soft figure with my free hand. I am a righty and use this hand for my primary figure, but more and more use my left hand at the same time usually with a soft figure.

I use my right arm for some puppets and my left arm for others. Sometimes I have one on each hand and use both. Of course, they are standing on a stand of some kind when I use both.

Hanging upside down from the rafters.
Just kidding. Actually at the moment I stand. The puppet is on right hand, left hand across body to give the appearance that the puppet is sitting on my arm. The only problem is, I sometimes use my left arm so it looks like the puppet is floating there.
I have also been seriously thinking about getting a stand.

for the survey, I perform holding my partner, but lately have done more with a performance stand from Maher. It depends on if I'm doing walk-around work or performing in front of an audience. On occasions I have used my figure's case as a platform for him to sit on.

I use a stand with all vent figures and with some puppets, even some birds/animals. That's because I usually use some props as well, so like to have a hand free.

I usually use a stand for my figures, which conisits of a mic stand with a homemade table top. At a recent performance, however, I discovered that my main puppet would sit nicely on the open lid of my trunk. My trunk sits on a small folding base, and when the lid is open, the top of the lid is about the same height as my stand. This would be helpful in that I wouldn't have another piece of equipment to haul around and worry about.

My favorite stage position is standing with one foot on a chair and the dummy on my knee. It's the old fashioned way but I believe it gives you better manipulation with your figure.

For years now I've used a Radio Shack mike stand as a performance stand base. The top is just a piece of wood painted black with trim.
The stand has folding legs and over the years I have found something neat. Once the stand has been used a bit, the folding legs loosen up. The stand is still quite tight, it doesn't tip over, but it has enough ęgive' to aid in the animation of my puppets and hard figure. If it breaks, there is a Radio Shack in every mall or town street corner. I've used two stands for hundreds of performances over the years.
This position (standing next to the figure) has been my most comfortable one and the one I feel I get the most life-like manipulation from.
One piece of advice always given at any vent lecture: Whatever you do, please don't let your figure float in the air (your hand in it with no support from the other hand or anything else) . This is the one a no-no' that I think ruins any illusion you have going.

So far in my limited work I hold the dummy with my knee on a chair. Am considering a stand for future use...this is an interesting question. Noticed that Jeff D. used a stand and he works it very well.

The End.
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