South Hero man carries on art of ventriloquism
SOUTH HERO, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s an art that takes years to master and there’s a man from South Hero who can hang with the best.
“In 1969, my brother got me a dummy for Christmas,” said Al Getler of South Hero, who says he learned ventriloquism the classic way. “There were all sorts of kids shows and there were often ventriloquists on them.”
Getler read, practiced, listened to tapes, and practiced until his lips froze solid. Despite the novelty, he also remembers when throwing one’s voice wasn’t all that special, a time he calls the dark years. “I think the thing was we just weren’t a really respected art, it was a variety art,” said Getler.
He says his personal friend, Jeff Dunham, brought the profession back into the spotlight. “I had this front-row seat to watch him transform this art into what it is today,” said Getler.
Despite the craft’s lull, he never stopped performing and traveling. But modern ventriloquism offers more than just getting a chuckle, Getler uses “Hamilton the Pig” to teach fire safety. He knows of teachers, firefighters, police officers, and business leaders all using the art for more than entertainment. “You can use ventriloquism educationally, but the bottom line is you still need to be funny,” said Getler.
He’s been perfecting his acts for decades and in partnership since 1978 with one of his oldest dummies, Floyd. He doesn’t know of any other ventriloquists in Vermont, so he hopes to perform here more and maybe inspire another character along the way. “You know, you mention Vermont, I would love to do more shows here in Vermont, I really would. Because right now I do a lot of shows out of state because I have never really gotten around to marketing myself here. Especially during the ski season, I’m sure the resorts do stuff during the season and I would love to do more shows here instead of traveling to the Poconos to do shows,” said Getler.
He says he would love to spread the lost performance art from in the Green Mountains.
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