As everyone knows, March is Crippled Ventriloquist Awareness Month, in accordance with U.N Resolution 2694. People around the world are called upon to honor the contributions cripples have made to the field of ventriloquism.
Therefore let me give a shout out to the great French ventriloquist Henri Conneries. He revolutionized the art of ventriloquism by redefining the role of the dummy. In so doing, he used ventriloquism as a vehicle for exploring the painful absurdity of the human condition. And none of it would have happened if he hadn’t been crippled.
Henri Conneries decided he wanted to be a ventriloquist when he saw his first ventriloquist routine. He thought it was the most hilarious thing he ever saw. He was only three months old.
But since young Henri was spastic, neither his parents nor any of the adults in his life encouraged his ambition. They reminded him that operating a dummy required sharp fine motor skills and the ability to speak clearly without moving your lips so it was not a realistic career goal for somebody spastic like him.
But Henri would not be dissuaded. He set out to prove that it wasn’t his profound physical limitations that stood in the way of him being a ventriloquist but rather the profound artistic limitations of the genre of Vegas shtick. So he created an entirely new style of ventriloquism that required neither motor skills nor the ability to speak clearly without moving one’s lips. Nor did it have to be funny. His debut performance was entitled “The Session.” It featured a dummy named Freud who wore a tweed suit and had a white goatee. Throughout the entire performance Freud sat motionless in a sturdy chair with a notepad on his lap. Meanwhile, Henri was stretched out prone on a nearby couch delivering a 30-minute existentialist rant about how hard it is to get laid.
Despite being thoroughly panned by the critics, Henri continued to evolve as an artist. He embarked upon his prolific “sans mannequin” period, which means “without dummy.” Henri sat alone in a spotlight on a bare stage delivering a 30-minute existentialist rant about how hard it is to get laid.
And then he completely switched artistic gears. In his next performance, Henri did not appear on stage at all. Instead, a new dummy named “the professor” sat motionless in a wheelchair, alone on stage in a spotlight. Mounted on the wheelchair was one of those talking boxes like Stephen Hawking uses to talk. And, via the talking box, the professor delivered a 30-minute existentialist rant about how hard it is to get laid.
I hope hearing the story of Henri Conneries gives hope and inspiration to all you criplets out there who dream of being ventriloquists. That’s what Crippled Ventriloquist Awareness Month is all about.