Today: Jun 18, 2024

Ventriloquist gives animals a voice in upcoming show

Jessica Giannone
Talking dogs, puppets and comedy are the kinds of entertainment to expect on Feb. 13 when ventriloquist and comedian Todd Oliver comes to Southern. Along with his dogs Irving, Lucy and Elvis, and puppets Miss Lilly, Pops and Joey, Oliver “takes dialogue into a new dimension,” as Oliver’s website puts it.
The kind of humor to be anticipated is “situational and contemporary, resulting in a clean universal comedy that makes you feel good,” according to Oliver’s home page.
Aside from traveling to numerous venues across the country to entertain people of all ages with his ventriloquism, Oliver has made appearances on “The Late Show” with David Letterman, “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno and “The Late Late Show” with Craig Ferguson, according to his website. It says Oliver was chosen as one of the top five ventriloquists in the nation to appear on Letterman’s “Ventriloquist Week,” and has received Best Variety Performance and Best Dinner Show awards at the “Branson All American Entertainment Awards.”
“I never really ever go to Southern’s events,” said Morgan Smith, a junior at Southern. “It seems like it would be really fun though, especially with the dogs.” Oliver’s web page says the show dogs have been performing with Oliver for 13 years, and never told the trick to their “talking illusion.” Irving, the Boston Terrier, is known to sing, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” along with “throwing witty insults” at Oliver. He is Oliver’s most famed dog. The page says Lucy, a West Highland mix, is the only dog in the world who can out-talk Irving. Elvis, the Basset Hound, “says” God must have had a sense of humor when he made him.
“That’s so cool that they can train dogs to do that,” said Smith.
The site says Oliver said the dogs are healthy, happy family pets.
The cast is from Branson, Mo., and also performs on the Showboat Branson Belle.
Lauren LaClair, a senior at Southern, said she’s never heard of Todd Oliver before, but thinks it could be funny.
“I’ve seen other ventriloquists before,” said LaClair. “It’s pretty impressive.”
Among the puppets, Oilver’s website says Joey is the “bad boy,”and “smart-alec” Pops is the “crazy old-timer” who charms everybody and Miss Lilly is the “love of Pop’s life.”
Oliver also performs a motivational program, “The Positively Positive Day Play,” which aims to combine “fun and laughter” into the ideas of self-esteem, time management, work ethics and self-discovery of talent in today’s youth, according to the website. It says audience participation and personalizing the show is part of Oliver’s success. His website says his friendly personality creates a “magical family chemistry.”
Smith said she thinks Southern could use a little variety.
“There’s always the same kind of stuff here,” said Morgan. “I think a ventriloquist would be interesting. You know, not everyone would be sitting there, like, bored–we’d be amused.”
As Oliver’s site puts it, “These little dogs are making crowds across the country howl for more.”
The show is at 3 p.m. in the Lyman Center. Tickets are $15 for the general public, $10 for children and $8 for Southern students.

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