Ever since I was a child I wanted to be a ventriloquist and or comedian. My mom bought me "Big Bird" and "Lester" ventriloquist puppets when I was a child. "Lester" was the puppet of ventriloquist Willie Tyler who was popular in the early 1970s. In 1972 I was watching Willie Tyler on a variety show with Lester. I told my mom I wanted a Lester puppet as there were not many female ventriloquists that I knew of.
She ordered it from the Sears Robuck Catalog and Santa Clause left it under the Christmas Tree that year. Like the Big Bird puppet, I pulled the strings and nothing came out of their mouths. My mom explained to me that I had to throw my voice. She taught me a thing or two about ventriloquism but it didn't take. Then she bought me a magic set. I performed for family and friends but that didn't take either. My mother was somewhat disappointed because she always thought I was good at doing impressions of people.
After working professionally as a drummer in two bands I gave that up to begin a career in comedy and improvisation. I did that professionally for a few years but that fizzled out too. Then I became a Karaoke Jockey for Karaoke America TV show with host Bobby Locke for nine years but I wasn't satisfied with that either. I wanted to try to become a ventriloquist again but time, money, and finances stifled that desire.
Two years ago I was watching ventriloquist and actress Nina Conti and it brought back the desire to revisit becoming a ventriloquist. I watched a video of her talking with puppet maker Steve Axtell at the Vent-Haven Convention for Ventriloquists and Magicians. My acting career was going nowhere, I was and I am working at a dead-end cashier job and I was ready to make my childhood dream come true. Finally.
The first puppet I bought from Axtell Expressions was a bird puppet. It was for beginners and it was cheap too, so I bought it. Later on, I bought two additional puppets and practiced my act with them all. I began studying ventriloquism again and re-learning all the old techniques I taught myself decades ago. I attended a virtual Ventriloquist Convention called KAX and learned from the best. I networked with other ventriloquists and honed my craft. Getting pointers and tips for creating quality videos and performances as well.
I joined several Vent and puppet groups on Facebook and word got out that I was a rising star. Frank Logan noticed my talent and approached me about being on his show. I've been interviewed by Frank Logan's Figure Focus with all three puppets a few times and it has helped to get the word out and promote my work. It's also helped me become popular in other countries like Mexico, Peru, Germany, Istanbul, Turkey, and Egypt. Just take a look at my Facebook page.
My future plans are to continue ventriloquism and continue to practice the art. I make videos each week and write my own material. As a former professional stand-up comic and an improvisational performer it definitely helps. There's also a desire in my heart to make people laugh again as I did as a child and young adult. I don't want to see people cry anymore. I want to bring them joy and laugher, especially with the pain and suffering COVID-19 had caused us. Yes, we must mourn the lives we lost, but can we not also celebrate the lives we have now?
The conventional wisdom has been that cisgenders can play transgenders, but not the other way around. Bullocks! Transgender actors can play whatever role they want to play. Personally, I play a ciswoman in my webseries Notts' Journey. Nobody can tell me what to do, who to play, or how to act. Just like Tina Turner said in a commercial years ago, "I don't put limits on my life." Neither should you. Don't let people put limits on your acting career. Expand your mind, heart and soul to give your character life, in order to give the audience feelings of sadness, joy, happiness and love all rolled up into one being. You!
I refuse to be put in a box by Hollywood producers and directors. That's why I've got total control of my productions and as long as I'm paying the bills, we play by my rules or we don't play at all. (Those were similar words of famous musician turned comedian Vaughn Meader in his Kennedy's First Family comedy album in 1962. He was satirizing a touch football game being played by the Kennedy brothers in the Rose Garden of the White House. You should check the album out or watch it on You Tube.)
In a bit of irony however, I feel like transgenders should play transgenders instead of cisgenders. It's not really hypocritical either, because who can play a tran character better than a trans actor. The logic is simple. Let's say you have five peanuts in your hand and I have one. in fairness you shouldn't be able to reach over and take and eat my one peanut. You have more peanuts. How is that fair. They're more roles for cisgenders than transgenders. We're not here to get the table scraps like a dog at the dinner table we simply want an even playing field. I could see the logic of cis playing trans if "we had more peanuts in our hands." Get it?
Sometimes in your acting career you have to reinvent yourself in order to get work. For me I've done painting and stand-up. I love and adore comedy but have a tendency for drama. I've always loved the old British TV shows and dramas on PBS, Acorn and Britbox. So I'll do both.
To me, comedy is more powerful than drama. You're not vulnerable in comedy. Comedy has always helped me deal with issues and conditions I grew up with. It was a way of keeping the bullies at bay and endearing myself to others. Making people laugh is a real gift. I've got it.
Comedy has kept me from suicide. There's real truth to the saying "laughing on the outside crying inside." That's me. On the other hand when you see my work in drama it's raw emotion coming out. That's why it's easy to cry on cue. So maybe I've found my outlet in drama as well.
Acting and comedy has been a gift given to me by my creator to get me through the tough times. I'm not a business woman or tycoon of the stock market but I can play one on TV. I'm not a filthy rich do-gooder but I can play one on TV. I have no desire to end my life prematurely, but I can play one who does. That's what Notts' Journey is about.
There's someone who hates me with such passion that beginning in 2015 he or she took it upon themselves to attack my then YouTube account and made rude comments about my acting. He or she referred to me as a man and that my acting and videos where crap. His YouTube name was "Johnny Sweeite." He had originally found me on the OK Cupid dating site and has been harassing me ever since.
Looking back on it now I should have left the comments up and ignored him or again her; however, I was afraid then. I didn't want people to know that I was an in-congruent female. So I blocked him or her and disallowed comments. But I could see his thumbs down on my videos. Just his or her way of letting me know he or she was there.
During the release of my web series I'm Your Mum last year, he or she reappeared with a different fake account and with the help of his or her step daughter. They both continued the harassment on all my social media accounts, making fun of the name. This time he or she referred to me as a congruent female, but they seemed to hate it when I bashed Donald Trump and conservatives on Twitter and Instagram.
My point is that I'm not alone. As actors and filmmakers, we all have our "Johnny Sweeite's" in this world. People or ex friends who don't have the guts to face us. That hide behind fake profiles, because they know that if they got caught by us, they'd be embarrassed and ashamed. Sadly, I'm pretty sure I know who this person or dare I say these people are. One of them used to be what I thought was a really good friend. Not anymore.
Here's to all the people in the acting world with integrity and strength, who do not allow petty jealousy to break up friendships and lead to discord. Here's to actors and filmmakers who celebrate our friends' successes and stand behind them when they fail. We're better than this. Be patient. Your star will shine when it's time.