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DVD Review: I'm No Dummy

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When it comes to ventriloquism, my knowledge is pretty hollow. The only bits I could throw off the top of my head are Charlie McCarthy and the Anthony Hopkins thriller Magic. Enter I'm No Dummy, filmmaker Bryan W. Simon's invigorating introduction to the world of venting (as performers dub it). The loving tribute documentary spotlights puppets, performers, vintage TV clips and even a guided tour of the world's only venting museum to trace the roots of this underrated art from vaudeville to contemporary acts.

I'm No Dummy presents ventriloquism as a complicated, controlled, and nuanced exercise. Headlining subjects Jeff Dunham (whose aptly-named The Jeff Dunham Show set Comedy Central records when it premiered), Jay Johnson (whose live show The Two and Only is the only venting act to claim a Tony) & Lynn Trefzger (a rare female venter, mistress of both college and kiddy cruise circuits) open the documentary with the nuts and bolts of the act with and without moving their lips. It becomes apparent that the physical element takes plenty of practice, but can be mastered. The creative challenge lies in crafting characters who are dynamic enough to capture an audience, but not so seductive as to overshadow the performer behind the puppet. It's certainly no issue for these vivid venters. While each claims a shy or impeded childhood, all shine with or without their characters.