I answered David’s blog, but decided to elaborate a bit further here at my own blog.
The story goes that I was 8 years old and, as was the Robison family custom, we were watching The Ted Mack Amateur Hour on a Sunday afternoon. For those that are too young to remember; the Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour was a precursor to shows like The Gong Show and now, American Idol.
During the fabled episode, I saw a young girl doing a ventriloquist act. In my memory, she was younger than me, but she could have been my age or older.
I heard people laugh. I heard applause. And I said “If a girl can do that, then so can I”
You have to understand that at the time, girls were not high on my list of favorite things. (8 year old boys often have a distaste for girls) Rest assure, I recovered from that malady.
After seeing her, though; I wanted to do nothing but prove that I could be a ventriloquist. I made religious trips to the library to check out books on ventriloquism, ventriloquists, and comedy. The next Christmas, I received my first “Danny O’Day” ventriloquist doll and an instruction record; and began performing a few months later.
If that was not enough, after I had turned 12 years of age and had been performing ventriloquist shows at birthday parties, library shows, and civic meetings; I was allowed to stay up until Midnight on New Year’s Eve to see the New Year in. After watching the ball dropped on Times Square at 11CST, I turned the TV channel and saw this guy named Orson Bean telling a very funny and, what I considered, “adult” story to another guy sitting behind a desk. Of course, the other guy was Johnny Carson.
I stayed up every night after that with a cassette recorder and a microphone cord wrapped around the TV channel knob so that it strategically hung in front of the TV speaker to record Johnny’s monologues. (Yes, the cassette recorder had a hand-held corded microphone and the TV had actual knobs) I would perform these monologues verbatim the next day at school for the benefit of my friends who were not yet allowed to stay up until midnight. They laughed and laughed and thought I was a comic genius.
That clinched it.