A ventriloquist doctor reveals a funny and weird subculture


Whether reserved for the Mirage, on a Comedy Central special, or in a mostly empty room at a senior center where half the audience sleeps, vents share all the stigma that comes with this vaudevillian craft. Everyone knows what it feels like to be the cause of eye rolling and having your family abandon you.

Goffman and his wife and film producer, Lindsay, found out about Vent Haven through Lindsay’s mother. Her toast to the couple’s wedding through a sock puppet intrigued everyone. And when she shared a video taken at Vent Haven, the Goffmans knew they had fertile ground for their first feature film.

As an Emory graduate and with interest from the Center for Puppetry Arts, Mark Goffman chose Atlanta for the world premiere of “Dumbstruck.”

Q: During filming, one of the five ventriloquists, Terry Fator, signed a $100 million contract in Las Vegas. Did you have any idea that so much would happen under your watch?

A: We started out not wanting to choose a famous person. We wanted to know what the working ventriloquists looked like. We were filming Terry and we were there for each of his successes, which were dazzling. It was over the course of a year that we were filming. We feel like we’ve captured the most unusual year in this incredibly unusual art form.

Q: What were you hoping to learn?

A: We wanted to see what their support system was like because we knew there wasn’t a lot of money in there. We found each other very quickly, with Kimberly [Yeager] in Mansfield that her mother wanted to support her, but felt it was something she should have gotten rid of by now and gave her real grandchildren instead of puppets.

We wanted to know what it was like to be in Mansfield or Corsicana, Texas making a career out of that art form that you really love, but that we had no exposure to in LA.

Q: You say you’ve been influenced by mockumentaries à la Christopher Guest. At any point, did you feel like it would be a send off?

A: Lindsay and I have tremendous respect for the vents, for the community, and for anyone who pursues their dream and goes out of the ordinary. We moved to Hollywood and took a lot of risks and we think it’s the American dream. Since it was inspired by my mother-in-law who goes to these conventions every year, we approached it with respect and love and wanted them to tell their stories. They are quite funny; you don’t have to laugh at them.


Movie Preview


Written and directed by Mark Goffman, produced by Lindsay Goffman.

From April 15 to 17 at the Midtown Art Cinema. Q&A with Mark and Lindsay Goffman will follow the 7:15 p.m. screenings on April 15 and 16. An Axtell ventriloquist puppet will be raffled off at the April 15 event. Several other projections aired throughout the race. 1 hour, 24 minutes. PG for Brief Suggestive Humor.


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