Ventriloquist Todd Oliver – and his little dog too – come to Showplace



ALTON – As a child Todd Oliver thought the ventriloquist figures he saw on television in the 1960s were funny, most people believed him. But, even more, he found them charming.

It was the hook.

“They can get away with saying things the ventriloquist can’t,” Oliver said. “The audience is in a sort of trance listening to them, especially if the model has a strong ‘personality’, combined with the power of the material. It all adds up to the suspension of disbelief.

Oliver takes pride in the fact that all of his shows are family friendly and is delighted to see children laughing alongside their parents. Alton Little Theater will host Oliver and his show, “The Funniest Night of Your Life,” next month.

“I keep my shows clean,” he said. “It works for me. And, people of all ages can (and do) enjoy it together.

Growing up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Oliver received his first ventriloquist figure for Christmas at the age of 10. Her father died three days later.

“This little model helped me get through this difficult time,” said Oliver. “And I discovered that it can make other people smile too. “

Along with ventriloquism, Oliver studied piano, song, and magic, and worked to learn the ropes of show business. In middle and high school, he worked as a volunteer, getting some of his best education and life lessons to continue in the industry.

If you are going to:

What: “The Funniest Night of Your Life” by Todd Oliver, presented by Alton Little Theater

When: 7 p.m. Friday April 6 – Saturday April 7; 2 p.m., Sunday April 8

Or: Alton Little Theater Showplace, 2450 Henry St.

Info: Tickets cost $ 25; $ 10 for those 18 and under. To purchase, call 618-462-3205 or visit For more information about Oliver, visit

“The audience are excellent teachers,” he noted.

He later performed on show boats in Nashville, Tennessee and Branson, Missouri, and at one point he developed an extension of his act to include an illusion of the family’s Boston Terrier, Irving, in talking. That was 1996. There have been six “Irvings” since then, and from the start Oliver said the dog added a dimension that fascinated audiences.

A Hollywood agent just saw them perform on a Nashville showboat, signed him to a contract and suddenly Oliver found himself in a number of TV shows, such as “Late Night with David Letterman” (which he said was his favorite appearance), “Tonight’s Show”, “Today’s Show”. Oddly enough, one night Chuck Norris was front row on one of his shows and the next thing he knew Oliver was written in a few episodes of “Walker, Texas Ranger”. He was also one of the four finalists for the 2012 season of “America’s Got Talent”.

“TV shows are great, but in my business you have to be in the theater doing your act,” Oliver said. “I’m really living my dream. This is what I have always wanted to do. It’s all about creativity. And the fact that I can make a living doing what I love to do is a blessing.

The shows are all original and fast. Also making appearances, with Irving and three “models,” Alice the Bunny and three birds in the magical act portion of Oliver’s performance.

“Ventriloquism is the biggest part of the show, but I like to add variety and color with music and magic,” he said. “One of the funniest things I do is get volunteers from the audience that allow me to turn them into ventriloquist figures. It can be hilarious.

While on tour, Oliver also enjoys giving back to local schools by presenting free shows that introduce students to ventriloquism.

He presents an article he wrote, “The Positively Positive Day Play,” teaching students such things as wise use of time, the power of reading, turning talent into lifelong skills, kindness to animals domestic workers and respect for themselves and others.

Oliver will appear on Friday April 6 and Saturday April 7 at 7 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Sunday April 8 at Alton Little Theater Showplace. Tickets cost $ 25; $ 10 for those 18 and under. To purchase, call 618-462-3205 or visit For more information on Olivier, visit

Contact writer Vicki Bennington at [email protected] and Twitter @ vicben1.



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