Don't Read My Lips!
BY ED KAZ!
WHEN: 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday
WHERE: Uncle Vinnie's Comedy Club at Ferrara's Restaurant, 520 Arnold Ave., Point Pleasant Beach
INFO/RESERVATIONS: (732) 899-3900
If you're a ventriloquist with the name "Pete Michaels," it could easily come out sounding like "Tete Nichaels," so you know this guy has to be good.
Ventriloquism — that age-old art of throwing your voice — is alive and thriving thanks to Michaels and his outrageous array of puppets. They range from the urban-styled Woody D to the literally out-of-this-world Krelmin, who just happens to love those Earth ladies.
Recently I chatted with Michaels (everyone else was in the trunk) about great gigs, bad gigs and dinner with Gabe Kaplan.
KAZ!: I usually ask comics, "Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello?" but since you're a ventriloquist: Paul Winchell or Willie Tyler?
MICHAELS: Paul Winchell. As a kid growing up here in New York, I used to watch "Winchell Mahoney Time" on TV. When I became a ventriloquist, I corresponded with Winch via letters and phone conversations. I finally met him in 1997 in Vegas, and we were good friends until his death last year. I also like Laurel and Hardy. I always wondered how Ollie made Stan talk without moving his lips.
KAZ!: Krelmin is a visitor from the planet Melmin. How is it, Pete, that you were chosen to be his representative on Earth?
MICHAELS: I am his intergalactic love child. Next question.
KAZ!: Woody D seems to be your most popular character. You even took him onstage at the Apollo Theatre. What did the audience think of that?
MICHAELS: When I was waiting in the wings to go on, I felt like Buddy Holly. When they announced me and I walked onstage, the applause quickly turned into a murmur. Then I heard a female voice from the balcony yell, "Yo! Why (is) the dummy . . . black?!" Just then, Woody looks around and responds, "Yo! You up there in them nosebleed seats. . . . For your information, the dummy's WHITE!" Thunderous applause. And the rest is history.
KAZ!: Which characters can we expect to see at Uncle Vinnie's?
MICHAELS: The ones that will let me take them. Actually I've got some surprises in store for the Uncle Vinnie's crowd that I think they're gonna like.
KAZ!: According to your bio, you've opened for Gabe Kaplan. What the heck was that like?
MICHAELS: I felt like a Sweat Hog doing a puppet show for Mr. Kotter. Gabe was cool. He took me to dinner between shows. I paid.
KAZ!: What is the absolute worst gig you ever had?
MICHAELS: I worked a black club in Newark once, and all they did was stare at me. No smiles, no laughs . . . nothing. Just sat there staring. I felt like I was at the Dexter Lake Club in "Animal House." Another memorable evening was when I worked at a Mob joint. The audience was full of wiseguys and their wives. Nobody laughed. I later found out that I should have worked on girlfriend night when the guys are in a much better mood.
KAZ!: What is the absolute best gig you ever had?
MICHAELS: The Robin Harris tribute at the Apollo. They taped it for pay per view and my dad was in the audience. He came all the way to the Apollo to see me perform and had a great time. They cut to him laughing several times during the show. He passed away a year later, and every time I watch that tape I get choked up. I miss him terribly.
KAZ!: Does the ability to throw your voice come in handy, like when you're at Motor Vehicles?
MICHAELS: When I was a kid, I used to call myself out of class over the intercom. Now, I'm banned from closed-casket wakes. Go figure.
KAZ!: When you are an off-duty ventriloquist, do you have a normal life?
MICHAELS: Yes. The puppets are a part of me that only comes out when I'm onstage. The rest of the time I'm John Lennon.
KAZ!: What do you most look forward to about working in Point Pleasant, N.J.?
MICHAELS: Puppet groupies. That town is loaded with them!
All Content, Materials, Images, Photos & Original Characters Copyright: Pete Michaels