Some people may find them creepy, but talking puppets are Basel Al-Dosery’s best friends. Putting his hands inside a puppet head and entertaining audiences across the world is a dream for this Kuwaiti ventriloquist. Ventriloquism is an act of stagecraft in which a person (a ventriloquist) changes his voice so that it appears that the voice is coming from elsewhere, usually a puppeteered “dummy”. Kuwait Times spoke to Dosery to learn more about his passion and art.
Kuwait Times: Tell us more about yourself.
Dosery: I’m a Kuwaiti ventriloquist/comedian and owner of Smile Comedy Productions.
KT: What drew you to ventriloquism?
Dosery: I’ve always had a passion for comedy, and ventriloquism gave me an easier path to do comedy, since standup comedy wasn’t really popular in Kuwait back in 2008 when I decided to pursue this career.
KT: Your performances focus heavily on comedy – do you have experience in this field?
Dosery: When I started, I wanted to be a standup comedian, but ventriloquism makes it easier to bring laughs compared to standup comedy. That’s why I don’t do a lot of standup comedy in my shows.
KT: How do you speak without moving your lips?
Dosery: It’s a gift used in conjunction with a very complicated technique, and it requires lots of practice. It’s like singing – you can’t learn to sing well if you don’t have the gift of a good voice in the first place.
KT: Where did you learn ventriloquism?
Dosery: I learned it on my own seeking information from the Internet, books and videos.
KT: When did you get your start in show business?
Dosery: After participating in Arabs Got Talent in 2011, I performed at lots of corporate events, comedy shows and other gigs. I even held my own tour three years ago and it was quite a success.
KT: What goes through your head just before you go onstage?
Dosery: I try to clear my mind, rehearse some lines and hope that there’s a good audience. Just like at any comedy show, the audience does half the work – the better the audience, the better the show is.
KT: What was your first store-bought character?
Dosery: Believe it or not, my very first character has never been seen publicly. It isn’t as professional and expensive as my other puppets, and that’s why I’ve decided not to use it in any of my shows.
KT: How did Mazyoon (your puppet) become your most famous character?
Dosery: Because he’s been on Arabs Got Talent, besides the fact that Mazyoon is one of the most expensive figures that I have acquired, The character that I gave to him is very close to my own character without the shyness, so I can easily express myself through Mazyoon. That’s why he’s my favorite. Let me put it in this formula: Mazyoon = Basel – shyness.
KT: Is Mazyoon also based someone you know in real life?
Dosery: No, but sometimes I use some aspects of a friend as a part of his character.
KT: Have you ever lost Mazyoon en route to a gig?
Dosery: No, thank God! Mazyoon is rare and one-of-a-kind.
KT: Where do you perform these days?
Dosery: I still do shows here and there but mostly corporate events. I have also set up my own studio/mini theater and I hope I can do shows in it in the near future.
KT: What do you think of people who are afraid of ventriloquism?
Dosery: I don’t think they are afraid of ventriloquism itself, but they’re afraid of the dummy, and this is because of lots of horror movies, specially the Chucky (Child’s Play) movie series. I hope they get over it and concentrate on the comedy routine instead.
KT: Have you ever been spooked by a puppet?
Dosery: Only when they move by themselves, which they don’t, so no, I never get spooked by puppets!
KT: What was your best show ever?
Dosery: It was at King Saud University in Riyadh in 2012. There were like 1,800 people in the audience and I got a standing ovation – that’s how good that show was.
KT: What challenges do you face as a ventriloquist?
Dosery: The challenge is to make the audience laugh – it’s very hard to make them laugh if they are confused why or how the dummy is talking.
KT: How many puppets do you have?
Dosery: Around 20.
KT: You starred on Arabs Got Talent. What was your favorite and most memorable compliment or criticism the judges gave you? Why?
Dosery: I liked that Najwa Karam laughed at my jokes and stated that they were clean. I also appreciated a comment from Ali Jaber stating that I should have my own writing team, which I should.
KT: What made you go on Arabs Got Talent in the first place?
Dosery: I wanted to share my talent with the world, and Arabs Got Talent gave me a good chance to do this.
KT: Have you kept in touch with any of the people you competed against, or any of the judges?
Dosery: I made quite a few friends like magician Ahmed Al-Bayed and beat boxer Johnny Madness among others, and I have performed with them at some events in the past few years.
KT: Why aren’t there any well-known female ventriloquists currently on the scene?
Dosery: I haven’t seen any and I have no idea!
KT: Do you create your puppet characters yourself?
Dosery: As the matter of fact, I did create my very first character based on Colonel Gaddafi. It took me a very long time to finish him and study his character. But I haven’t been able to perform an act with him in front of a real audience, because everybody is a bit sensitive about this character now that he’s dead. But I did post some short videos on social media.
KT: How often do you work on new characters?
Dosery: It is very rare for me to introduce a new character, because writing an act takes a very long time and I don’t do it as much as I should. But I recently introduced a new character named Rooster Nugget and it saw major success at the very first show I did at the Al-Comedy Club in Jeddah.
KT: Have you ever had a character that didn’t connect with the audience?
Dosery: Luckily no. It also depends on the type of audience – sometimes they react differently to the same jokes.
KT: Your last word.
Dosery: I hope that my art gets more recognition from the government, especially the ministry of information, as it has never offered any help even though I am the very first ventriloquist in Kuwait.
By Faten Omar