Taylor Mason...The Interview, Part II
It's a book about his experiences as a performing artist. I'm referencing Taylor Mason's newest literary release: Taylor Mason, Irreversible, The Life and Times of a Traveling Ventriloquist. Look for it this holiday season wherever books are sold. But, if you can't wait, go to Taylormason.com and click on 'latest news.' Here you will find some excerpts from the book. As you have no doubt surmised from Taylor Mason...The Interview, Part 1, he is an amazing gentleman and a real tribute to our craft. And, if you thought Part 1 of the interview was amazing, wait til you read Part II.
You’ve always been known for doing clean comedy. Is that a calculation on your part, or a philosophy that is important to you?
It is definitely a philosophy that is important to me…without a question. Look, I don’t really care what other people do. Blue, dirty, clean, political, whatever, as long as the audience is laughing really hard, I don’t care what you do on stage. For me, clean is a philosophy. Comedy benefits from working clean for the following reasons: Your audience expands dramatically by working clean. Another reason, and this is personal, I went to college, I have a Master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern, and supposedly I know how to use words. So I am not dependent on what I call the comedy adjective, which are profanities. What I mean by that is, if you have a joke that’s not working, just put in a four letter word in there, that always works. Fine, then you don’t need to be a comedy writer. All you need to do is use a lot of profanity. A lot of guys do. For me, I should be able to sit down with a pen and paper and figure out a way to write a joke that’s not dependent on four letter words. Chris Rock once told me many years ago in New York City, he said, “I admire you because you always work clean and you’re always going to make money.” He was right. I’m living proof that there is always work for the clean performer. I may be unknown but I write a lot of really clean jokes that everybody can laugh at.
You won Star Search. Did that change your life?
It did in a couple of ways. First, I really needed the hundred grand. I had a very young family. The money is long gone by the way. Star Search kind of put you on the map. You got to tour the country doing all those ‘Good Morning’ shows, promoting the TV show itself. It was good exposure. There is a real celebrity culture in the United States and I learned that I didn’t need that. For me celebrity is not something I aspire to. If it happens organically because I was on a show, that’s fine, but I’m not going to pursue it. I’m not going to hire a PR firm to keep my name in People magazine.
Listen, Star Search for me was really great. I have nothing but positive vibes from it. Ed McMahon was a super star and treated me with more respect than I deserved. It was good at the time. I still use it as a credit.
I probably have benefited career-wise more than I know. There probably have been residual effects from Star Search in 1991 that carried me for the next decade.
So Taylor, if fame is not your motivation, then what is, as a performer?
(pause) I guess the biggest thing for anyone in show business is this: Your job is always getting the next job. Success is not the amount of money I make. Success is not how many people know me or follow me on Twitter. Success is when I go and perform for a group and they are very very happy. That is success. I get paid for what I love to do. I make a lot of people happy and it will probably lead to more work. Those are all things that make this a great job.
You have a family. How do you juggle your performance schedule with your family life?
I was married in 1986. I’ve been married for 33 years as of June 2019. I’ve got two children, their doing well and we are currently making plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas. But, here is how I answer that question. Lets say I’ve got a gig on Friday night in Seattle and a gig on Sunday night in Miami. I live in New Jersey. In show business this is what you do: You fly to Seattle on Friday, you do the show, you get up Saturday and fly down to Miami, you stay overnight, do the show on Sunday and fly back on Monday. Here’s the way I do it, and this is how I have kept my marriage and family together. I fly to Seattle on Friday and do the show. I find a ‘red eye’ overnight flight back to New Jersey. I’m home all day Saturday. Sunday, I get up, I fly to Miami, I do the show and Monday I fly back home. So, instead of being gone for three days, I’m gone for one day, then I’m home for one day and gone for another day and then I’m back home. And that is how I keep my family together.
Let’s talk about your book. You’ve got a new book coming out.
I am so happy about this. It is my second book. The first one was the ‘Complete Idiots Guide to Ventriloquism,’ which is still selling. It only proves that this is the Golden Age of ventriloquism. Ventriloquism has never been more popular than it is right now. Based on that book, I’ve written a second book. It is called: Taylor Mason, Irreversible, The life and Times of a Traveling Ventriloquist. This book was actually due in 2013. It is five years late. I basically took this summer off, wrote the book and finished it. It is at the editors right now. The scariest day of my life David was pressing the send button on the day I sent the book in to my editor for publishing. It will be out this holiday season. I hope to do pre-sales around Thanksgiving and the book itself will be out for the Christmas holiday. It’s a memoir. It is just funny stories that I have from the past 35 years of performing right up until today. Kind of the stuff we been talking about. You know, how I structure my life, how I do my job, my approach to it and the many many hilarious things that have happened to me.
Obviously it’s going to be available anywhere and everywhere books can be purchased.
Yes. There is an Ebook that is super inexpensive and the hardcover will also be available. I’m not looking to make a million dollars. I have wanted to do this. I had a lot of fun writing it. It just took a long time to get it all written. I’ve got a ton of stories: meeting celebrities to wild experiences I have had as a ventriloquist. That’s what the book is all about and I’m really looking forward to getting feedback on it.
There is a new concept out there called 'Dry Bar Comedy.' It’s something you’re going to do for a new DVD in January. Tell me about that.
Dry Bar Comedy is Internet driven. You won’t find it on TV. I will be filming my show in January. It is for people that do what I do which is perform comedy and work really clean. This is an event. The performers who do this are getting like 5 million hits on their videos. It is a very popular and perfect platform for comedy. It is fairly new. I’m very fortunate that they asked me to do it. I’m really looking forward to it. It is a great concept and it has been so well received I am just honored to be a part of it.
What is it about the art of ventriloquism that appeals to you?
I love ventriloquism. Ventriloquism is thousands of years old. It started before there were Ipads, before earphones and amplifiers and monitors. All of that. So, if someone could manipulate sound they were considered clairvoyant, or special or had magical powers. That’s how it all started. And I think that it still has a bit of that mystery and magic about it because you have this character, basically from another world. Your figure, your puppet, whatever is talking, is communicating to you from another world. I think one of the reasons it has become so popular in say the last 20 years is because you have a generation of children who have grown up now with Dungeons and Dragons and video games about fantasy. And now, here is this guy with a puppet on his knee or on his arm in front of you who is from that other world. So, this magical quality of ventriloquism has been brought back to life because of technology. I’ve always thought that. I am coming into your living room from another world with this little character, this little slice from the end of the rainbow and here we are and I’m going to talk to him now and he has a whole different way of looking at the world because of who he is. That has always excited me. I’ve always found that to be really fun, really enjoyable and interesting. I don’t think I’ll ever lose that way of looking at the world.
I’m going to name some ventriloquists who have passed from us. When you hear their name, give me a reaction.
What an angel. She is directly responsible for my career. The first time I ever tried ventriloquism was by putting a sock on my hand. My Mom used to fold socks in a ball. One of the openings of the sock would be at the top of the ball. She would arrange them in the sock drawer so that the opening of the sock would smile. I would look in the drawer and they would all be smiling at me. At that time, I’m watching Shari Lewis with Lambchop, which is basically a sock. So, one day I take a sock out and instead of putting it on my foot, I put the sock on my hand and the sock talked back. My imaginary friend come to life. That is directly because of Shari Lewis. She came and saw me perform once and I met her. She was my first crush. I’m so pleased you asked about her. She’s the greatest.
I love the Muppets. Love Jim Henson. The Muppets definitely made my career easier. I owe him a great deal of thanks. He was a brilliant genius. Not just a puppeteer, but a show biz icon.
I met Jay Marshall in Chicago many years ago. He was always supportive… a really great person. Incredible magician. An incredible guy for anyone who wanted to be in show business. A stamp of approval from him was integral to success. But, also just a wonderful amazing guy.
Always loved Senor Wences. Never got to meet him. Just saw him so many times. The images of Senor Wences are etched in my mind and will never go away.
I always loved his show. He made ventriloquism hip along with Jimmy Nelson right into the 1960’s which I don’t think was easy to do. They kept it going and really made it cool.
Hero. Without Edgar Bergen there is no Taylor Mason, but, there is also no Jeff Dunham, Terry Fator, Jay Johnson or Ronn Lucas. Edgar Bergen, he is the gold standard.
I’m going to read something from your website. “He’s genuinely interested in his audience and he is 100% committed to every performance, every project and every single job he takes.” How can you be 100% committed to every show you do?
I think this is sport related. Michael Jordan has to get up for a game in the middle of January and he's already in first place against a team that is not going to win more than 20 games in their whole season. Michael Jordan finds some reason as to why he has to excel in that game. For me, it is almost the same thing. It’s Friday night, I’m doing a corporate show and I’m not getting paid a lot of money. I’m back stage and I find things about this audience. Like this person over here looks like she hasn’t laughed in a long time, she looks so down and she hasn’t smiled once this evening. Well tonight, I’m going to make this person laugh. I always find a reason to make every performance, every single night the most important thing going on in my life for that next hour.
Do you get nervous before you go on?
The only thing that worries me before I go on is new material. You never know if the stuff you wrote is any good until you get it in front of an audience and they tell you with their laughter. That is nerve wracking. I fail so often when I write jokes. Every time I go on with a new joke I think, (makes anguished guttural noise) I hope this works!
Out of every ten jokes you write, how many of them fire?
I think eight to nine never see the light of day again after two or three performances. One or two make it to my show.
So you’re constantly changing material. This must require a lot of memorization.
It is never ending. You better love the process of ventriloquism, which includes writing jokes. You better love that because if you don’t, it’s going to be a long career. In ventriloquism, there are so many more failures than successes. But again in the sports world, a baseball player who gets a hit three out of ten times is considered an all-star. I get that.
Is retirement a word in your vocab…
(Interrupts) No. Don’t even go there. It’s not gonna happen.
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