Australian-American ventriloquist Clifford Guest (1911-2002) sometimes billed himself as a “ventro impressionist” or “polyphonist”, meaning, in addition to the expected routines with dummy partners he could also do bits where he imitated complicated soundscapes, like crowd noises, warfare, marching throngs. One of his most popular bits was a crying baby routine. He was a master of dynamics, altering the volume and sound quality so that he could imitate something being muffled, something coming from another room, something from inside a box. (Fans of our friend Zero Boy will recognize the skill, for he excels at this ancient art).
Guest was born and bred in rural Australia and dropped his piano lessons to teach himself ventriloquism as a boy. He worked small time vaudeville and movie houses in his home country, then moved to England, where he struggled for many months before finally getting a decent date in Dublin where he was seen by an important manager. He then began to be booked for major music halls like the London Palladium and the Hoborn Empire. He came to the U.S. in 1948, where for two decades he was booked on such major television variety programs as The Ed Sullivan Show, The Saturday Night Revue with Jack Carter, Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall, The Tonight Show (under both Steve Allen and Johnny Carson), and The Mike Douglas Show. Ted Knight was a fan; it was through him that Guest was booked on a 1979 ventriloquism comedy special on HBO called Double Talk, shot at Knotts Berry Farm. Guest opened for acts like Doug Henning in his later years, and loved performing for school groups. He spent his last years in Florida. Read a terrific interview with him here.
To find out more about vaudeville performers like Clifford Guest, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.