Honorary Member of The Ventriloquist Club Of Great Britain
'Chris Bylett & Co'
~ Biography ~
I was a semi-pro performer almost from the time that I left school: my ‘formative’ years were spent in the hey-days of the 60’s & 70’s, during which time (whilst holding-down a ‘day job’) I worked most weekends & many mid-week evenings touring Folk Clubs with a group that I had at the time (unusual in that it consisted of two girls + me !!). Although singing was my main activity back then, I have always been a ‘gagster’ (I was the link-man of the group….mind you, I was the only man in the group !!) and since a small boy I had had a fascination of Ventriloquism. My ‘hero’ back then was a guy known as ‘Saveen’, who was one of the very few Vents to appear on TV….I was completely taken-in by his characters, and thought he was brilliant !! Of course, there was also Peter Brough & Archie Andrews (with their Radio Show ‘Educating Archie’….a terrific launch-pad for numerous other artistes, including Max Bygraves and Julie Andrews, to name but two), Señor Wences (a wonderful Spanish Vent, who used to also appear on British TV……hilarious), and the late-lamented Ray Allen….oh, and I nearly forgot… the lovely American vent Shari Lewes, who also appeared regularly on TV back in the 60’s . I made various poor attempts at emulating all and any of them, but never ever thought I might also one day be actually performing as a Ventriloquist (let alone professionally)…and on TV !! I discovered the voice of ‘Desmond’ (who became my sole character for a number of years) about 45 years ago (ouch !!) when I found out that I could speak ‘duckish’, and it got lots of laughs !! Then, about 35 years ago, I thought it would be fun to actually have a small duck to go with the voice: I knew someone, who knew someone, who made soft toys and…..’Desmond’ was born (I still have the very original one !!), and so I began to use him during my vocal-comedy shows….to great acclaim I might add (not that I’m in any way biased, of course !!). Back then I was working day-time in what used to be called Personnel Management (HR, now), and latterly was working for a large Civil Engineering Company; the company went through a massive re-organisation and I found myself out of a job !! What do you do ? You try to find another one !! But… although I applied for many jobs (not just in my at-that-time chosen field), I was unsuccessful. Now what ?! I had a pal who worked as a pro Actor, and he suggested that, as a ‘meanwhile’, I looked at ‘The Stage’ to see if there was anything available, that might help to ‘fill-in’. So, I did.…there was.…and, umpteen auditions and showcases later, Chris Bylett & Desmond (I had featured him in my publicity, more as a gimmick than anything else) was established on the IK circuit !! I was still mainly a vocalist, but Desmond always made an appearance somewhere; then one particular Agent (who later became my Personal Manager) told me how if a client rang-up to re-book me, they didn’t ask for ‘that good singer’ or words to that effect (I wished), it was always ‘the bloke with the duck’ !! That being so, he advised me that there were thousands of singers about (of all shape, size, and variety….and ability, come to that) but there were not that many Vents and he thought he could do much more for me if he promoted me as a Ventriloquist that can sing, rather than a singer that did some ventriloquism….which all made sense; it was a very steep learning-curve for me as, at that time, I didn’t have much in the way of routines. Because of the size and, more importantly, voice of Desmond (I am the only UK vent to use a ‘duck’ voice…I have very recently discovered that there is an American guy, who calls himself ‘JTO’, and he has a side-kick called Bobby, and he uses a very similar voice) it wasn’t long before we were ‘known’ in the biz, and now (according to ‘The Stage’) I am reckoned to be one of the Top-10 Vents in the UK ….big oooOOOooo !! All of that counts as nothing when you remember that there aren’t that many of us anyway, but it’s a nice ‘claim to fame’ to include in publicity. It also means diddly-squit if you have a half-empty diary….as a lot of us do these days !!!! I’ve been lucky enough to have had a number of TV (and Radio…you’ve got to believe it….if Peter Brough could do it, so could I !!) appearances over the years, and then in 1999 I landed a part on BBC1’s ‘Casualty’, playing a ventriloquist who’d had an accident (don’t ask). They wanted me, but not Desmond (aaah !!), as they had a ‘traditional’ doll they wanted me to use on the programme. It really ‘worked’ for me, and so I decided to expand my entourage (Desmond wasn’t too upset); I managed to ‘find’ a traditional doll (whom I call ‘Stan the Man’) and also ‘Charlie’, and the act then was renamed ‘Chris Bylett & Co’, which it has been now for the past 10years+. I only use Stan for Corporate & TV work (‘AA’ Advert), but Charlie is a very-much-integral part of my activities. Desmond remains the ‘star of the Show’ in our Cabaret set, with Charlie opening-up proceedings; however, Charlie comes into his own when I do walk-about gigs (including close-up magic work) so he has really helped me to expand my overall operation, and has become equally as popular as Desmond, in his own right. The one thing above everything else, that I am always thankful for, is that I have what I most sincerely consider to be God-given gifts, which at the appropriate time (when I lost my ‘other’ job) I was able to utilise to earn a living, whilst at the same time I have also been privileged to bring joy and laughter to so many people over the years !! How many people can say that ?! I thoroughly enjoy my work (most of the time)….how many more can say that as well ?!! www.Ventriloquist.co.uk
Please visit Chris's excellent Website: www.Ventriloquist.co.uk - For Further Details
regarding his Great Shows & Entertainments!