Darci Lynne Farmer is the new Edgar Bergen.
That sentence probably doesn’t mean a whole lot to some people. But if you have any interest in ventriloquism, which tends to suffer long lulls between heydays, it’s a big deal.
Bergen was the reason children took up ventriloquism from the 1940s to the 1970s.
Farmer is the reason children are taking up ventriloquism today.
She performs at the Embassy Theatre on January 26.
Farmer is 15 years old. When she was 12, she won the 12th season of ABC’s America’s Got Talent.
Farmer was the youngest person to win that contest and her talents as a ventriloquist, fortified by her strong vocals and her natural sweetness, made people excited again about the art of “throwing one’s voice” into a puppet.
“It’s been a blast,” Farmer said in a phone interview with Whatzup. “It was a dying art. So I think bringing it back was so much fun to do. It’s not something that everybody does. It’s unique.”
Farmer picked up ventriloquism when she was an Oklahoma adolescent on the beauty pageant circuit. She met an older girl named Laryssa Bonacquisti who performed ventriloquism during the talent portion of those pageants. Bonacquisti took Farmer under her wing.
A successful career
Ventriloquism helped Farmer conquer her shyness on stage. She has since parlayed it into a successful career.
A successful career is not something most 15-year-olds have or even want. But Farmer has a head start on her future. The hardest thing to get used to has been all the travel.
“It can be exhausting,” she said.
But the flip side is that she is seeing more of the world than many adults ever do.
“I’ve been to 46 states,” she said. “How many 15-year-olds can say that?”
Farmer said both parents travel with her. One brother is home with relatives and another two are in college. She tried to manage attending a brick-and-mortar school back home but it wasn’t a tenable arrangement. Now she attends an online school.
She likes the online school but she misses the camaraderie of the classroom.
“It was hard when everybody at home was going to their first day of freshman year,” she said. “It was hard to see pictures of my friends. But what I tell myself is that this is a sacrifice I’ve made and a lot of amazing things are happening because of that sacrifice.”
Getting used to celebrity status
Farmer is a celebrity who gets recognized on the street even when she isn’t holding one of her four puppets.
“The very first time (someone recognized me), it was so weird,” she said. “That’s when I realized I was living this new life. You don’t expect these things to happen when you’re just going about your day. But I am used to it now. I love getting to meet new people who admire me and what I do.”
Some of those new admirers are kids who run up to Farmer at meet-and-greets holding their puppets.
“I see about 5 to 10 kids who have puppets with them every time,” she said. “It’s so cool to see that, just to know that ‘I did that. They’re trying this.’ It’s really cool.”
There are famous ventriloquists who work so blue that any kids in the audience are likely dragged out by their parents before the intermission. To no one’s surprise, Farmer works clean.
“You can bring your whole family, even your grandparents,” she said. “It’s a really fun show. I have a live band who plays all my music. I cover 6 or 7 genres.”
Big Dreams beyond Ventriloquism
Farmer has bigger dreams than the ones she has already realized, and they may one day crowd out ventriloquism.
“The three things I majorly want to accomplish is I want to explore acting,” she said. “I love acting. I have done some acting in my time, but I really want to explore that. I think I could really enjoy it. Also, recording music. I want to write my own music and record my own music. Then I want to start my own charity organization.”
Farmer already has a charitable cause in mind.
“I am really leaning toward cancer,” she said. “I have really been involved with kids with cancer and it’s heartbreaking. So I would love, love, love to raise money for that.”
Farmer said she does not want to forever be known as “the puppet girl.”
“I want to be known as an all-around performer and artist,” she said.
Asked if she can envision herself giving up ventriloquism entirely in favor of other artistic pursuits, Farmer equivocates.
“I couldn’t tell you,” she said. “I’ll have to get back to you on that one.”
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