Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

5 Questions | Todd Oliver

Comic, ventriloquist who 'talks' to dogs coming to Largo

Todd Oliver will perform with Lucy, left, Irving and Elvis on Friday at the Largo Cultural Center. The veteran ventriloquist added dogs to his act in 1996.

Special to the Times

Todd Oliver will perform with Lucy, left, Irving and Elvis on Friday at the Largo Cultural Center. The veteran ventriloquist added dogs to his act in 1996.

LARGO — When most dog owners attempt to teach their dog to "speak,'' victory is found in a single bark. For Todd Oliver and his pooches, however, success comes in complete sentences. Oliver, along with his Boston terrier, Irving, a West Highland mix, Lucy, and a basset hound, Elvis, will appear Friday at the Largo Cultural Center. The show, billed as "Todd Oliver's Dogs Gone Wild Tour,'' will be an evening of comedic chitchat between the comedian/ventriloquist and the canines. Oliver received his first ventriloquist dummy at the age of 10 as a Christmas present, and he learned the art of ventriloquism by checking out books on the subject from the Minneapolis Public Library during his middle school years. "By the time I was 13, I was doing shows at schools in the area, and by 16, I knew I had no interest in pursuing a college education because I was already doing six to nine shows a week,'' he said. For 20 years, Oliver had a successful career in comedy and ventriloquism, but in 1996, he realized it was time to come up with new ideas. "I asked myself, 'What would my dog have to say?' The show came from there,'' he said. For the past 13 years, Oliver has headlined with his dogs on the Showboat Branson Belle in Branson, Mo. They've also appeared on the Late Show With David Letterman, the Tonight Show With Jay Leno and the Today Show. We caught up with the entertainer by phone Dec. 22 from his 20-acre ranch outside Branson, where he lives with his wife, Melissa Woidela, their daughter, Isabelle, 5, five horses and seven dogs.

1 Can you give me a hint as to how you get those dogs to talk? It's an illusion that I invented.

2 What's harder, getting the dogs to cooperate or for you to be funny all the time? It's always a challenge when it comes to creating the material for the show. The dogs are easy. Remember, the talking is just an illusion.

3 Do you think you're a better comedian or better ventriloquist? I think it's all rolled up into one thing because I've been doing the show for so long. But the fact is that I love family comedy, clean comedy. Here's the deal. When I was growing up, one of the great memories I have is me, my parents and grandparents laughing at the same joke. When the family can laugh together, I think that's one of the most important things in childhood.

4 If someone wanted to take your career path, what would you say is the first step? In order to succeed at both comedy and ventriloquism, you have to first realize you have to be bad at it before you're good at it. When I was 13 and doing mother-in-law jokes, it didn't go over very well. But I kept doing it. I had the dummy in one hand and the joke book in the other. It takes practice.

5 Are the dogs taking an airplane to Florida? We never fly. For the show, we usually travel in two cars, and the dogs ride in an SUV with me.


The show

What: Todd Oliver's Dogs Gone Wild Tour

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Largo Cultural Center, 105 Central Park Drive

Tickets: $30 advance, $35 VIP, $35 at the door. Call the box office at (727) 587-6793.

Comic, ventriloquist who 'talks' to dogs coming to Largo 01/01/11 [Last modified: Saturday, January 1, 2011 3:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Manchester police say they have made three more arrests in concert bombing


    BREAKING: Manchester police say they have made three more arrests over pop concert bombing. Stay with for updates.


    People light candles after a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, England, Tuesday May 23, 2017, the day after the suicide attack at an Ariana Grande concert that left 22 people dead as it ended on Monday night. [Associated Press]
  2. Who will headline the 2021 Super Bowl halftime show in Tampa?


    The NFL announced Tuesday that Tampa will host Super Bowl LV in 2021, a result of stadium construction delays in Los Angeles.

    Taylor Swift performed at Raymond James Stadium in 2015. Could she return for Super Bowl LV in 2021?
  3. New DEP secretary says there's no conflict in political side businesses


    TALLAHASSEE — When Noah Valenstein, the newly appointed head of the Department of Environmental Protection, was applying in April to be the state's top environmental regulator, he left one thing off the application: Companies he started and his wife runs have been paid nearly $1 million by politicians and lobbying …

     Noah Valenstein got the job as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday May 23rd, on a unanimous vote by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. He will take the helm on June 5, with a salary of $150,000 per year. [Florida Governor's Office]
  4. Trump says 'we can use peace' during meeting with Pope Francis


    VATICAN CITY — President Donald Trump and Pope Francis, two leaders with contrasting styles and differing worldviews, met at the Vatican City on Wednesday, setting aside their previous clashes to broadcast a tone of peace for an audience around the globe.

    Pope Francis meets with President Donald Trump on the occasion of their private audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. [Associated Press]
  5. Pinellas construction licensing board looking for ways to fill financial hole

    Local Government

    LARGO — The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board's interim leader told the governing board Tuesday that the troubled agency is looking for ways to climb out of its