Ventriloquist Ryan Bomgardner knows people wonder.
So he answers the question before being asked.
"No, I don't do anything weird," he says. "I don't play with my puppets at home. I don't talk to them."
Bomgardner, who took up ventriloquism at age 12, travels the world with his family-friendly act, Ryan and Friends. A performer with Disney Cruise Lines, he also spends time on the road appearing at churches, conferences and corporate events.
On Sunday (Oct. 16), Ryan and Friends will perform at South Brandon Worship Center's church anniversary celebration. Shows begin at 9:15 and 10: 45 a.m. at the church, 4929 Bell Shoals Road, Valrico. There is no cost to attend.
I spoke to Bomgardner about his act, Christian comedy and the art of keeping it clean.
What inspired your career choice?
I was always interested in using puppets as a child, sock puppets andmarionettes. When I found out what ventriloquism was, I decided to try it. I performed a 10-minute show at my grandma's church and I made people laugh. After that I was kind of hooked.
I started performing at Christian schools and churches. By age 18, I was doing 80 shows a year. I attended conferences and training. I trained with Jeff Dunham. I attended the Maher School of Ventriloquism in Colorado.
I went full time when I realized my real job was making me less money than my part time job as a ventriloquist. I was 24.
What was your real job?
What I went to college for and received a Bachelor's in: engineering.
I always tell kids if you work hard and get a college education you can get a job then give it all up to travel the world as a ventriloquist.
How have your characters developed through the years?
I have one character who I started with at age 12. He's evolved a little bit but he's very similar to the original, just about 30 percent larger. He is a little boy, Jeffrey, and his personality is the same. He says the things you're not supposed to say, things I couldn't get away with like picking on people saying, 'Hey, bald guy.'
My grandpa character has a fun voice I used to tease my dad with, a raspy voice. Really I use my voices to show my range. I try to make each character unique.
How did you connect with Disney Cruise Lines?
A very sweet agent saw my work and said she thought I would be fantastic for it. I did a trial with Disney, and they said I was welcome to perform as many shows as I'd like. I felt extremely honored considering everything Disney is of the highest quality. I do one cruise a month to the Bahamas. They invited my family and me to sail on the European cruises next summer. I'll be doing one Alaskan and several European cruises.
Do you have kids?
Yes, a 2- and a 4-year-old. They love going on the cruises. They used to call it daddy's boat. Now they call it Mickey's boat. It hurts my feelings a little bit, but you know, its Mickey Mouse.
Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines
Subscribe to our free DayStarter newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
How does your Disney act differ from your church act?
At churches, I get to share about my faith and do Bibles stories. But wherever I am, it's always clean, always family-friendly.
What can audiences expect at Sunday's show?
My show is for all ages from 103 to 3. Anyone can come and have a good time. Expect a lot of fun and a great message. Christians love to have fun.