Although simple in concept, creating one of these ventriloquist's masks will probably be quite tricky.
As Oscar Wilde once said: "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."
The reason I mention this here is that my chum Bob in the next office just introduced me to the most amazing mask videos. For example, check out this video of Nina Conti live at the Apollo. I don’t know about you, but I simply couldn’t stop myself from laughing all the way through.
Another good one is this video of ventriloquist Paul Zerdin on America's Got Talent (it's all good, but if you're short of time, you might want to scroll forward to the 10:15 mark where Paul invites Howie Mandel up onto the stage and uses one of these masks to great effect).
I'm sure you've guessed what I'm thinking: "Ooh, Shiny!" I would really like one of these masks because I'm sure I could have a lot of fun with it. Unfortunately, I don’t know where to get them from and, even if they are for sale, I'm sure they are horrendously expensive (even this simple Microphone Mouth costs close to $200).
But never fear, because Bob is here. As you may recall from my recent Hnaflbaflwhiflsnifltafl column, Bob is an amazing sculptor. Happily, Bob wants one of these masks for his own amusement, so he's going to sculpt the two halves in clay, create molds, and then cast the result in some light-weight plastic.
Even better, he's going to make one for yours truly. The big question now is how we are going to control our masks. One approach is to use something like a brake handle and cable from a bicycle to open the jaw, coupled with a spring mechanism to close it again. Something like this is the technique employed by Nina Conti to great effect. Ideally, of course, we'd like a radio-controlled solution, similar to the one used by Paul Zerdin.
We're still at the beginning stages of this project, so any ideas and suggestions would be much appreciated.
@Traneus Rex: ...The uncanny part was her face, which looked plastic due to excessively thick makeup...
When I was at university I was part of a crowd of about 20 people -- 1/2 guys & 1/2 gals -- one of the girls was really hard to talk to -- usually in a conversation the conversational ball bounces back and forth between the participants -- but in this case you would say something and the "ball" would bounce her way and drop into a well of nothingness -- it was hard work...
So now imagine combining my friend with the lady you met -- it woudl be easy to get the feeling you were talking to an android.
Speaking of which -- what's the difference between a robot and an android and a cyborg?
A few years ago at ESC Boston, I had a reverse uncanny valley experience with the woman tending one booth in the Exhibit Hall. I read her as human, based on her movements (walking gait, arms at rest hanging down rather than held up, liquid meniscus between eyeballs and eyelids, etc.) and had a conversation with her. The uncanny part was her face, which looked plastic due to excessively thick makeup.
On America's Got Talent! Only I'm not going to watch the clip again, nor the Nina Conti one right now because they will only make me laugh so much I'll start coughing, and I'm still sick enough that the sinus pressure in my head will make it hurt. Hopefully this weekend I'll kick this illness for good. So I can watch these hysterical videos without the pain (oh, and so I can get back to work without infecting my coworkers, too!)