Noah Simmons has quite a story to tell about how he spent his summer vacation. And he tells it best holding a puppet.
The 12-year-old Huntley boy, a ventriloquist who calls himself “The Next Jeff Dunham” on his YouTube channel, actually met his idol in July.
Dunham, a popular ventriloquist and stand-up comedian, saw Noah’s videos, surprised him with a visit and invited him to travel on his tour bus to a show.
“I thought some day I would meet him,” Noah said of the celebrity. “I don’t know what I was thinking. I was in shock. It was mixed emotions in my head. My legs were shaking. I was smiling the whole time.”
Dunham then flew Noah and his family to a national ventriloquist convention in Hebron, Ky., where Noah met all sorts of professional ventriloquists.
All this, and the soon-to-be seventh-grader at Marlowe Middle School in Lake in the Hills has been doing ventriloquism for only about nine months.
He gets his two sisters and two stepsisters to help him out on his videos at youtube.com/user/TheNextJeffDunham.
“I don’t think I could get any other girl to do a puppet show with me,” he said.
Relying on a “joke journal” he keeps, Noah writes much of his own material. He’s tested it out at school once or twice, presenting an oral book report with one of his puppets. The book, of course, was about ventriloquism.
“I recommend this book to any of my friends,” Noah told his classmates.
“And the dummy says, ‘What friends?’ ” he said. “That got a laugh.”
Noah’s talent also drew the attention of those involved with the “Nothin’ Up My Sleeve” Magic Show, hosted annually at the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake.
Last March, as part of the show’s 10-year anniversary, the event featured Marshall Brodien Jr., who performed as the Son of Wizzo, wearing one of the same costumes his father, Marshall Brodien, wore as Wizzo the Wizard on “The Bozo Show” for about 30 years.
Brodien Jr. had met Noah while performing at a children’s show awhile back. Noah’s father, Marc Simmons, a mobile DJ, was working one side of the room, while Brodien Jr. was doing magic on the other.
Noah introduced himself, told Brodien Jr. he had a puppet in the car and asked him if he could try out his material with him. Noah performed, and Brodien Jr. was impressed enough to invite him to the Raue show.
The two did a skit together on stage.
“He has no fear,” said his father, Marc. “He did the Raue Center with like 600 people, and he just did it like it was nothing. I was more nervous for him than he was himself.”
Noah took a liking to Dunham after watching a biography on TV about the celebrity. He thought he was funny and good at manipulation, “which is making the puppets seem real.” He used his birthday money to buy his first puppet, Mortimer Snerd.
“It was difficult for me at first,” Noah said. “I looked it up, and it was confusing. Then I got a book and watched some videos. Then I finally got used to it. ...
“You have to really practice. It takes a lot of work. Most ventriloquists are self-taught. They used to have schools, and they don’t have them anymore.”
Noah said he does ventriloquism pretty much every day. He now has seven puppets. His favorite is Sydney, a professional dummy given to him by Glenn Chelius, co-producer of Nothin’ Up My Sleeve and Raue Center board member. Both the eyes and mouth move, unlike Noah’s other puppets.
Chelius and Brodien Jr. were there the day Dunham surprised Noah.
The two are fans of the aspiring star.
“He has great lip control,” Chelius said. “He’s got funny material, and he’s just an all around good kid really working hard at it.”
As evidenced by his YouTube name, Noah has big plans for his future.
“My goal is to be on my first talk show, like a really legitimate talk show within 10 or 15 years,” he said.
All around him say he’ll get there; he’s a natural.
“I think it’s just incredible,” Marc Simmons said. “ It’s mind blowing all the stuff that’s happened in the last seven months. It’s kind of a lost art, if you will. It’s amazing to me. Not just being his dad, I believe he’s good at it and knows what he’s doing, and everyone says the same kind of thing.”