At age 13, Noah Simmons of Huntley already can call his idol Jeff Dunham a friend and is on his way to becoming a professional ventriloquist.
And, he said, his girlfriend even likes the act.
“She’s been supportive,” he said. “That’s really surprising. When Jeff Dunham was a kid, he said every girlfriend broke up with him.”
As a ventriloquist and stand-up comedian, Dunham has appeared on numerous television shows. Simmons calls himself “The Next Jeff Dunham” and met his inspiration two years ago after Dunham saw Simmons’ videos on YouTube.
The two keep in touch, with Dunham inviting Simmons to his Chicago shows.
Simmons, an eighth grader at Marlowe Middle School in Lake in the Hills, continues to sharpen his act. Called on stage a couple years ago by Marshal Brodien Jr. at “Nothin' Up My Sleeve,” the annual magic show fundraiser for the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake, he’s taking the stage again.
Brodien Jr., the son of Marshall Brodien – Wizzo the Wizard on “The Bozo Show” – had met Simmons while performing at a children’s show awhile back.
This year, Simmon’s act officially is part of the program. The 12th annual fundraiser takes place at 7 p.m. April 4 at the Raue, 26 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake.
“He’s just shot to stardom,” Nino Cruz said of Simmons. Cruz produces the show with Glenn Chelius.
The show also features magicians, illusionists, fire-eaters, daredevil acts and more.
This year’s emcee is Dennis DeBondt, while other performers include Jim Sommers, Jeanette Andrews, Plaz Garcia, Jim Jensen and Bryan Knight.
Here’s more of what Simmons had to say about his magical aspirations:
Kunzer: Tell me about your upcoming act and how you became part of “Nothin’ Up My Sleeve.”
Simmons: They asked me to be part of it about six months ago. I was thrilled. I was stoked, and I can’t wait to be in it this year. It’s going to be me and Dylan, my main character. He’s basically a cooler version of me. The act is going to be 10 minutes or so. Hopefully, I’ll get a lot of laughs from the audience. The last time I was in it, I was in for just five minutes. It was a little thing. I wasn’t really part of the program, but now it’s like legit. This is the real thing.
Kunzer: Do you have other characters?
Simmons: Not in the show, but there’s Steve the Parrot, Sidney the Butler, Marty the Monkey and Ricky the Rich Kid and that’s about it.
Kunzer: What’s your act about?
Simmons: It depends on the characters. If it’s Dylan, it’s mostly school, friends, girlfriends, video games. And with other characters, it’s different topics. If it’s like an all-around topic, each character could have a say in it, like pop culture or whatever’s going on.
Kunzer: How often do you practice?
Simmons: Just about ever day, but I’m not uploading [YouTube] videos as frequently.
Kunzer: So how do you do it, talk without people really seeing your lips move?
Simmons: Wear a mask. Just kidding. Some advice I would give is to learn to control your lips. If you spit when you talk, try and control that
Kunzer: What are your future plans?
Simmons: I’m still looking to land a job, make money and perform. It doesn’t matter how big the audience is, as long as I’m making people laugh and entertaining… I do it to figure out new characters and figure out myself. That sounds really corny, but I do figure myself out. If I want to be cool I can act like one of the characters.By JAMI KUNZER firstname.lastname@example.org