I've been involved in puppetry at various times in my life. It's actually something I have really enjoyed. Now, you don't need to be a ventriloquist to do puppets. At all. You don't even have to talk. When I was in high school doing puppets at church, we only ever used taped skits. Yeah, on, like, cassette tapes. That's just how we did it. Which was fine except for that one time when the cassette player ate the tape during a performance. Mostly, we worked on hand movements, because the hand movements are actually difficult if you want your puppet to look natural. But that's beside the point...
Anyway, working from a recording worked fine. Most of the time. Until that time we were doing this day camp thing out at an actual campgrounds and could only take the castoff puppets and no recorded shows. It was my idea, but the guy in charge of the puppets wasn't going and wouldn't let us take all the proper equipment, so I decided I was just gonna improvise. And I did.
I had this old puppet I called Mr. Purple, because, well, he was purple. Bald and purple with a red nose. I made up this voice for him that I can no longer remember, and I used to get behind a table turned on its side and talk to the kids. It wasn't so much performing as just interacting with them and being crazy and silly. They really loved Mr. Purple. Things were fine like that for a few days until, one day, when it was time to go, one or two of the kids wanted to say goodbye to Mr. Purple, but there was no place for me to hide. This kind of thing had never happened in one of our regular puppet shows, and I didn't know what to do. I mean, the rule, the BIG rule, was to NEVER let any of the kids see you with a puppet on your arm or talking for the puppet. NEVER break the illusion.
But the kids were really heartbroken over not getting to say goodbye to Purple. I caved and brought him out on my arm right there in front of them and tried to not move my lips as much as possible. After that, for a while, I practiced not moving my lips, but some of my... antics... with Purple required full vocalizations, and I couldn't do those without opening my mouth all the way. What I found out, though, is that the kids didn't care. They just didn't. To them, I was the one attached to Purple, not the other way around. They loved him, not me, and they had to be able to give him hugs when we needed to leave everyday. It was really sweet.
I learned a lot that summer about a child's ability to create reality.
And that's your free story for the day, because it doesn't have anything to do with ventriloquism other than my failed attempt at it.
I find ventriloquism fascinating, and I love to watch a good ventriloquist.
But none of this is how ventriloquism started. No, it's not. Let me just say:
Have you ever wanted to start your own religion?
See, the Greeks believed that the spirits of the dead spoke to people through their stomachs; that's what causes stomach noises, you know, the dead trying to reach the living. Some people could interpret these noises, and the voices of the dead would speak through the living without the lips moving. These people were called... are you ready for this? No, really, are you? It's awesome. Seriously.
They were called gastromancers. And, yes, the practice was called gastromancy.
It was also through gastromancers that the gods spoke to people in the temples and such.
And that's how you can use ventriloquism to start your own religion. Just tell people it's "god in your stomach." Works every time.
Through much of history, then, ventriloquism has been used as a religious or spiritual practice. A notable exception to this was during the Middle Ages in Europe, when it was viewed as a form of witchcraft. You definitely didn't want your belly speaking up in those days or you'd be accused of being possessed by a demon or the Devil himself.
Eventually, though, in the late 19th century, it became a stage act, which brings us up to modern ventriloquists.
So the main thing here is just to practice (a lot) with keeping your mouth still while you talk. BUT you don't have to keep your lips completely still, because the real art of ventriloquism is the art of illusion, just like any stage magician. You make the audience look where you want them to, make them believe that you believe you're talking to some other object or that the sound is coming from somewhere else, and they will believe it, too. That was really the trick I had with Mr. Purple. I treated him as if he was real, not like he was a puppet, and, so, he was real to those kids.