116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Teenagers are few and far between at Jeff Dunham and Terry Fator shows. Baby boomers and Gen Xers typically flock to see and hear the nation’s most popular ventriloquists.
The old-school art form has looked as if it’s on the edge of extinction, but then came Darci Lynne Farmer, 17, one of America's most prominent ventriloquists.
She became enamored of the art form in 2014.
“I never heard of ventriloquists until I was 9 years old,” Farmer said. “I learned about it through a friend and I just thought it was the coolest thing.”
What: Ventriloquist Darci Lynne: “My Lips are Sealed (Except When They’re Not)” tour
Where: Riverside Casino Event Center, 3184 Highway 22, Riverside
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, July 30, 2022
Tickets: Limited availability, $59; Casino Gift Shop, 1-(877) 677-3456 or riversidecasinoandresort.com/eventcenter.html
Artist’s website: darcilynne.com/
Shortly thereafter, Farmer decided to try to learn how to speak and sing with her lips closed.
“I started to teach myself when I was around 10 years old,” she said by phone from her Oklahoma City home. “It was the start of this amazing journey. I had to work at it. Ventriloquism isn't automatic. It took many hours, days and months to get where I needed to be. But I don’t regret a minute of all the effort I put in.”
She is a quick study. Within two years, Farmer won “America's Got Talent,” under the name Darci Lynne. It was 2017, and the budding ventriloquist was just 12 years old.
“That was awesome,” she said. “That was so cool. It was an unforgettable experience.”
Farmer, who will perform a nearly sold-out show Saturday at the Riverside Casino Event Center, has a field day with her puppets: Petunia, a rabbit; Oscar, a Motown mouse; and Edna, an elderly woman.
“I have so much fun with them,” she said. “It just feels so natural right now.”
Continuing to perform as Darci Lynne, who is on her “My Lips are Sealed (Except When They’re Not)” tour, said she owes much of her success to veteran ventriloquist Gary Owen.
“Gary taught me everything I know,” she said. “Gary taught me timing and how to react to my puppets and how they should react to me. What I’ve learned from Gary has been invaluable. It’s important when you learn something to learn it the right way.”
Expect an old-school variety show when Darci Lynne performs.
“People say I’m an old soul since I like how entertainment used to be,” she said. “In my house we play Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley. I just saw the ‘Elvis’ movie with Tom Hanks and I just loved it. I’ve been playing the soundtrack over and over again. My show will feel like a throwback, considering the way I do things. I’ll talk with my puppets and I’ll sing to my puppets.”
However, there is more to her career than ventriloquism. She hopes to break out as an actress and as a singer without puppets.
“I do solo songs without the puppets (during the show),” she said. “I want to have a solo career in music. I want to act. There is so much I want to do.”
Farmer, who is undecided about college, where she will probably major in music, has time.
“I'm not sure where I want to go when it comes for university,” she said. “I’ll probably take a gap year.”
But one thing is certain, Farmer will continue to focus on ventriloquism.
“Why shouldn’t I,” she said. “I absolutely love it. I’ve been to 48 states because of ventriloquism. This will be the second time I'm going to be in Iowa. All of the experiences I’ve had as an entertainer have been awesome.”
Farmer has total support from her family.
“My mom taught me how to sing and my dad has been like my mom — behind everything I’ve done,” she said. “I can't thank them enough. There was always music in my house and it’s always been about being creative. I’m very fortunate, since I’ve found my niche, which is entertaining people. I can’t imagine ever doing anything else.”