what it is: dummies
where i found it: the oxford american
There's a good mini article in this season's Oxford American that turned me on to the annual Kentucky ventriloquist convention, an event for those who take their profession quite seriously (e.g. believing that your dummy should never be left alone, "dead", ignored or unanimated). There are a myriad of disturbing aspects to this, a number of which can be explored through the documentary Dumbstruck, a horror show of which I've only been brave enough to view the trailer.
There is also the top grossing ventriloquist in the world, this guy, who has gotten famous alongside his dummy Achmed the Dead Terrorist, predictably landing him in trouble with a number of living terrorist organizations. He is not really that funny and so much of what he is doing is assinine for so many reasons, but I admit it's kind of fun to watch him shriek "I kill you!" at increasingly shrill volumes without moving his mouth.
The same issue of the OA (elephant on the front) is worth tracking down for it's narrative of a cross country Greyhound bus ride.