VICE's new series American Conventions digs into the country's most obscure, impassioned, and bizarre mass gatherings to see what Americans love to do in their free time, and why they do it. On the first episode, host Taji Ameen heads to Kentucky's Vent Haven—the world's largest annual ventriloquism convention—to meet more than 500 puppeteers obsessed with the art form.
The convention's 40th anniversary welcomes tons of old hands, as well as newcomers and teenagers who stand by their puppets even if it means they get bullied at school. Taji meets up with dozens of ventriloquists to trade techniques before picking up a dummy of his own. It's not until he signs up for Vent Haven's famous open mic that he realizes just how hard ventriloquism really is.