Tri-City firefighter, ventriloquist to appear on reality TV show

By Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldJune 5, 2013 

Firefighter Keith Ramsay has no plans to change his career, but it's his hobby that will get him on national TV tonight.

The Kennewick man is as adept at ventriloquism and magic as he is fighting fires for the city of Richland.

Tonight he'll get a chance to prove it on AMC's reality series Showville, which starts at 7 p.m.

"I am excited, especially because I never thought I'd get past the auditions," said Ramsay, who said he "stumbled across" the audition announcement in the Tri-City Herald. The tryouts were held in January in Walla Walla.

Showville producers travel the country visiting small towns, giving residents a once-in-a-lifetime chance to perform in the spotlight, said Sheena Eustice, Showville spokeswoman.

"Each week, a one-hour episode of Showville touches down in small-town America and puts together a talent show in a mere four days," she said. "The episodes capture a round of open auditions, and four finalists are chosen to compete in front of an audience of friends and neighbors for a $10,000 prize."

The winner is kept secret until the show airs, but Ramsay could reveal he made it to the final round of the show taped at the Power House Theatre.

"I do believe my performance was my best ever," Ramsay said.

He's been performing magic since he was a kid, and later taught himself to be a ventriloquist.

His dummy Rodney is a larger-than-life white rabbit, who sits on a stool and shoots the breeze with Ramsay entertaining the audience with his charmingly sassy personality.

The Showville camera crew came to his home in the Tri-Cities to film a short segment for the program.

"We're going to have a party (tonight) at Sam's Saloon to watch the show and anyone who wants to come is welcome," Ramsay said. Sam's Saloon is behind Columbia Center on Gage Boulevard in Kennewick.

He'll be competing with a trio of singers, the Bizarre Love Triangle band of Walla Walla; hip-hop artist Benji Garcia from Milton-Freewater; and a standup comic from Portland.

The show's judges are Alec Mapa, an actor, comedian and writer from San Francisco;and Lisette Bustamante, a Los Angeles choreographer who has worked with singers Britney Spears and Aaliyah.

Ramsay, a father of three, said his love of entertaining started in the third grade when he built his first dummy and performed for his classmates. But his talent had nothing to do with genetics, he said.

"My parents were extreme introverts, and I was just the opposite," Ramsay said. "I think the greatest joy I ever got from my shows was when I made my mother laugh so hard she cried."

Even though his magic and ventriloquism shows keep him busy when he's not fighting fires, he has no interest in performing full time.

"I love being a firefighter," Ramsay said. "And it's easy to schedule my shows when I'm not on duty."

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