Andree, Henry, Norma and Thomas perform regularly at birthday parties, charity benefits, nursing homes and hospital children's wards.
The quartet even shares a home in Camp Springs.
Thomas and Norma Taylor are father and daughter, and their ever-present companions Andree and Henry are the dolls the Taylor ventriloquists use to perform.
Thirty years ago, when Thomas Taylor first played with a ventriloquist's doll belonging to a friend, he was intrigued.
But his father would not let him buy a good doll.
"He thought ventriloquism was something I shouldn't be doing," says Taylor, now a utility operator for the General Services Administration in Suitland. Taylor kept up his interest in ventriloquism, though, and over the years has devoted most of his free time to building and manipulating ventriloquists' dolls and to developing different tones of voice for them.
Taylor's 12-year-old daughter Norma has discovered the fun of ventriloquism in the last two years, with the help and encouragement of her father. She mastered the finger movements and lip synchronizations within 90 days, a relatively short time for a youngster.
Norma, whose doll Henry is a Charlie McCarthy look-alike without a monocle, says she hopes to "build myself up, get on a television show. If I don't make it, I'll just have fun with it. I make Henry's voice by pressing down on my voice. You have to be a deep breather. I have not picked up a girl's tone yet. That's very difficult."
Taylor has mastered a total of four tones of voice -- "five on a good day," he adds -- and would like to increase that number to six.
The Taylors practice what is known as "close-up" ventriloquism, as opposed to "using a distant voice." With sophisticated microphones and sound systems, using a distant voice is unnecessary, says Taylor.
The Taylors agree that "younger kids are the best audiences because they like dolls. But children younger than 5 to 6 are usually afraid of the doll," says Norma.
The two ventriloquists, who hope some day to own six dolls, are constantly looking for simple, new jokes that will keep children entertained. This requires frequent trips to the library to look for material in joke books. They are especially fond of what they refer to as "tongue tanglers."
The Taylors will perform free for any charity organization or worthy cause. Taylor currently is working to organize a neighborhood talent show to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
The Taylors also have been asked to perform by MacDonald's and O'Farrell's restaurants, but Taylor has refused because the restaurants will not pay the $50 fee he requires to offset the cost of gas used to travel to the shows.
Taylor thinks the art of ventriloquism should have more practitioners. Paul Winchell, one of the United States' foremost ventriloquists wrote a book, "Ventriloquism for Fun and Profit," which, Taylor says, contains "everything you need to know about ventriloquism."
Taylor was taught that wood was the best material for dolls, but he has found that today's new plastics are better. Since store-bought dolls can average $150, he recommends that beginners make their own, using clay -- even grey clay found at the bottom of creeks -- for the body, a cereal box for the doll's jaw, paper towels for the skin and, for the eyes, wooden balls from a child's game or any inexpensive, round object from a hardware store or lumber company.