Minding the Monsters is the new seasonal comedy offering from the worlds number one ventriloquist, Jeff Dunham.
Since he first started “self producing” comedy shows back in 2006, Jeff Dunham and his suitcase sidekicks have become a global comedy phenomenon, continuously smashing the viewing ratings on Comedy Central.
In 2010, The Jeff Dunham Show premièred as the highest rated series in Comedy Central history and now he is back with a bang, or should that be a shriek?
Although ventriloquism as a comedy art form is not for everyone, you cannot deny the success of the man who tours the globe, performing to sell out audiences on average fifteen times a month. This is a lucrative existence for Jeff Dunham as he has become one of the highest earning comedy acts on the planet.
Despite this you cannot deny his passion and enthusiasm to keep producing new comedy material and in this post I will be reviewing his latest seasonal offering: Minding the Monsters.
2. Minding the Monsters – About this Review
It never amazes me to see the amount of reviews carried out by people who are not only anti Jeff Dunham, they are also completely negative about the art form of ventriloquism.
I decided before I created this review to carry out some research on what other people were saying and found terms like “wheeling out the same old characters” and “a stagecraft that has been out of fashion for at least six decades“.
It seems to me that these self opinionated ‘closed mindset‘ buffoons would berate any ventriloquism act.
So, right at the outset I would like to state that Minding the Monsters is a stage performance by the world’s leading ventriloquist. If you don’t like ventriloquism or suffer from Automatonophobia then this DVD is not for you.
I really do not think the people who review and condemn the work of Jeff Dunham fully appreciate the years of hard work and practise it takes to create the characters he presents on stage. Jeff Dunham is not alone in this field. Terry Fator, Paul Zerdin, Ronn Lucas and Lynn Trefzger all have a set number of characters they have developed over the years.
It seems to me that Jeff Dunham is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. His critics expect him to ‘wheel out‘ new characters every time he performs. If he did this his loyal fan-base would be in uproar. Can you imagine going to see Jeff live and not getting to see Achmed, Walter or Peanut?
As can be seen from this website, I am not only a Jeff Dunham fan, I am also a ventriloquist. Therefore this Review of Minding the Monsters will be based upon my positive interpenetration of the art of ventriloquism.
If you are able to sit and be entertained by a world of make believe. If you enjoy watching and are entertained by the art of ventriloquism. If you are a fan of any ventriloquist performer, then please read on as this review is for you.
3. Minding the Monsters at Halloween
Jeff Dunham’s 2012 comedy special Minding the Monsters is now available on DVD and Blu-ray
Although Jeff Dunham does not ‘wheel out‘ new characters in this comedy special, he ingeniously re-engineers them to adapt to the holiday season of Halloween. The timing of the release and cover design strongly reinforce this theme.
Despite the condemnation of his critics, this to me is where Jeff Dunham is able to stay ahead of the game.
The last time Jeff Dunham focused his comedy special on a calender event was the hugely successful A Very Special Christmas Special which set an all time rating record for Comedy Central in 2008.
Minding the Monsters, which was recorded at the Lucas theatre in Savannah, Georgia features all of Jeff’s popular characters including Little Ugly Jeff who made his first appearance in last years comedy special Controlled Chaos.
The ‘twist‘ in this years comedy special is our favourite and loveable characters each have undergone an elaborate makeover and in turn get to play a character themselves.
Before we see any of the characters in costume there is an initial fifteen minute introduction which has become common in Jeff Dunham’s live performances. Within this section Jeff appears in his trademark black suit, t-shirt and necklace and talks openly about himself . Many people have previously condemned him for this and have stated this is not what people have paid to see.
I have previously agreed with this but I am now seeing the value of why Jeff Dunham does this. During these introductions we get an insight into the man behind the act and I have quite grown to like these introductions. More importantly and from a performance perspective Jeff is slowly building the anticipation for the arrival of his first character. This is far more effective than if he should just appear on stage and say “Here’s Peanut“.
The first character to join Jeff on stage is Walter the grumpy old man who we are told has been bantering with him for around twenty years. In line with the shows theme Walter appears as Frankenstein’s monster and refers to himself as “Crankenstein”. Although his familiar balding head has been reworked into a grey flat top he is still his lovable and obnoxious self. Walter’s long suffering wife remains the bane of his jokes with lines like “Your fat arse makes your fat arse look fat, the thong is the victim“.
Walter’s time slot lasts approximately fifteen minutes and he then makes way for the drunken red-neck Bubba J who appears as “The Tooth of the Vampire”. Bubba J states he wanted to be a ghost but someone pointed out to him that “a redneck in a white sheet was not a good idea“.
Next up is the cheeky purple woozle, Peanut who appears at “Batnut”. His costume is clearly recognisable as one of a super hero and he is later joined by Jose Jalapeño on a Stick as his trusty sidekick “Ruben”. This stretch is one of the shows longest as Jeff also introduces “Little Ugly Jeff” as a Riddler-type villain called The Loser. This enables Jeff to poke fun at himself whilst once again demonstrating his amazing ability to juggle three character voices as well as his own.
The show ends with Jeff Dunham’s signature act Achmed the Dead Terrorist making an appearance dressed as the scariest thing he could think of… an American Woman. During this session Achmed tells Jeff that he is no longer a suicide bomber and is now a ‘suicide bombshell’.
5. Features and Bonus Material
The disc’s longest bonus feature is an audio commentary by Jeff Dunham, Neil Sheridan (Supervising Producer ), Matt McNeil (Segment Director) and ventriloquism historian Kelly Asbury.
Throughout the audio commentary the group talk about interesting aspects that we take for granted such as the construction of the new characters, Frankenstein copyright restrictions and Jeff Dunham’s retired characters (Goodnight Sweet Daddy D). I found this to be an enjoyable listen, even the section about Jeff’s restored and drivable Batmobile.
The following material is also included within the bonus features:
- Creating Crankenstein (8:40)
- This clip takes a look at Walter’s transformation for this comedy special. During this clip we are once again reminded that Jeff Dunham’s genius is not just on stage but in the fact that he brings his characters to life by modelling, moulding and painting them himself.
- Monstrous Mistakes (5:57)
- These are a collection of Dunham goofs. Jeff plays these off with in-character improvisations, and make-up touch-ups and technical checks, which he enlivens with jokes and stories to the delight of the audience.
- Tour of Terror (5:31)
- Within this bonus feature Jeff Dunham shows the viewer around the elaborate and inspired stage set for the comedy special including the secret compartments.
- Minding the Minatures (13:04)
- In this clip we see the level of Jeff Dunham’s attention to detail. He takes us back into the workshop to create miniature tombstones and gates for the special’s opening sequence. Here we gain an insight into the tremendous amount of time and effort it takes for a shot that lasts just a few seconds.
- Frightening Photos (2:21)
- Shows us the green screen photo shoot and an ice cream truck!
- Monster Movie Magic (26:17)
- I think this is the best feature as we see Jeff Dunham refashioning a dolls house for the Minding the Monsters opening sequence, We also get an insight into how the character-introducing trailers are shot. Once again, we get to see the large volume of work that Jeff Dunham and his team put in and how little makes it to the final cut.
Like his previous comedy specials, Minding the Monsters is a showcase of one man’s ability to keep pushing the boundaries and creating new hilarious content.
People have accused Jeff Dunham of racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and have stated his act is generally offensive. I think this is an example of how ridiculously over sensitive some people are.
It’s comedy and these acts are expected to have ‘bite’ these days.
I give Jeff Dunham of a lot of credit for trying something different in this comedy special and re-engineering his characters with a monster theme. He continues to push the boundaries and makes ventriloquism cool again.
I have absolutely no doubt that Minding the Monsters will be enjoyed the world over by Jeff Dunham’s huge fan base. The DVD or Blue-ray would make an ideal gift for any of Jeff’s trusted and loyal fans.