Jeff Dunham

The Man Who Made Ventriloquism Cool Again


Post Contents

This profile on ventriloquist Jeff Dunham contains the following sections:


1. Introduction

Jeff Dunham : VentriloquistJeff Dunham is a phenomenally successful global entertainment brand. If you have not heard of Jeff Dunham or his array of suitcase sidekicks, where have you been hiding until now?

Jeff Dunham’s accolades are many and vast. His TV specials have achieved the highest viewing ratings in Comedy Central’s history. His DVD’s have achieved several million sales and Jeff Dunham clips on YouTube have received over half a billion views. Jeff Dunham’s live concerts have become mega events as he performs to sold out arenas across the globe.

Times magazine have declared that Jeff Dunham is the single most popular comedian in the US and Forbes has named him in their list of 100 most powerful entertainers for two years running. Jeff Dunham’s characters are all conceived and hand crafted by him and each has their own legion of devoted and loyal fans.

Despite Jeff Dunham’s global appeal not everyone is a fan! His show has received critical praise and caused controversy as some have accused his characters of being racist, sexist and homophobic. Time Magazine stated that Jeff Dunham’s characters were all politically incorrect, gratuitously insulting and ill tempered. In 2008 the South African Advertising Standards Authority banned a TV commercial featuring Jeff Dunham’s signature character ‘Achmed the Dead Terrorist’ after a complaint was filed by a citizen stating the advert was offensive to Muslims.

Jeff Dunham has commented that his show pokes fun at everyone; whites, blacks, Hispanics, Christians, Jews, Muslims, gays, straights, rednecks, addicts, the elderly, and even his own wife and family are not immune. As a stand up comedian, Jeff Dunham states his job is to make the majority of people laugh, and believes that comedy is the last true form of free speech.

Jeff Dunham’s meteoric rise to fame looks set to continue with the release of his fourth self produced DVD, Controlled Chaos. Whether you love or loath him there is no doubting that Jeff Dunham is the man who has made ventriloquism cool again.


2. Profile Summary

Jeff Dunham Profile : Contents

  • The Early Years
  • Career to Date
  • Jeff Dunham Characters
    • Peanut
    • Walter
    • Achmed – The Dead Terrorist
    • Melvyn – The Super Hero Guy
    • José Jalapeño
    • Bubba J
    • Achmed Junior
    • Sweet Daddy Dee
  • Vote For Your Favourite Character
  • Personal Life
  • Jeff Dunham DVD’s
  • Jeff Dunham Books
  • Jeff Dunham Merchandise
  • Useful Links & Further Reading

Jeff Dunham Summary
Birth Name
Birth Date
Birth Place
Nationality
Inspiration
DVD’s
 
 
 
 
Website


3. The Early Years

Edgar Bergen, Charlie McCarthy & Mortimer SnerdJeff Dunham was born on April the 18th 1962 in Dallas, Texas. At three months old he was adopted by Howard & Joyce Dunham who raised him as an only child.

Jeff Dunham’s interest in ventriloquism began in 1970 [Age : 8] when he received a Mortimer Snerd ventriloquist dummy and accompanying instructional record album as a present from his parents. Jeff fondly discusses this moment in the opening sequence of his Controlled Chaos DVD and provides hilarious photographic evidence to support this too.

Jeff later borrowed a book on how to be a ventriloquist from the local library, which in 2011 he confessed to still owning remarking that he was “a thief by the third grade”. By the fourth grade, Jeff Dunham decided he not only wanted to be a ventriloquist, but that he wanted to be the best ventriloquist in the world and began practising for hours taking inspiration from ventriloquism legends such as Edgar Bergen and Jimmy Nelson.

As a teenager Jeff performed regularly for audiences in venues such as schools and churches. He also performed routines whilst working in his job at Six Flags amusement park. Jeff showed his entrepreneurial flair from an early age having his high-school yearbook photo’s taken accompanied by his dummy. Jeff realised this was a great way to get a promotional photograph for his act cheap. Jeff discusses his daughter’s horror at discovering these photos in his auto biography All By My Selves. ( Listen to the “Yearbook Photos” audio clip below )

Jeff Dunham - All by My Selves   Ventriloquism DVD - Jeff Dunham - Controlled Chaos

Audio Transcript:

I was pretty serious about my career at a very early age and I never stopped thinking about the next way to move it all forward. Not too long ago my three daughters asked if they could see some of my old yearbooks. I couldn’t resist so out came the annuals for Northwood Junior High and Richardson High School. The girls quickly noticed something unusual in each of my individual class photo’s, I wasn’t by myself. A ventriloquist dummy was sitting on my lap in every single picture, every single year.

“Oh my god Dad, that is so embarassing… why?” I offered what I considered a logical explanation. I needed professional quality studio photo’s to help promote my act but they were too expensive to have done. So, I posed with my main character each year for my school pictures. The photographer’s usually thought it was funny. What’s wrong with that?

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4. Career to Date

The Jeff Dunham ShowAfter graduating from Baylor University, Jeff Dunham moved to Los Angeles and soon became a sensation on the national comedy club circuit. Jeff made numerous appearances on just about every comedy show going as well as frequent guest appearances on The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman.

In 2006 Jeff Dunham self produced his first one hour prime time special, Arguing with Myself which premiered on Comedy Central. Almost immediately Jeff Dunham became a comedy phenomenon. His fans reaction was explosive with fans immediately posting clips across the web. Jeff Dunham has started his journey into reviving the lost art of ventriloquism.

After reaching the pinnacle of the puppet-insult-comedy world, Dunham’s logical next move was to record a comedy special. But unable to secure a decent offer—”What idiot would invest a half a million dollars in a puppet show?” Dunham says—he decided to finance a showcase on his own. 2006′s Arguing With Myself, which featured old favorites like Walter and Peanut would go on to sell more than 500,000 copies on DVD. Comedy Central also bought the rights to the special, initiating a valuable long-term relationship with the comic.

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In 2007 Jeff Dunham self produced his second comedy central special, Spark of Insanity which once again aired to record viewing ratings for the comedy channel. That year Amazon consumers rated “Spark” as the best DVD of the year with over a million DVD sales.

In 2008 Jeff Dunham’s third television event, A Very Special Christmas Special premièred with 6.6 million viewers to become the cable channels most watched program ever! In 2009 and 2010, Jeff Dunham was named by Pollstar (The Concert Industry Trade Magazine) as the top grossing live comedy act in the world.

In 2010, The Jeff Dunham Show premièred as the highest rated series in Comedy Central history with 5.5 million viewers in it’s initial airing. The DVD was released in May 2010 and sold more than 100,000 units within the first four weeks! Later that year, Jeff Dunham released his auto-biography All by My Selves which immediately landed on the New York Times best seller list.

Today Jeff Dunham’s universal global appeal is undeniable! He performs at sold out stadium sized shows from UK to Australia. In 2011, Jeff Dunham launched his third multi country tour selling out the largest indoor venues in Holland and Belgium. Jeff concluded the tour with his French début at L’ Olympia in Paris, the first show by any international comedian at France’s most prestigious venue since Jerry Lewis played there in 1971.

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Over 5.5 million viewers tuned in to watch Jeff Dunham’s latest comedy special, Controlled Chaos air on Comedy Central on September the 25th 2011. The DVD made an unprecedented multi-territory release in a dozen countries on the 27th of September 2011 with over 100,000 units being sold within the first week.

As an entertainer Jeff Dunham has truly impacted upon popular culture and his character’s catchphrases are heard in our everyday language. He has been credited with reviving the dying art of ventriloquism and doing more to promote it than any other performer since the great Edgar Bergen. Jeff Dunham maintains a highly interactive relationship with his fans via his website: www.JeffDunham.com, Facebook, Twitter and his hugely successful and popular YouTube channel.


5. Jeff Dunham Characters

Peanut

Jeff Dunham Characters - PeanutPeanut is a purple skinned Woozle with white fur covering a large portion of his body. He has a tuft of green hair on the top of his head and wears only one shoe on his left foot.

Little is known about Peanut’s origins but in Jeff Dunham’s first comedy central special, Arguing With Myself he explains how he and Peanut met in Florida. Peanut’s character and humour is not based on a specific stereotype like Jeff’s other characters.

Peanut is high on life. He is a whimsical and manic, frenzied and fast, unrelenting screwball. The hyperactive, excitable and sometimes controversial Woozle often pokes fun at Jeff and is regularly seen tormenting José Jalapeño on a stick. He prides himself on stealing the limelight in every show.

Walter

Jeff Dunham Characters - WalterWalter is a brash, outspoken, grumpy old man who always sits with his arms folded in a show of discontent. Walter says the things other people are afraid to say because he just doesn’t care anymore.

Vietnam War veteran and welder, Walter doesn’t give a damn about anyone including audience members or his wife. Whether it be a corporate executive, politician or famous celebrity at some point, Walter will have told them all to “Shut the hell up!”

Jeff Dunham and Walter make a perfect father-son comedy combination with Jeff regularly asking for advice from the old man. Jeff asks questions about his sex life, marriage and involvement in the Vietnam War. He also asks Walter advice on his own day to day problems and Walter is always keen to provide an answer in his own unique and sarcastic manner.

Achmed – The Dead Terrorist

Jeff Dunham Characters - Achmed The Dead TerroristAchmed The Dead Terrorist is Jeff Dunham’s most controversial but equally his most popular character. The sketch for a Spark of Insanity where Jeff Dunham introduces Achmed, is the fourth most watched online video ever; being viewed over 200 million times!

Achmed is a skeletonised corpse of an incompetent suicide bomber, famously known for his signature line “Silence! … I Kill You” which he shouts at people in the audience when they laugh at his customs and beliefs. Achmed is the first of Jeff Dunham’s characters to sing during a comedy sketch performing “Jingle Bombs” in the third comedy special A Very Special Christmas Special.

Jeff Dunham uses Achmed and comedy to discuss the sensitive issue of terrorism and has succeeded in making his character the worlds most famous and loved suicide bomber. Achmed does not seem to realise he is dead and commonly makes reference to his incompetence with explosives.

Interestingly, the large round; articulated eyes for Achmed The Dead Terrorist were constructed by the same effects artist who created the dinosaur eyes for the Jurassic Park films.

Melvyn – The Super Hero Guy

Jeff Dunham Characters - MelvynMelvyn wears a blue and green superhero costume with a yellow D on the front. This is for his theme tune “Da, da da daaa”. His one superhero power is the gift of x-ray vision which he uses for looking at women’s boobies. Although he seemingly has no other super powers Melvyn is not impressed with the ability of other super heroes. He dismisses Superman as a show off for leaping tall buildings, states Aquaman has the same powers as SpongeBob Square Pants and questions the relationship between Batman and an under-age Robin. Melvyn also claims to have had a relationship with Cat Woman, an experience which left him needing cream for a serious itch!

In his first screen appearance (July 2003) Melvyn had small, black, beady eyes. He was later modified to have large blue crossed eyes. Melvyn’s other endearing feature is a rather large, bulbous, phallic shaped nose.

Melvyn is Achmed the Dead Terrorist’s most feared opponent, challenging him regularly at the game of Checkers. He also combines with Walter to keep Achmed in line. In Spark of Insanity he explains that he gives Achmed a verbal warning before Walter gases him! Melvyn is also married to a super hero. He states her power being that once a month she turns evil and he is not able to defeat her!

José Jalapeño on a Stick

Jeff Dunham Characters - José JalapeñoJosé Jalapeño is a talking Jalapeño pepper, mounted on a stick. He has a strong Latino accent, a thick black Mexican style moustache and wears a small sombrero. Being on a stick José Jalapeño’s movement is limited to a single motion of the mouth for which Jeff Dunham uses a switch placed on the Stick.

José Jalapeño arrived in the United States on a stick. While living in Mexico he knew that there was hope beyond the border and decided to sneak into the United States! Once he had arrived José Jalapeño found out his parents were from Los Angeles and gave birth to him while on holiday in Mexico, meaning he was totally legal to reside in the United States all along.

José Jalapeño is a calming force amongst Jeff Dunham’s suitcase sidekicks. A completely opposite character of Peanut he is regularly seen comprehensively arguing with the manic and frenzied Woozle. Peanut mocks José Jalapeño for being on a stick and questions his legal status. In a lazy but defiant manner José Jalapeño defiantly argues back calling Peanut “An Idiot”. At times peanut is seen to be frustrated accusing Jeff Dunham of giving José Jalapeño the better jokes within the sketch.

On every joke in every comedy show he appears, José Jalapeño finishes with the line “On a Stick” (pronounced “On a steeek”).

Bubba J

Jeff Dunham Characters - Bubba JBubba J is 100% a beer swilling redneck of little to no intelligence. Jeff Dunham refers to Bubba J as “Trailer Park White Trash” and focuses the humour for Bubba J on this stereotype.

Conversations between Jeff Dunham and Bubba J focus on the little guys passions and small pleasures. He calls Jeff, Mr Dunham and discusses his fat ugly wife, his promiscuous sex life and illegitimate child. In Arguing with Myself, Bubba J recalls how he met his wife at a family reunion and remembers how, with a corn dog in one hand and can of beer in the other, she was leaning against a Ferris wheel – “causing it to tilt”.

Bubba J has a passion for watching NASCAR and drinking beer which in Controlled Chaos, he claims that his uncle purchased for him when he was a minor. Although he does not appear on stage in Controlled Chaos, Bubba J has a prominent role as the back stage security guard and also appears in the special feature “Bubba J Winery Tour”.

The latest update on Jeff Dunham’s website states : “Bubba J is currently between jobs, and if all goes well, he’ll stay that way”.

Achmed Junior

Jeff Dunham Characters - Achmed JuniorAchmed Junior (AJ) is the estranged son of Achmed. Like his father, Achmed Junior is the victim of a bomb which resulted in the destruction of half his face and body. Although Achmed Junior first appeared during the Identity Crisis Tour (2010) he makes his first on screen appearance in Jeff Dunham’s fourth comedy special Controlled Chaos.

To Achmed’s displeasure, his son speaks with a British accent and states that he does not want to be a suicide bomber. During the sketch in Controlled Chaos Achmed struggles to recall which one of his wives was Achmed Junior’s mother simply referrring to her as number 42. Achmed junior also suprises his father when he sees Marnell, Jeff Dunham’s on stage assistant and states “He’s kind of cute”.

Sweet Daddy Dee

Jeff Dunham Characters - Sweet Daddy DeeSweet Daddy Dee was introduced in the first comedy central special, Arguing With Myself. Jeff Dunham introduces his character as his new manager, although Sweet Daddy Dee calls himself a “Player In the Management Profession” or PIMP. As he is a PIMP he refers to Jeff as the “ho”. When Jeff Dunham objects Sweet Daddy Dee points out that Jeff makes people happy and feel good for a living and as that is the case he is a “ho”.

Sweet Daddy Dee agreed to be Jeff Dunham’s manager as he thinks he is “safe” compared to his other clients who end up in trouble or prison. When Jeff tries to copy Sweet Daddy Dee using the phrase “word” he is less than impressed warning him not to ever do it again. Sweet Daddy Dee amusingly sucks his top lip at any audience participants he thinks he can make a “ho”.

Although he features in The Jeff Dunham Show, Sweet Daddy Dee does not make an appearance in Jeff Dunham’s later comedy specials; Spark of Insanity or Controlled Chaos.


6. Vote For Your Favourite Jeff Dunham Character


7. Personal Life

In addition to creating new puppet characters for his act Jeff Dunham also restores antique puppets as a hobby. In 2008 he bought and successfully restored a six foot tall, mechanized dummy that was built in 1941 and unused for fifty years. Aside from ventriloquism Jeff has harboured a love of helicopters since being a child. He builds and flies his own kit helicopters from Rotorway helicopter kits.

Jeff Dunham met Paige Brown in December 1992 and they were married in May 1994. At the time Paige had a daughter named Bree who Jeff later adopted. Jeff and Paige went on to have two more daughters, Ashlyn (1995) and Kenna (1997).

Jeff Dunham’s work and tour schedule would keep him away from home for extended periods which proved difficult for the family. In November 2008 papers were filed by the Dunham’s for divorce. The months following the end of his marriage were a difficult time and in January 2009 Jeff Dunham cancelled a number of shows, something he had never done before.

In 2009 Jeff Dunham met Audrey Murdickand on the 25th of December 2011 they became engaged. In a touching scene from Controlled Chaos, Jeff and Walter discuss coming to terms with the divorce and Jeff’s new relationship with Audrey.


8. Jeff Dunham DVD’s

Jeff Dunham has released four comedy specials; Arguing with Myself, Spark of Insanity, Very Special Christmas Special and Controlled Chaos. In addition to his comedy specials Jeff has also released the hugely successful comedy series The Jeff Dunham Show on DVD. Please click the images below to find out more about Jeff Dunham’s DVD’s.

Jeff Dunham DVD - Arguing With Myself
Jeff Dunham DVD : Spark of Insanity
Jeff Dunham DVD : Very Special Christmas Special
Jeff Dunham DVD : Controlled Chaos
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9. Jeff Dunham Books

In 2010, Jeff Dunham released his auto-biography All by My Selves, which immediately landed on the New York Times best seller list. Please click the image below to find out more about Jeff Dunham’s autobiography : All By My Selves.

Jeff Dunham Book : All by My Selves


10. Jeff Dunham Merchandise

Due to Jeff Dunham’s phenomenal success and the popularity of his comedy characters there is a vast range of merchandise for sale on both the www.amazon.com and www.amazon.co.uk websites.

To assist you in the task of finding the item you want we have personally selected the very best items from both websites and sorted these for you. Please use either of the buttons below to view the selection of Jeff Dunham merchandise available.


11. Recommended Further Reading

This page has been created using the resources listed below. I would like to take the time to thank all the people that help and support Jeff Dunham. I would personally like to thank Jeff Dunham for everything he has done for and continues to do for the art of ventriloquism.

Useful Links

Further Reading

One Response to Jeff Dunham

  1. howtoven says:

    Hi Justin and thank you for your kind comments. I would suggest you check out my post How to be a Ventriloquist. The secret is to master the labial consonants and then practise, practise, practise.

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I have been practising ventriloquism around two years now. I originally started as a fun way to keep my son entertained. I bought George and the rest as they say is history. George has become part of the family and he still keeps Preston entertained even now!

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