If you have a large nose, or a lisp, or dark skin, or light skin, a lazy eye, breasts (real or fake), a trailer home, a turban, a weight problem (obesity or anorexia), gray hair, an accent other than CNN-American English, or a Native American casino, there’s a good chance you’ll be offended by ventriloquist extraordinaire Jeff Dunham.
But if you have a sense of humor there’s an even better chance you’ll laugh anyway.
Neither Christians, Jews, nor homosexuals are safe from the mildly scathing personalities Dunham hauls around on his current North American tour, which is selling out most rooms, including back-to-back nights at Northern Quest Casino this weekend.
A 20-year veteran in comedy and ventriloquism, Dunham has become one of the brightest stars to shine on Comedy Central with two top-rated specials that have both turned into multiplatinum DVDs.
Dunham has clocked more than 100 million views on YouTube. His newest puppet, Achmed the Dead Terrorist – a failed suicide bomber reduced to bearded skeleton – has collected three fourths of those views with his popular catchphrase, “Silence! I keel you!”
Dunham also packs with him an old grump named Walter; Peanut, who looks like a monchichi on meth; Jose, a depressed talking jalapeño on a stick; Marvin, a half-hearted superzero; Sweet Daddy D., a fast-talking pimped-out puppet; and Bubba J., who Dunham describes as “trailer trash.”
Dunham fades into the background as his family of fake friends bicker amongst themselves, just as often insulting Dunham as the rest of audience, or the entire town in which he’s performing (imagine what he might say about Spokane).
Some of the humor is silly and absurd: “If you choke a Smurf what color does it turn?” Dunham asks Walter (don’t worry, that’s not the joke). Sometimes just adding “on a stick” to the back end of one of Jose’s lines is enough to garner a giggle. We’ve all heard enough “Can you hear me now?” cell phone jokes to carry us into the next era of telecommunications, but coming from a master voice man like Dunham, it’s the simple, masterful nuance of two puppets seemingly talking over each other while he stands in the middle watching helplessly that makes it funny.
In January, Dunham was voted No. 1 by fans who voted in Comedy Central’s “Stand-Up Showdown.” He also was voted Funniest Male Stand-Up Comic at the American Comedy Awards, an honor he shares with Jerry Seinfeld, Jeff Foxworthy and Robin Williams. And Dunham has made multiple appearances on “The Tonight Show,” with both Carson and Leno.
All across America, people are laughing.
But it’s heavy on politically incorrect humor, and not everyone gets the joke. Last month a ring tone based on an Achmed skit was banned from South African TV because it mocks Islam.
Dunham countered that Achmed establishes early on in the show that he is not Muslim (the tag on his rear end clearly says “Made in China”).
More to the point, the native Texan told Fox News, “comedy is the last true form of free speech.”
Or, as Walter would say, “Screw you, that was funny.”
If you didn’t get tickets for Dunham’s two-night stand at Northern Quest, you can catch the world premiere of “Jeff Dunham’s Very Special Christmas Special,” at 9 p.m. on Comedy Central.