Jeff Dunham - Biography

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Jeff Dunham Overview:

In the course of his career, puppet comedian Jeff Dunham has done the unthinkable: he has proven that a ventriloquist can have huge mainstream success, making him one of the most successful and popular comedians of the 2000s. Often considered one of the Blue Collar Comedians, Dunham and his "suitcase posse" (read: puppets) have sold out clubs and theaters nationwide and released a number of hugely popular stand-up specials, earning Comedy Central its highest ratings in history. Dunham's act consists mostly of banter between himself and his puppets, each of whom has a distinct comic personality -- he's performing insult comedy, though he's usually the one being insulted. Much of the comedian's humor is based on race and political correctness, allowing his puppets to say things that no human could get away with.

Quick Jeff Dunham Facts:

  • Jeff Dunham hails from Dallas, Texas.
  • He started doing stand-up comedy in the late 1980s.
  • Dunham is a ventriloquist comedian and uses seven different puppets in his act, known by his fans as the "suitcase posse."
  • His first Comedy Central Presents special premiered in 2003.
  • He has released six stand-up specials and one album of Christmas songs.
  • In 2008, Dunham was voted number one on Comedy Central's "Stand-up Showdown."
  • In 2009, Dunham began starring on his own show, The Jeff Dunham Show, on Comedy Central.
  • He published his memoir, All By My Selves: Walter, Peanut, Achmed and Me, in 2010.

In the Beginning:

Jeff Dunham was born in Dallas, Texas in 1962. Discovering ventriloquism at age seven to get over shyness, Dunham gave his first puppet performance in the third grade. There was no looking back. He continued to perform through college (at Baylor University) and moved to L.A. in 1988 to pursue stand-up. By 1990, Dunham had officially arrived.

The Tonight Show and More:

His appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson that year was a major success, with Carson inviting Dunham over to the couch on his first appearance -- a rare feat for any comedian, much less one as new as Dunham at the time.

Over the years, Dunham has continued to be a staple on both The Tonight Show as well as performing to sold-out crowds for 40 weeks and over 250 dates across the country each year.

Jeff Dunham's Suitcase Posse:

Dunham uses seven different puppets in his act, which he creates and builds himself. They are:

  • Walter - An old and out of touch curmudgeon who's outspoken about the things he hates.
  • Achmed the Dead Terrorist - A suicide bomber-turned-skeleton who shouts angry threats at American audiences.
  • Achmed Junior - The estranged son of Achmed the Dead Terrorist who does not wish to follow in his father's footsteps. He speaks with a British accent and is also disfigured by an explosion.
  • Peanut - A hyperactive purple "woozle," a kind of cross between a monkey and an alien.
  • Jose Jalapeno On a Stick - Literally a talking jalapeno pepper who punctuates most of his sentences with the phrase "on a stick."
  • Bubba J. - A dim-witted redneck who loves drinking beer and watching NASCAR.
  • Melvin the Superhero - A low-rent wannabe superhero, appearing on Dunham's second stand-up special Spark of Insanity. He was retired after 2012's Minding the Monsters.
  • Sweet Daddy D - Dunham's "manager"; an African-American puppet with little tolerance for Caucasians. Appeared only on Dunham's first special, Arguing With Myself.

Jeff Dunham Stand-up Specials:

After nearly 20 years in stand-up comedy, Dunham finally recorded and released his first stand-up special, Arguing With Myself, in 2006.

His second stand-up special, Spark of Insanity, premiered on Comedy Central in September of 2007. It was released on DVD shortly thereafter.

In 2008, Dunham recorded his third Comedy Central special, an hour of holiday-themed stand-up called Jeff Dunham's Very Special Christmas Special. Seen by 6.6 million people, it set new records for viewership on Comedy Central and became the highest-rated show in the network's history.

In November of 2008, Dunham released an album of music, Don't Come Home for Christmas, to coincide with his Christmas special. It featured songs from that special as well as new material.

In October 2009, Dunham began starring on his own Comedy Central series, The Jeff Dunham Show. The series combined live studio stand-up with pre-taped sketches and man-on-the-street interviews with Dunham and his many puppets. Though it had an extremely successful debut, ratings quickly dropped and Comedy Central canceled the show after one season.

  • More about The Jeff Dunham Show

His fourth special, aired in 2011.

In 2012, Dunham released his first Halloween special, called Minding the Monsters. It premiered on Comedy Central before going out on DVD.

Dunham's sixth comedy special, Jeff Dunham: All Over the Map, debuted in 2014.

His seventh special, Unhinged in Hollywood, premiered on NBC in 2015.

Additional Jeff Dunham Facts:

  • In 1998, Dunham was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Comedy Awards.
  • Dunham has made film appearances in the 2007 comedy Delta Farce (starring comedians Larry the Cable Guy and Bill Engvall) and the 2008 ventriloquism documentary I'm No Dummy, as well as playing a supporting role in the 2010 Steve Carell comedy, playing (what else?) a ventriloquist.
  • Dunham's character Achmed the Dead Terrorist was the star of his own animated film, Achmed Saves America, which debuted on Country Music Television in 2014.