When it comes to ventriloquism, few do it better than comedian Jeff Dunham.
Not only have his television specials been among the most highly rated in the history of Comedy Central, his DVD sales have reached an astounding seven millions units and counting. And that doesn’t take into consideration the more than half-billion YouTube views of his videos.
Time Magazine has deemed the comedian one of the most popular in the United States while Forbes Magazine named him to its list of Most Powerful Entertainers for three consecutive years.
Dunham’s popularity can of course be attributed to those dummies that have the pleasure of joining him on stage: there is grumpy retiree Walter, NASCAR-loving redneck Bubba J. Peanut, Jose Jalapeno (a spicy Mexican pepper) as well as Achmed The Dead Terrorist, some of whom help prove that Jeff has never shied away from potentially controversial characters.
Dunham’s fascination with ventriloquism began at the age of eight, courtesy of his parents.
“The first character I used was a toy Mortimer Snerd vent figure,” Dunham says. “Mortimer was one of Edgar Bergen’s main characters. Bergen took the craft of ventriloquism to the airwaves of radio and beyond where it had been ever before. He was absolutely inspirational to me.”
By the age of 10, Dunham believed that he had found his calling, performing almost anywhere an audience was willing to pay attention. After graduating from university, he moved to Los Angeles and quickly became a star attraction on the American comedy club circuit while also landing high-profile appearances on the Tonight Show and Late Night With David Letterman.
It was in 2006 that Dunham was given a glimpse of things to come. He produced his first one-hour primetime special, Arguing With Myself, which premièred on Comedy Central and became an immediate hit.
Dunham’s next two specials, 2007’s Spark Of Insanity and 2008’sA Very Special Christmas Special easily bested the success earned by Arguing With Myself. His 2011 standup special,Controlled Chaos, made a then-unprecedented multi-territory broadcast and DVD release in a dozen countries upon its bow on Comedy Central on September 25, 2011. A staggering 5.5 million people tuned in, making it the third most watched program in the channel’s history.
Later this year, Jeff will launch a residency at Planet Hollywood Resort in Las Vegas. His show Not Playing With A Full Deck is slated to open on November 28 and is currently booked to run through to the end of May 2015.
Also due later this year is a new Dunham comedy special, All Over The Map. Dunham says that the comedy special verges on being a documentary as it chronicles some of his performances in atypical markets like the Middle East.
“We did five continents, 12 countries, 19 cities including shows in Israel, Iceland, South Africa, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Dubai. I was in some predominantly Muslim territories with Achmed the Dead Terrorist, and they loved it! It was mind-blowing to me,” Dunham says. “We were averaging 5,000 people per show. It was amazing.”
WHAT: Jeff Dunham
WHEN: Thursday, July 31, 8 p.m.
WHERE: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
TICKETS: start at $89.99 plus taxes and service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone at 1-866-943-8849 and online at casinonb.ca