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Jeff Dunham (Philips Arena, Jan. 28) does not take his success for granted

You can’t call Jeff Dunham just 220px-Jeff_Dunham_and_Achmeda ventriloquist.

He’s really a comic who uses his puppets as his muses. Through those puppets, he can make jokes he couldn’t otherwise say out of his own mouth, be it grouchy old Walter or goofy redneck Bubba J or clueless Achmed the Terrorist.

After years working small clubs like the Punchline in Sandy Springs, Dunham is now a selling out 12,000-seat arenas. His trip to Philips this Saturday will be his second.  His fourth Comedy Central special “Controlled Chaos” last September drew 5.5 million viewers. His Facebook fan page has 6.5 million followers.

And his voice is now so valuable, he only does interviews by email. Here are his answers to the AJC:

Q: You have been doing ventriloquism for 40 years. Are there aspects of the craft that still challenge you?

A: I realized early on that the ventriloquism needed to be just a vehicle for the comedy. It couldn’t be the focus of the act. In other words, I focus on the material. The challenge is to continue writing jokes that keep people laughing.

Q: While critics aren’t always falling over your humor, your fans eat it up. How would you describe the essence of that humor, the basic tenets of what makes your show work?

A: I don’t aim my characters to make old people or young people or professionals or blue collar folks laugh. I just aim for whatever I think is going to be funny and it just so happens that, you know, everybody has their favorite character. I pick whatever is going on in society, whatever I think folks laugh at.

Q: How much time do you spend developing each show? And how do you put a show together?

A: There’s no real formula for doing it. It’s either living life and writing down jokes I think of in the middle of the day, then piecing those together later. Or I sit down and write the whole thing and hone it. And doing shows so many times a month, I can hone my material and make  it better. That’s sometimes what the road work is.

Q: Your Achmed the Terrorist clip has now been seen online a whopping 145 million times. How does that make you feel even now?

A: It’s a great feeling. I’ve got a lot of good people working around me. We all think about things really hard and that’s the point it has gotten to. So again, you never know how long your 15  minutes of fame is going to last. I certainly don’t take anything for granted.

Concert preview

Jeff Dunham

Saturday. $60.70, after fees. Philips Arena. 1 Philips Drive, Atlanta, 404-249-6400, www.ticketmaster.com.


Join my Facebook fan page and Twitter.

By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk

25 comments Add your comment

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Highlander

January 24th, 2012
7:52 am

Jeff is great! And check out the web to find the comparison picture of grouchy Walter and VP Biden!

meh

January 24th, 2012
8:32 am

Good for him. I am surprised, as he is funny for about 5 minutes.

Reality

January 24th, 2012
10:11 am

I simply don’t understand how people can find a ventriloquist act the least bit funny or amusing. Ventriloquists are on the same level as prop comics, and the only thing less funny are the musical comedians, who operate under the delusions that they are actually talented musicians.

Shay

January 24th, 2012
1:33 pm

I know a ton of people that love him, I just don’t get it. I tried. I watched some of his specials on Netflix but after a few minutes of each character I was over it.

td

January 24th, 2012
4:28 pm

shockingly unfunny

Hate Much?

January 24th, 2012
6:39 pm

Atlantarama

January 24th, 2012
6:40 pm

Too many negative comments. There have been some very entertaining ventriloquists in the past, such as Edgar Bergen, Paul Winchell, and Shari Lewis. I remember seeing Jeff Dunham years ago on TV when he was just starting out, and I was very impressed, so good for him.

Jlt0729

January 24th, 2012
6:50 pm

12 thousand of us are willing to see him at Phillips sat. I think he is quite talented – his road to success has not been easy. Thanks for keeping us laughing Jeff.

Maggiemae

January 24th, 2012
7:13 pm

Wow, so many negative remarks :-(
Let’s see if all of these “haters” can do any better! I’ve been laughing along with the other JD fans for many years. Afterall, laughter IS the best medicine :-D

phatnate

January 24th, 2012
7:23 pm

Humor is an important thing in life, it doesn’t matter how you get it, so long as you get it and nobody else gets hurt.

Jejune Missive Monkey

January 24th, 2012
7:34 pm

Love Jeff. An immense talent and one of the funniest acts is show biz. If you don’t like him, don’t watch him. Or listen to him. He doesn’t need your money. He gets plenty from the rest of us. The Late and Great Red Foxx had a comedy routine that was so blue it would peal paint from the wall. At the end of it he said: If anything I’ve said here tonight offended you, you are a real dummy. You’ve been sitting there for two hours listening to it.

Just me

January 24th, 2012
7:45 pm

He always makes me laugh, and I do think he is very talented. Keep up the good work, and keep the jokes, the characters, and the laughs coming!

dhal22

January 24th, 2012
7:47 pm

All the haters would quiet down a bit if they saw his net income after selling out a 12,000 seat arena. Silence!! I kill you!!!

flwrgrl

January 24th, 2012
7:48 pm

About 25 years ago my husband and I attended a work related convention in Panama City. We sat at the head table with our boss and the talent booked to entertain us after dinner. When we were told that he was some ventriloquist that no one had ever heard of, we were not impressed. During dinner he asked us questions about our industry, our bosses, our classes, etc. Nice guy, but nothing fancy. We were prepared to be totally bored to death. Imagine our surprise when it turned out to be the funniest act we had ever seen!! This no name guy used props and puppets and wove our stories about our bosses and fellow employees into the act, and it was hilarious. Years later, we were not amazed when that guy became famous. Way to go, Jeff Dunham!!

Urjokeisbelow

January 24th, 2012
7:56 pm

Jeff Dunham is the best comic that’s been around for a long time.

ideas

January 24th, 2012
8:00 pm

I started watching him on the comedy channel. I thought his act was so down to earth. I had my 14 year old grandson watch it also. Then he became an addict for him. He pesters me to go see him in person. If he ever comes back to the Cobb Energy Center as he did in 2010, I will go. Won’t go to downtown after dark. I have worked downtown for 50 years but I will not go back after dark.

JDonJ

January 24th, 2012
11:32 pm

He’s managed to ride the crest for a long time now — TALENT keeps him there, not repetition or imitation. How many times have you heard somebody say “Silence! I keeel you!!” Funny is funny. That’s the list.

yo mama

January 25th, 2012
12:29 am

hmm, never heard of him. give him props for making it. but, still i can say, never heard of him.

But Seriously

January 25th, 2012
4:59 am

Saw Jeff years ago while in college (’91 or ‘92) at what is now Gainesville State. Man he has come a long ways success wise but was hysterical even back then. Enjoy seeing his act every oportunity I get now.

But Seriously

January 25th, 2012
5:00 am

“long way” and “opportunity” – oops!

Kat

January 25th, 2012
7:00 am

It’s interesting how people will read an entire article about someone that they (apparently) don’t know or have never heard of, and then comment. By the end of the article – when it comes time to comment – shouldn’t you be able to say that you HAVE heard of him. Hence, you could just say, “He does/doesn’t sound funny?”

Stefanie

January 25th, 2012
7:48 am

I do believe Mr. Dunham to be a very talented entertainer and I’ve enjoyed his specials. However, who would pay $60.00+ to see him in a venue where (in all likelihood) you will end up watching him on the big screens?! You can find his DVD’s for about $10.00 on the auction sites. I’d rather save the money!

Fred

January 26th, 2012
12:46 pm

I don’t understand why anyone would want to see any comedy act at a place like Phillips, but to each his own. What do you do, take binoculars so you can look up close and personal at the big screen tv’s there and hope the director catches the right camera man at the time of the punchline?

Fred

January 26th, 2012
12:48 pm

Oh and Rodney? I don’t know if you forgot or “can’t” post the link but I didn’t and can. So below is Achmed the Dead terrorist lol:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uwOL4rB-go