Jeff Dunham - Ventriloquists - Biography - ©
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Despite being almost limp from laughter, his audience gave comedian Jeff Dunham a
standing ovation after his opening set last night... His show combined prepared material
with off-the-cuff witticism that show him to be one of the funniest comics working. Oh,
and by the way, he's a ventriloquist.
The Denver Post
Breathing life into an elderly curmudgeon, a
purple creature known as a "Woozle" and a self-effacing Jalapeño, among other
lovable characters, Jeff Dunham is straight man to some of the funniest partners in show
business. His comedic skill and impeccable technique serve as sleight of hand, however,
drawing attention away from the fact that Dunham is a ventriloquist extraordinaire.
"What makes this performer the best at what he does is the believability
factor," one reviewer wrote. "Dunham's characters have more personality than a
lot of people I know."
The handsome, thirty-something veteran of performing has certainly honed his craft:
performing 40 weeks and 250 dates a year in concert venues and the occasional comedy club,
Dunham is one of the hardest working entertainers around. While never holding a job in the
"real world", he has compiled an impressive resume. The only person ever to win
the prestigious "Ventriloquist of the Year" Award twice, he was recently
nominated "Comedian of the Year" by the TNN Music City News Country Awards.
Among numerous television appearances, he has appeared on "The Tonight Show"
more than any other ventriloquist.
For Dunham the most significant stamp of approval will always be Johnny Carson inviting
him to the couch on his very first "Tonight Show" appearance, an honor Jeff
shares with only four other comedians during Carson's 30-year tenure. A special comedy
moment erupted when Dunham's permanently disgruntled partner, Walter, had the audacity to
tell Carson that "It'll be a cold day in Hell before I come back to this show!"
The Dallas native has come a long way since breaking into show business at age seven. As
an only child, he invented "a menagerie of characters" that helped ease his
natural shyness. Dunham began teaching himself ventriloquism with a plastic Mortimer Snerd
puppet. His first show was in the third grade. It was for an oral book report on Hansel
and Gretel. He recalls, "I spent about three minutes on the book and
twenty minutes berating my classmates."
It was not until 1975 that Dunham would meet a live ventriloquist, and soon thereafter he
would take weekly inspiration from actor/ventriloquist Jay
Johnson on "Soap" (1977-81). Having never even seen Edgar Bergen as a child,
he learned his craft from books and records. Performances for the local Boy Scouts led to
corporate engagements by age twelve. "I'd be in front of the Kiwanis Club making
cracks about high-level executives," says Dunham who, to his surprise, was audited
by the IRS at age thirteen.
Dunham continued to pursue his career while picking up a degree in Communications from
Baylor University in Waco, Texas. "While most people were going out on weekends and
partying, I was flying off somewhere to do my show," says Dunham, admitting that, in
Waco, he quickly became "somewhat of a big fish in a small pond."
In 1988 he moved to Los Angeles and discovered a much larger pond, one filled with
performers whose proficiency in comedy overshadowed his technical skill as a voice
thrower. After sharpening his act at the Improv, the Comedy & Magic Club and other
comedy venues, Dunham earned his first "Tonight Show" spot in April of 1990,
putting the audience on the floor and himself on the couch next to Johnny.
Dunham has since appeared regularly on "The Tonight Show," in numerous stand-up
comedy series and in such specials as "Hot Country Nights", taking his act from
the club circuit to sold-out concert venues as a headliner in his own right. No stranger
to the theatrical stage, he also toured with the Broadway musical "Sugar
Babies". A master entertainer, Dunham has been featured as the opening act for dozens
of major stars including
Iglesias, Reba McEntire,
Tanya Tucker, the
Oak Ridge Boys and Bob Hope, with whom Dunham shared two unique moments:
sitting on a couch with Hope and critiquing "Saturday Night Live" and flying
aboard Hope's private Lear jet.
But enough about Dunham. The real stars of the show are his partners in comedy: chiefly,
Jose Jalapeño on a Stick, Peanut and Walter. With a personality reflecting one of
Dunham's favorite cartoon characters, Speedy Gonzales' cousin Slowpoke, the oversized and
mustachioed Jose Jalapeño eschews ethnic humor in favor of stiffer material stick jokes.
Peanut, a purple potbellied "woozle", approaches the world with a mix of
childlike wonder and streetwise naughtiness. And the irascible Walter, whose bald head and
permanent frown is usually accompanied by crossed arms, draws laughs with his non-stop
In addition to a white-trash, buck-toothed hayseed named Bubba, Dunham's lesser-known
characters include a gorilla, a cockroach, and a worm at the bottom of a tequila bottle.
It is the believability of Dunham's characters that endear them to audiences everywhere.
"When Walter says he's been married for 47 years and the audience applauds, I know
I've hit the right buttons," says Dunham. And with material that hovers around PG-13,
his audience ranges the gamut: from bikers to surgeons, singles to families. His
characters are so vivid, Dunham usually opens with ten minutes of solo stand-up simply to
establish himself as the hub of the wheel. "If they walk away thinking, Gee, those
were some funny guys, rather than Boy, wasn't he a good ventriloquist, then
I've done my job," says Dunham.
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To book Jeff Dunham for
contact: Richard De La Font Agency, Inc.
For more information
Serious requests only. Thank you.