For a guy who’s spent 40 years surrounded by models who say the most ridiculous things, Jeff Dunham seems like a pretty thoughtful and reasoned guy.
Take Achmed the Dead Terrorist – please, some will say. And Dunham has given a lot of thought to the greatest of his puppet characters. Keep him in the act, or shoot Achmed?
âIt’s always a difficult call, especially with San Bernadino – how to answer it? I have a dead terrorist in my act, âreflects the ventriloquist Dunham.
Dunham will perform at 3 p.m. on December 31 at the Consol Energy Center, Uptown.
âAchmed was my response to Osama bin Laden, back when they were looking for him, and couldn’t find the guy. I knew where he was – he was hiding in my suitcase.
Her Osama model then morphed into the current Achmed the Dead Terrorist. After some soul-searching following the San Bernardino terrorism-related killings, Dunham decided to keep ATDT in its act.
âIt’s different now – it’s on our soil, and it’s scary now,â Dunham said. âI approach it with the public. There’s nothing really funny about (terrorism) – what’s good is poking fun at some of the idiots who do this stuff.
“Achmed is a clumsy and failed terrorist who fell in love with the country he was supposed to destroy.”
Laugh at him or be repelled by him, Achmed the Dead Terrorist is a sign that Dunham is not one to play it safe.
Closing a year in which – according to Forbes magazine – it will make around $ 20 million, Dunham performs a New Years Eve show at the Consol Energy Center, Uptown. In addition to being consistently one of the best touring comics, Dunham has sold over 7 million DVDs. It’s approaching one billion views on YouTube, with âAchmed the Dead Terrorist Has a Sonâ alone 28 million views.
The goofy Achmed is far from his only character, as Dunham’s co-stars include Walter the Grumpy Retiree, beer-fueled redneck Bubba J, maniacal purple creature Peanut, Jose Jalapeno, and âLittle Jeffâ.
Which of her co-stars is most upset about having to be in Pittsburgh on New Years? âWalter,â Dunham replies. âHe doesn’t want to be anywhere.
It’s pretty easy to follow audience favorites: âI rely on merchandise salesâ¦ Peanut and Achmed are by far the two most popular. ”
Dunham started his career December 45, when he was 8 and his parents bought him a Mortimer Snerd model for Christmas. Dunham was addicted, studying Edgar Bergen and other voice throwers while training every day.
The Texas native turned a pro while still in college and has toured hundreds of shows a year for decades. He and his wife have twin babies. “I took two months off for babies (birth) – that was the longest time I have ever taken since moving to Los Angeles in 1998.”
A series of television specials fueled its popularity, and Dunham and his company have toured the world for the past decade.
The bloodthirsty comic plays even his most controversial character when he plays the Middle East.
âI had a show in Abu Dhabiâ¦ they loved Achmed. Two weeks later, I was in Tel Aviv making the same jokes about Achmed, and they laughed the same way.
âI succeeded in making a sympathetic character out of a dead terrorist, I think because I put humanity in him. I have to think that there are a handful of guys, or at least a couple of guys who really don’t think killing is the answer.
Tom Scanlon is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.