Accompanied by his vast array of puppet cohorts, Dunham is also bringing an all-new show with him this time around. And will even be introducing two new characters into the mix, joining the likes of such perennial fan favorites as Peanut, Walter and Achmed the Dead terrorist.
While the jury is still out on whether the world is ready for the havoc promised by Achmed Junior (aka A.J.) and Little Jeff, audiences are sure to get a taste of the same unpredictable antics that have made Dunham the top-grossing comedian in North America for three years running.
Fortunately the Underground was able to catch up with the master of puppets via e-mail (he was saving his voice for the rigors of his tour) and asked him a handful of questions about his relationship to comedy, the creation of his characters, and what audiences might expect at his show in Amherst.
Underground: First off, as a ventriloquist how would you characterize your relationship to comedy as opposed to that of a typical stand-up act?
Jeff Dunham: 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 and the jokes and keep people laughing. The ventriloquism just happened to be my instrument.
You’re famously known for your collection of crazy characters that you interact with on stage. What led to your creation of each doll and the development of each figure’s own unique name and personality?
Every character I’ve had in my act - none of them have a similar creation story.
I actually thought up Peanut and designed him in my head. I described him to a woman that was making soft puppets and she drew up some sketches. And the character came to be just because he popped into my head.
Walter on the other hand... I figured he would be a good three minutes of the show. I created him thinking that nobody would enjoy a grumpy old character like that. Little did I know - he is an “every man.” Everybody has that guy in him. Either they’re married to him or he’s their father. But people for some reason love him. So that character just stuck.
Jose the Jalapeno...that’s the weirdest story. When I was in college I was doing a radio campaign on the radio station and I was doing all the voices of this pizza. Every ingredient on the pizza spoke. And one of them was Jose Jalapeno. He ended up having all the funny lines. So I thought about making a dummy in the act. So I thought why not a Jalapeno on a stick.
The genesis of Achmed began a year after Sept. 11th. Sad and scary things were going on in our country -- and still are -- and I thought if I can make fun of those guys, there's something people can laugh at in our country. And then the big surprise was that I had no idea it would go worldwide.
Watch video of Jeff Dunham performing with one of his most popular puppets Achmed the Dead Terrorist here:
Finally, what might audiences expect from your show at the Mullins Center on October 20?
We’re bringing in a new show with two new characters. Like I always say, my show has no socially redeeming value whatsoever -- you're not going to learn anything. All you're going to do is have a big goofy time and escape your problems for a while.
Jeff Dunham performs Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m., $45.50, Mullins Center, 200 Commonwealth Ave., Amherst, (413) 545-3001, www.mullinscenter.com.
For more information on Jeff Dunham or to see future tour dates please visit www.jeffdunham.com.
And don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter: