Puppet comedian Dunham hits Morris

Published 8:35 am Thursday, July 12, 2012

Peanut puts his fuzzy finger in the ear of comedian Jeff Dunham. Photo courtesy of ANDREW SMALLZ and JARED RASKIND

Standup comedian and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham has a difficult time choosing which of his many characters is his favorite.

Achmed the Dead Terrorist, which he created shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, is certainly on top of the list.

It’s the one character, he said, that people go the most nuts for worldwide, from London to Stockholm to Helsinki.

“I’m a bit of a chameleon when it comes to having a favorite: Whatever that particular audience of the night is liking the most, I’m having a ball right along with them,” Dunham said. “It goes without saying, however, that Achmed certainly has allowed me to break through in places that otherwise might have remained closed for a while. His clip on YouTube put whatever ride it is that the characters and I are on into a very high orbit.

“So is he my favorite?  I couldn’t say that and hurt Peanut’s feelings…”

Dunham and his cast of characters will be making an appearance at the Morris Performing Art Center in South Bend, Ind., at 7:30 p.m. July 18.

The performance is part of Dunham’s 100 city “Controlled Chaos” tour, which offers new laughs to his famed troupe of sidekicks that include: Walter the Grumpy Retiree, Achmed the Dead Terrorist, the beer-fueled redneck Bubba J, the manic purple creature Peanut, the almost dead son of Achmed, AJ, and Peanut’s own ventriloquist dummy Little Jeff, a mini-version of the ringmaster himself.

The international success of Dunham and his cohorts have been driven by his Comedy Central specials, which set global records for both ratings and sales. Last September, Dunham’s fourth Comedy Central TV special, “Controlled Chaos,” premiered to 8.3 million viewers overall making it the most viewed cable show that night.

Dunham finds inspiration for his characters from all sorts of places.

For instance, Dunham created Jose the Jalapeno while doing a radio campaign ad in college.

“Every ingredient on the pizza spoke. And one of them was Jose Jalapeno,” Dunham said. “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.”

Dunham never expected Walter the Grumpee Retiree to be such a hit.

“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,” Dunham said. “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.”

What can people expect to see during Controlled Chaos?

“Like I always say, my show has no socially redeeming value whatsoever — you’re not going to learn anything,” Dunham said. “All you’re going to do is have a big goofy time and escape your problems for a while.”

If you’d like to learn more about Dunham and his cast of characters visit jeffdunham.com.