Breathing life into an elderly curmudgeon, or a purple human-like creature from the Micronesian islands, or even a self-effacing talking jalapeno on a stick, 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."
Recently joining his repertoire are two new co-stars who add even more spark to this comedian's universe: 'Sweet Daddy Dee' is the new showbiz manager of the bunch, wearing more bling than Snoop Dogg, and keeping Dunham confused with his street-savvy and hip-hop talk.
Dunham's talent has parlayed him to the top of his game with multiple critical achievements and television appearances, including a recent profile on CBS's "60 Minutes II". The comic was interviewed by correspondent and actress Candice Bergen, daughter of the legendary ventriloquist Edgar Bergen. Between jokes and laughs, Ms. Bergen called Dunham, "...flat out FUNNY!"
Dunham and Walter also recently brought the house down with a sketch on an episode of the WB’s 'Blue Collar TV’, and Jeff was also voted 'Funniest Male Stand-Up Comic' at the American Comedy Awards. He was voted one of Comedy Centrals Top 25 Comedians in the country, is a veteran of NBC's "Tonight Show" with both Carson and Leno, and has had two Comedy Central Specials. Dunham and Walter have made several appearances on Fox Sports Net's "Best Damn Sports Show", and have appeared on "Hollywood Squares," "Entertainment Tonight," and "Good Morning America" just to name a few.
This 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. And those Tonight Show appearances? He has appeared on the Tonight Show more than any ventriloquist in history.
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 NBC's "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 National company of the Broadway musical "Sugar Babies".
But enough about Dunham. The real stars of the show are his partners in comedy: chiefly, Walter, Peanut, and Jose Jalapeno, "on a steek!" With a personality reflecting one of Dunham's favorite cartoon characters, Speedy Gonzales' cousin Slowpoke, the oversized and mustachioed Jose Jalapeno eschews ethnic humor in favor of stiffer material stick jokes. Peanut, a purple potbellied imp of a character, approaches the world with a mix of childlike wonder and streetwise naughtiness. Also, the irascible Walter, whose bald head and permanent frown is usually accompanied by crossed arms, draws laughs with his non-stop curmudgeonly outlook on life.
Why are all these guys so successful, and why has Dunham literally been at the top of his game for so many years? Talk to his fans or read the reviews: It's the believability and humor 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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First show of 2017 is here!
Billy Currington will return to the Ballroom Saturday May 13th. We are excited to be off and away for 2017. We will be announcing five more shows at the end of next week. Stay tuned.
2017 Concert Series announcements coming soon.
2016 was another fantastic year down at the beach. We saw 65 shows roll through the Ballroom and had some amazing times. Look for announcements on 2017 shows coming soon. If you have not signed up for our email lists please do so here http://pages.tmclient.ticketmaster.com/Profile/?b=4038d901-4de0-44a1-8a82-b78c065e5f56&m=1307247