A comedian his whole life, Jeff Dunahm has performed on numerous comedy shows, including Comedy Central Presents in 2003. His usual puppets include a woozle named Peanut; a bitter old man named Walter; Jos Jalapeo on a Stick, a talking jalapeo pepper on a stick; Achmed the Dead…more
Jeff has appeared on the "Tonight Show" more then any other ventriloquist.
Jeff performs on more then 250 dates each year.
The character of Walter does not have a last name.
Jeff was very shy in his elementary school years.
Jeff created Jose Jalapeno, Walter, and Peanut in the 1980s. Jose was the first to be created in 1982. Peanut was created second in 1986.
Jeff got his first puppet when he was seven, it was a replica of Mortimer Snerd performed by Edgar Bergen.
Jeff is a two time winner of the Ventriloquist of the Year Award.
Jeff does not single out any of his characters as his favourite.
Jeff currently resides in Encino, California with his wife and three daughters.
In Jeff's first DVD, (Jeff Dunham: Arguing With Myself) the Bubba J puppet that he is using was made at the very last second. Jeff even claims that the paint on Bubba J was still wet during the performance.
Two of Jeff's puppets appear to be homages to puppets of past ventriloquists. Jose Jalapeno on a stick is very similar to the disembodied head in a box who was performed by Senor Wences and Bubba J is much the same as Mortimer Snerd who was performed by Edgar Bergen.
Jeff married his wife, Paige, in 1990.
Jeff has a passion for helicopters. He has built and flown his own full-sized personal helicopter.
His first DVD, Jeff Dunham: Arguing With Myself, was released in April 2006. In this stand-up offering, Jeff opens his show playing straight-man to his usual crew and includes two other characters: Sweet Daddy D and Bubba J, in place of Achmed and Melvin.
In 1998 Jeff won the American Comedy award for Funniest Male Stand-up Comic.
Jeff's puppets include: Melvin the Superhero Guy, Achmed the Dead Terrorist, Sweet Daddy D, Bubba J, José Jalapeño on a Stick, Walter, and Peanut.
Jeff has three daughters: Bree, Ashlyn, and Kenna.
Jeff graduated from Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
Jeff: If people walk away thinking, "Those guys were FUNNY," rather than "He was a great ventriloquist," then I've done my job.
Jeff: I guess I'm one of those lucky people who found something at an early age and stuck with it. I turned it into a business and I've never had a real job since.
Jeff: (on the personalities of his characters) You know… Walter said this, and Peanut said that… instead of Jeff made them say that. And that's kind of how it is in my own head. I understand that I put them in the box and they go away but at the same time when they're out they have their own personalities.
Jeff: (speaking of his puppets) There is just something funny about this little inanimate object coming to life and abusing the people around them.
Jeff: It's much harder to write clean. It's much easier to throw in a dirty word. It's like putting spice on bad food. You have a plain dish that doesn't taste very good. Well throw a little spices here and there and it will pump it up and make it taste better. It's the same thing with comedy if you're joke is not quite good enough put the f-bomb in front of the punch line and it's much funnier. But … if you remove it … than it shows you the pure joke.
Jeff: There's a stigma against ventriloquists and there's no denying it. When someone says ventriloquist …if they haven't seen a good one they're going to think negative thoughts, they're going to go … Oh, great … not a ventriloquist. Let's face it, it's a very strange way of entertaining people. Think about it for a minute … It's what everybody says … You're talking to yourself. You're reacting to yourself. And that's not quite normal.
Jeff: The thing I pride myself most on is that my show has no redeeming value whatsoever.
Jeff: It's amazing how the little guys can say things that a mortal human could never get away with, there's some sort of unspoken license… when outlandish things come out of an inanimate object, somehow it equals humor.
Jeff: I think I'm fairly adept at not moving my lips and being convincing. But, at the same time, I think people come back to the shows over and over again mostly because they enjoy what they see and what they hear.
Jeff: I still look to Edgar Bergen as the true example of the way you're supposed to succeed as a ventriloquist. He concentrated mainly on the humor of the joke and the routine rather than on the technique. He had been spoiled by being on the radio. He didn't care if anyone saw his lips move he just wanted to make sure everyone understood what the dummies, Charlie and Mortimere, were saying. But, even though technically he wasn't very good in later years, he was funnier than anybody. The jokes were great. And through the voices, he created, he could bring his puppets to life. That was what was most important, that's why people loved him… because he made them laugh.
Jeff: (speaking of the audience) I try to come up with something every year or two. There's a whole bunch of characters that have come and gone. But I keep the three main guys. A couple years ago I had a Osama Bin Laden puppet. I had a white trash trailer park guy - there's always something.
Jeff: (on creating new characters) I try to come up with something every year or two. There's a whole bunch of characters that have come and gone. But I keep the three main guys. A couple years ago I had a Osama Bin Laden puppet. I had a white trash trailer park guy - there's always something.
Jeff: (on the personalities of his characters) Walter was my friend's father. That's where I got the name as well.
Jeff: (on being on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson) At that time - I thought it was great, but I look back at it now and I think about how I barely got in there before he quit. At that time there were pretty much only the three networks... and they said if you did Carson your career was pretty much made.
Jeff: (on how he created his characters) 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.
Jeff: (speaking of how he became a ventriloquist) I didn't discover it. I was a kid in the third grade... saw a dummy in the toy store. In the 60's and 70's there were a lot of those vinyl ventriloquism dummies - just about every toy store had one. Everyone close to my age that I've talked to, especially guys for some reason, tell me that they had one too but they said they never could do it. So many people come up to me and say that. It was just something that I thought was cool. I started doing book reports with it - I developed the skill. I easily got A's on all my reports. It was just something that a little kid grasped on to - so I stuck with it.
Jeff: (speaking of his most embarassing travelling experience) My parents live in Dallas, and on American Airlines you go through there. Not long ago I had a 2 ½ hour layover, so I invited my parents to have lunch at DFW. They needed a special pass to get through security, and my dad's 80 and my mom's 78. So I'm standing on the other side of security waiting for them, and my mom is taking forever with jewelry. Meanwhile, my dad keeps beeping going through. They said they think it's his belt, so he takes off his belt and his pants fall down to his ankles. Of course he's wearing red and white boxer shorts, and of course my mother bursts into laughter. I had to walk away. I'm just thinking, "Holy Toledo. I'm related to these people."
Jeff: (speaking of travelling and vacations) I travel so much. I've got over 6,000,000 miles just on American, just the contiguous U.S., and I got it all from just going back and forth to New York, Chicago and L.A. My wife says she wants to go to Australia someday and Africa, too. I guess I'll go along just to be supportive. Australia is some place of interest, I think it would be fun. I was so sold on St. Thomas-just the slow pace, a beach and a drink. On the other hand, I love the freezing cold and snow and mountains. So take your pick, I guess.
Jeff: (speaking of how he comes up with jokes for his puppets) There's nothing better for a comedian than adversity. The worse things go, the more material I have for Walter. The colder the weather, the more fodder for his cannon. When a bad experience happens, you just chalk it up to the great fact that you just got five more jokes in the show.
Jeff: (referring to the standing ovation he just received) Well, you can't fool me. I know that every bit of that is for the little guys in the suitcase.
Jeff: (speaking of his passion for building and flying helicopters) One of my oldest friends said to me once when he was in the passenger seat at 1200 feet, 'I just realized I'm flying in a helicopter built by the same guy who built WALTER.'
Jeff: (speaking of his popular catch-phrases) You really have to have been there to understand it when folks walk out of a comedy show saying to each other, "I KILL YOU!"
Jeff: (speaking of his puppets) These guys are my secret weapon, there's some sort of unspoken rule that allows them to say things and make observations that no mere human could ever get away with, and it's all under the guise of comedy.