Jeff Dunham is a funny guy. He kills with jokes about his mother’s beehive do in the 70s and tales of his crazy Jack Russell. He is an asset to any dinner party. The dynamics are a little different at a sold out show.
During Dunham’s stand up I tried – and failed – to see how this man could sell out GrandWest in a matter of hours. Only towards the end of his solo bit when an audience member started heckling did his true talent show. Without missing a beat Dunham put the audience member, thenceforward referred to as Asshole throughout the show, in his place.
Dunham is at his funniest when he is interacting with other people. So it was fortuitous that he was introduced to ventriloquism so early in his life… the long conversations with himself might otherwise have been a little awkward.
Each of Dunham’s dummies has its own distinctive personality. Walter is a grouch, Peanut is obnoxious, José is a Spanish jalapeño pepper and then there is everyone’s favourite redneck, Bubba J. The unlikely star of the show is Achmed, a dead terrorist. Through this line up of mismatched characters Dunham drops his perfect dinner guest demeanour in favour of a deluge of politically incorrect material.
How politically incorrect? Let’s just say that I do not have Achmed’s clout to reprint and get away with it. It is very easy to separate the man from the dummy: Dunham’s body language and “genuine” shock at everything that pours out of the dummies’ mouths makes it surprisingly easy to forget that he is the one who literally put those words in their mouths.
Most of the material of the show appeared in a Halloween Special that will air in America in a few months’ time. But there was also some material specific to Cape Town that Dunham worked into Walter’s segment of the show. For me this was by far the best part.
But if you only bought the ticket to see Achmed, which I suspect is the case for many, you would not have left disappointed. For the Halloween Special all the dummies dressed up like something scary. Achmed rocked up as a woman, complete with heels and a wig.
A Jeff Dunham show is much like a mini comedy festival. A whole bunch of different voices, some uproariously funny while others leave you with merely a smirk and possibly a new way of looking at the world. But a dead terrorist in drag was, to my surprise, seriously funny.
Jana van Heerden
Jeff Dunham performed at the Grand Arena, GrandWest on 5 and 6 June 2012.