There are many sides to the comedic genius of Jeff Dunham, who has risen in recent years to become a genuine entertainment phenomenon with an international 360-degree reach that includes record-breaking television specials, staggering DVD sales over 4 million (and rapidly counting), 360 million views on You Tube, a current international tour expected to gross $45 million, his own merchandise company that enjoys brisk sales of nearly 50 Dunham items, and a publishing deal that will see the publication of his first book in 2009. Ever-increasing legions of devoted and highly active fans savor Dunham’s concert appearances, TV shows, DVDs, CD and You Tube clips over and over and fervently spread the word on an entertainer who is not just a favorite with but beloved by his followers. His widespread fame has led Dunham to sign a multi-platform deal with Comedy Central to encompass all areas of entertainment, including television, DVDs, a stand-up special, consumer products partnership, and a 60-city Comedy Central Live stand-up tour.
It’s all because Jeff Dunham is not just one of the funniest humans on the planet but the ringleader of a cast of comedic characters of his own creation like Walter the grumpy retiree; the beer-swilling, NASCAR loving and resolutely redneck Bubba J; the furry and manic Peanut; Jose Jalapeno, the spicy pepper from south of the border; and the bumbling skeletal Achmed the Dead Terrorist. Taking his cues from the stuff of everyday life, people he and we all know and the world around us, Dunham invests his suitcase posse of sidekicks with such believable and lovable personality as they banter, quip and interact that audiences frequently forget that the characters are crafted by Dunham’s own hand and comedic brilliance.
It’s no wonder that Dunham has struck content partnerships with Amazon.com, iTunes and You Tube in the wake of his stunning across-the-board triumphs in recent years. His most recent self-produced Comedy Central program, “A Very Special Christmas Special,” drew 6.6 million viewers on its premiere airing to become the channel’s most-watched program ever, following in the wake of top ratings for his previous Comedy Central specials “Arguing with Myself” (in April 2006) and “A Spark of Insanity” (September 2007). When they hit the home market on DVD, all three almost immediately earned multiple platinum sales awards, with Dunham’s holiday special achieving quadruple-platinum sales of 400,000 in a mere 10 days and in less than six weeks becoming his third DVD to sell more than a million copies (in a market where average comedy DVD sales are 35,000). “Spark of Insanity” was also the most popular DVD in customer reviews on Amazon of 2008.
Concert dates on his continuing tour of theaters and arenas with 7,000 to 10,000 capacities quickly sell out as well as generate the sort of audience response and excitement more often found at superstar rock show and earn rave media reviews night after night. In 2008 Dunham sold out headlining major venue shows at the prestigious and star-studded Comedy Festival in Las Vegas and the Just For Laughs festival in Toronto, and in 2009 he made his first performing visit to Europe, selling out arenas in London, Stockholm, Oslo, Norway, and Copenhagen. 2009 will also mark his first full tour of Canada.
After leaving his hometown in Dallas, Texas, where he was born in 1962, Dunham relentlessly toured comedy clubs for years, renewing a lost art that he has taken to new levels of finesse and technique with hilarious results. Frequent guest appearances on “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night with David Letterman” as well as a host of other TV programs also primed the pump. But what has been instrumental in launching Dunham to record new levels of comedy success over the last two years has been the strong bond he has forged with his fans, who not just eagerly await and consume his latest multimedia offerings but avidly tout them to family, friends as well as the world at large on the Internet.
Fan postings of his routines on You Tube abetted the grassroots surge of Dunham popularity and awareness that resulted in ever-increasing millions of online views that helped launch Dunham and his comedic cohorts into the stratosphere of contemporary entertainment. His Achmed the Dead Terrorist clip is the 6th most viewed ever on You Tube as well as #2 in clips that viewers have added as a favorite, and Dunham also boasts three of the all-time most viewed You Tube videos.
In 2008 Dunham also released his first CD, Don’t Come Home For Christmas, which jumped to #1 in comedy sales and #6 in overall CD sales in preorders alone when it was announced on Amazon, and entered the Billboard Independent Album charts in the Top 10. His merchandise operation enjoys gross sales in the millions of dollars of his 42 items of merchandise — including t-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, character dolls, Christmas ornaments, posters, DVDs, CDs, character etched iPods and now even Dunham Cellars wine — at his shows, on his website and via 150 Hastings stores in 21 states. And he is now poised to also make his mark in the literary world this year when Dutton Books publishes his as yet untitled memoir, which will also include commentary from his hilarious characters.
After conquering North America, the Dunham phenomenon is swiftly spreading worldwide. His three specials have been released on television, DVD, and mobile platforms in Canada, UK, Benelux, Scandinavia, Italy, France, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The DVD of “A Very Special Christmas Special” topped the Danish entertainment chart and “Spark of Insanity” hit the Top 5 of the overall DVD charts in Holland (#2) and South Africa (#5). “Spark of Insanity” is the most viewed show ever on Comedy Central Holland, and the only two titles by an American in the Top 20 of the U.K. comedy DVD charts are both Jeff Dunham releases. His burgeoning European popularity is evident through the success of his recent European Tour, selling almost 30,000 tickets over five shows in five cities.
Dunham has achieved all that and more by keeping many millions around the globe laughing heartily with his sharp yet always humane and lovable humor, which has resulted on such character catchphrases as as Achmed’s “Silence! I will keel you!” and Jose Jalapeno’s “On a steek!” becoming embedded in the contemporary lexicon. And he has done it as an independent business entity that creates, produces and finances his TV specials/DVDs, merchandise, tours and more, and through a highly interactive relationship via his website and an email list to rival any in the entertainment industry with the fans who not just love his comedy but also love to bring others into the Dunham fold of followers.
His hometown Dallas Morning News declares Dunham “easily one of the funniest stand-up comics alive” and Slate.com hails him as “the country’s most popular stand-up comedian.” And when his fellow comic and friend Jay Leno says, “Jeff Dunham really is the best there is,” it’s no understatement indeed.
"They're not coming out to see a ventriloquist,” he says of the audiences at his consistently sold-out shows. “They're coming out because the love the characters. As a standup comic, it is my job to make the majority of people laugh, and I truly believe that comedy is the last true form of free speech and that laughter can heal many wounds.”
I'm an independent filmmaker & actor residing in the Upstate New York Area. I've written, produced and directed several movies, both features and shorts, primarily in the horror film genre. Visit www.veryscaryproductions.com for more information about my movies. Here is a bit from my latest Filmmaker Biography: Jeff Kirkendall has been passionately involved in making and promoting independent movies since 1996, and since that time has written, produced & directed seven movies, three of them being features. These include the action/horror movie THE TEMPTRESS, and the comedy OF THEATRE & BIKINIS. Additionally, Jeff has served as Associate Producer & Editor on movies directed by other area filmmakers, including the features THE EDGE OF REALITY, LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT, and THE DROWNED. On the acting front Jeff has appeared in such films as SHADOW TRACKER: VAMPIRE HUNTER, BLOODLUST, THE DROWNED, CORRUPTION, and three due out in 2012/13: DIE LAUGHING, PROJECT D: CLASSIFIED, and CRYPTID. Jeff's big project for 2012 is completing post-production on the horror anthology feature DIE LAUGHING, which stars scream queen Deana Demko.