Jeff Dunham is a famous American ventriloquist, known worldwide for his puppet ‘Achmed, the Dead Terrorist’. He is also an actor and stand-up comedian, who has made numerous guest appearances and appeared in four specials on Comedy Central, one of which went quadruple platinum in its first two weeks selling over 400,000 copies!
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He was born on April 18, 1962 in Dallas, Texas, USA, but was soon adopted by real estate agent Howard Dunham when he was only three months old. Howard and his wife, Joyce, were devout Presbyterians and he was raised the same way.
Dunham’s interest in ventriloquism was excited when he was given a ‘Mortimer Snerd’ dummy as a Christmas present when he was only eight years old.
Posted by Jeff Dunham On Thursday 31 December 2020
Then he went to the library in search of a “how-to” book on ventriloquism, which he never returned; Dunham would joke about this later in 2011, saying he was “a thief in the third grade.” By the time he was in sixth grade, he had already started attending an annual international gathering of ventriloquists, the Vent Haven Convention in Kentucky, where he had the chance to meet Jimmy Nelson in person. He was soon banned from competing at the convention because other participants were intimidated by him, and so he was proclaimed “retired champion.”
The loneliness he experienced as an only child was compensated by his many hours of practice, usually in front of a mirror. It also prepared him for his move to Los Angeles to start his career.
Dunham has performed for his church, school and workplace at Six Flags since his teens. He then attended events where local celebrities such as Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach attended. He made his television debut in 1976 after being interviewed by Dallas reporter, Bill O’reily, for a local news report. This small yet impressive exposure got him further commercial deals with Tyler and also Datsun while still in high school. Dunham graduated in 1980 and then attended Baylor University the same year with the goal of earning a degree in communications.
His performances during his college days didn’t stop there, instead he did more than 100 shows in a year, flying all over the country and also entertaining various corporate audiences.
His act quickly spread and by his freshman year in college, Dunham was already earning about $70,000 a year. He got his first big break when he was asked to replace a variety act on the Broadway show “Sugar Babies”.
After graduating in 1986, he went on to entertain in comedy clubs and also developed newer characters for his act: Peanut and Jose Jalapeno. Although he gained popularity with the public, he was not considered a real comedian by his peers because of his use of costumes and props. After a series of setbacks, Dunham returned to Los Angeles from Texas in 1988, much to the chagrin of his parents, who feared he didn’t have a “real job.” He later met and befriended the owner of The Comedy & Magic Club, Mike Lacey, who gave him an internship at the club, working with Jerry Seinfied and Bill Engvall.
He was able to upgrade his act to a more sophisticated but somewhat mature content.
About two years later, Dunham landed a coveted spot on “The Tonight Show.” He made his first appearance on the show with peanut, one of his props, on April 6, 1990. He continued to perform in clubs and also appeared in small television roles such as the 1996 episode of “Ellen” and a commercial for Hertz. He appeared on “The Tonight Show” a total of four times, which helped him headline a major theater, an impressive feat for a ventriloquist. He made his first solo appearance in Comedy Central on July 18, 2003; the successful half-hour act was not continued because the organizers did not consider it suitable for their audience. In 2005 he released his first comedy DVD, “Jeff Dunham: Arguing with Myself” and also appeared in the feature film “Delta Farce” in 2007.
The same year, Dunham released his highly successful second special, “Jeff Dunham: Spark of Insanity,” which was filmed in Washington DC when his most popular character, Achmed, the Dead Terrorist, was introduced. It was viewed over 140 million times on YouTube and became the most watched clip in October 2009, marking the start of Dunham’s explosive career. He became sought after and his career eventually went across borders to countries around the world. His third special was highly successful and became Comedy Central’s highest rated.
Dunham signed a multi-platform deal with Comedy Central and then released his fourth, fifth and sixth special, all of which were highly successful. In addition to his comedy specials, he released a music album, “Don’t Come Home for Christmas” featuring a parody of Achmed’s Jingle bells, titled “Jingle Bombs”.
He also appeared in several sitcoms and comedy series, such as “30 Rock, Disney”, “Channel” and “Hart to Hart”.
He began dating Paige Brown, his future first wife, in 1992 and married her two years later. He adopted her daughter Bree and the couple later had two daughters, Ashlyn and Kenna, in 1995 and 1997 respectively. In November 2008, the couple filed for divorce amid rumors that his prolonged absence from home while touring had put a dent in the marriage. may have – the divorce was finalized in 2011. He later met his future second wife, Audrey Murdick, a certified bodybuilder and nutritionist in 2009. She was assigned to him as a personal bodybuilder, and the two later fell in love, fell in love and married in October 2012. Jeff Dunham’s family grew giving birth to twin sons, James Jeffrey and Jack Steven, born two hours apart on October 11, 2015.
Controversy arose when Audrey Dunham, formerly Audrey Murdick, indicted Paige Dunham for registering some domains in her name. The lawsuit stated that “the suspect at the time she registered the domains of the accused knew that the claimant would soon change her name to Audrey Dunham”. She was represented by attorney Wilmore Holbrow and the claims associated with the lawsuit included a cyber-piracy restriction and damages of approximately $100,000 for each domain name.
Dunham was named “America’s favorite comedian” according to Slate and holds a Guinness World Record for the most tickets sold to a stand-up comedy tour in 2014. His “Spark of Insanity” comedy tour sold nearly two million tickets and performed worldwide. from September 2007 to August 2010.
His timing and unique style were praised by the Dallas Morning News, and he was also voted best comedian on Comedy Central’s “Stand-Up Showdown.” He was nominated as “Comedian of the Year” by TNN Music City News Country Awards and twice won “Vental Speaker of the Year”.
While Dunham has received many positive reviews for his work, his adult-rated content has also raised eyebrows and led to accusations of being sexist, homophobic and racist. One of his TV commercials featuring Ahmed the Dead Terrorist was banned in South Africa due to complaints from the Muslim community. In Dunham’s defence, he stated that ‘Achmed makes it clear in my act that he is not a Muslim’. He was also criticized several times for mocking Lauren Correo, Comedy Central’s head of programming, and other TV critics during his 2009 tour to promote his show “The Jeff Dunham Show.” The show initially received good reviews, but was not a favorite among critics.
His book “Dear Walter” was released in 2003 under BRASMA Publications, and then his autobiography “All by My Selves: Walter, Peanut, Achmed and Me” was published in 2010.
Dunham loves building and flying his kit helicopters. He is also excited about collections such as muscle cars, Apple products and recovering ventriloquist dummies.
Thanks to social media platforms like YouTube, Dunham has had a successful career as a ventriloquist. With a net worth of $140 million, he is considered one of the highest paid comedians in the world. His videos, including his more popular characters such as Peanut, Achmed, the Dead Terrorist, and Walter the curmudgeon, have been viewed over 500 million times, with Achmed being viewed 150 million times.
NERD ALERT FOR THROWING YOUR VOTE! Throw your vote in a dummy or across the street! THIS is how it’s done! pic.twitter.com/af4bOawOjt
— Jeff Dunham (@jeffdunham) February 25, 2021
Pollstar named him the highest grossing stand-up act in North America, having sold over four million DVDs and earning approximately $7 million. In 2009, he was ranked by Forbes as the third highest paid comedian in the US, with Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock ahead of him. He also raked in approximately $30 million from the June 2008 to June 2009 period, making him one of the highest-grossing comics of the time. It is also rumored that Dunham earns between $15 and 30 million annually from his more than 200 shows.
You can join his more than 800,000 followers on Instagram and two million on Twitter by visiting his handle @jeffdunham.