The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

September 21, 2012

Voices in his head: Jeff Dunham brings characters to Downstream

JOPLIN, Mo. — A number of things could be associated with ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, the voice and hands behind characters such as Peanut, Walter and Achmed the Dead Terrorist.

Dunham has been called everything from politically incorrect to the artist who redefined ventriloquism.

People think of the catchphrases: “Silence! I kill you!”

“On a stick.”

“NneeeeeeeeeYOWWww...”

People don’t necessarily associate Dunham with longevity.

But he’s one of entertainment’s longer-running comedic performers, who earned a coveted visit to Johnny Carson’s couch on “The Tonight Show.”

Dunham will perform tonight at Downstream Casino, doing the same thing he’s done since 1976 as a 14-year-old.

In 1988, he moved to Los Angeles from his home state of Texas and began a career road that, like many roads in Texas, stretched on for miles without a lot of scenery.

After an initial, disappointing cancellation, he finally achieved a dream of landing a spot on “The Tonight Show,” and received Carson’s blessing with the couch visit ÑÊa well-known sign of his approval.

That and other appearances, including one with Reba McIntire and on “Late Night with David Letterman,” helped line up a number of live performances.

He also landed an appearance on Comedy Central with a half-hour special in 2003.

But nothing took off until 2006.

The comedy network wasn’t initially impressed with Dunham in 2003. Backed with his own money and resources, he produced “Arguing with Myself” in 2006. The network picked it up, and fans went crazy, according to his biography.

Since then, he has produced three more stand-up specials and a sketch comedy series. The fourth stand-up special, which aired about a year ago, snared 5.5 million viewers, ranking it as the network’s third most watched program in its history.

His newest special, the Halloween-themed “Minding the Monsters,” will debut on  Sunday, Oct. 7.

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