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As straight man to some of the most hilarious pint-sized partners in show business, Jeff Dunham has become one of the most successful touring comics ever and has amassed legions of loyal fans! At the American Comedy Awards, Dunham was voted Male Stand-Up Comic of the Year, an honor shared with the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Jeff Foxworthy and Robin Williams. Thousands of sold-out theater and comedy club performances, his own top-rated special on Comedy Central and countless TV guest spots - including numerous Tonight Show appearances (with both Leno and Carson) - have won him accolades and success. The reason why is very simple: he and his buddies are funny as hell. Oh, and by the way... Jeff Dunham is a ventriloquist. Written by
Ventriliquism is an act of deception. The audience must believe that the puppets are actually talking instead of the puppeteer making voices. Unless the audience buys into it, nothing works. And Jeff Dunham is so skilled that it is near impossible to believe that this is a ventriloquist.
That being said, "Jeff Dunham: Arguing with Myself" is nothing short of hysterical. The first time I watched it, I was nearly crying because I was laughing so hard. It may take up little more than an hour of time, but you're laughing heartily the whole way through.
The performance opens up with Jeff doing a small roughly 5-7 minute routine. The little story that he tells is pretty funny, and sets up a running gag throughout the show. Dunham may be a ventriloquist, but he's still funny without them.
First up is what is arguably his funniest doll (his most famous one, Achmed the Dead Terrorist, was created later), Walter. Walter is a cantankerous, foul-mouthed, wife hating old man who loves sarcasm and verbally abusing everyone, including certain audience members.
Next up is Jeff's new agent, Sweet Daddy D, who Jeff suddenly realizes is a pimp, and considers Jeff to be his "ho." He's present in a few "backstage" scenes offering commentary, but on stage he's pretty funny.
Unfortunately, after Walter and Sweet Daddy D, the level of hilarity decreases. There are still laughs to be had, but his remaining characters are just not as funny.
Jeff's third character is Bubba J, a self-proclaimed redneck who married his cousin. A lot of the jokes revolve around this and his obviously low intelligence, but the gags are just too broad to be truly hilarious.
Next up is Peanut, a creature from a Micronesean country that looks like some sort of bizarre minaret. He's like a hyperactive, but less intelligent Walter (including a similar voice). He's really only funny when he's paired up with Jose the Jalepeno...which is exactly what you'd think.
Jeff Dunham is clearly talented. His jokes are hysterical, and the voices are so different from his own that it's hard to believe that he's creating them...especially while barely moving his mouth. What I really like is the interaction between himself and his puppets. The rapport that they have is crucial and makes a lot of the jokes funnier than they normally would be. Next to his puppets, Jeff acts meek, and often embarrassed, at the things his co-stars say. What's especially noteworthy about his puppets is that their faces are very versatile...their eyes and many of their facial features move, which adds to the hilarity.
The unsung hero is Manny Rodriguez. Taping a stand up routine seems easy, but it's really not. Rodriguez is able to capture Jeff in the perfect frame: we can clearly see him and his puppets and read their emotions, but we can't see his lips move when he's voicing the puppets. He also knows the concept of comic timing, such as when he switches to the audience members reactions (and the scenes backstage).
This is a raunchy, obscene and hilarious performance (the unbleeped version would definitely be rated R, although in my opinion it should squeak by with a PG-13 rating). If you want to laugh, check Jeff Dunham out!
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