During a conference call on September 9, he spoke about what fans can expect during his upcoming special, Jeff Dunham: Unhinged in Hollywood, airing on NBC on Thursday, September 17.When it comes to ventriloquists, Jeff Dunham is often mentioned among the greats. Filmed last month at the famous Dolby Theater in Hollywood, the special includes visits by fan favorite dummies Peanut and Walter, along with some new characters. There’s also a performance by country music star Brad Paisley, as well as appearances by comedian Chris Parnell and mixed martial arts fighter Chuck Liddell.
While Dunham’s characters are just puppets to some, it’s clear when listening to him that these characters are family; you feel the sense the pride each time he mentions one. Hearing Dunham talk about some of his more controversial characters and how they were initially received by fans is fascinating.
Known for being edgy, Dunham confirmed that compared to his other specials that aired on Comedy Central, Jeff Dunham: Unhinged in Hollywood has been toned down for the NBC audience.
I first saw Dunham’s act in the early 90s when I worked at the Minnesota State Fair. Dunham performed on an outdoor stage just across the street and I timed my lunch breaks to coincide. As enjoyable as it was listening to Dunham during this conference call as a longtime fan, I admit to being a little disappointed that Peanut and Walter didn’t get on the phone and answer some questions too.
Below are the questions and answers of the call, with my question first.
Jeff Dunham: Unhinged in Hollywood airs Thursday, September 17 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, only on NBC.
Neda: Hello, everyone. And thank you for joining today’s conference call for NBC’s new special, Jeff Dunham Unhinged in Hollywood staring internationally acclaimed comedian and ventriloquist, Jeff Dunham. This will air on Thursday, September 17 at 8:00 pm. And without further ado, I welcome Jeff and open it up to questions.
Jeff Dunham: Hello, everybody. Thanks.
Operator. Our first question comes from the line of Greg Staffa from Your Entertainment Corner. Please go ahead.
Greg Staffa: Thanks, Jeff, for taking our calls today. Just mentioning…
Jeff Dunham: Greg, I’m just impressed that I got a question because you know my fear was nobody’d ask questions and we’d be done in 3 minutes.
Greg Staffa: Ha, The line’s just dead. Just mentioning the name Jeff Dunham, people would say, “Oh, the ventriloquist guy. I love him.” Most of the photos of you have you, Peanut and Walter. My question to you is who is Jeff Dunham to you? And how do you find a way to balance your professional life with your personal life these days?
Jeff Dunham: You know actually I love that questions because you know back when I started this profession in the Third Grade, the goal was to be a great ventriloquist. And that was just acquiring the skill of ventriloquism and learning that. And I think just like playing a musical instrument or learning a sport, the younger you start, the better because all the mechanics become second nature.
And you can then focus on the artistry and what’s more important the details as you get older and progress. So you know to me, as I began this journey down the road when I got into high school or college age, I realized that if I was going to actually compete in the professional – in the world with the professional other comedians, I realized I had to get a lot funnier.
I couldn’t just have a fancy technique and do fancy ventriloquist things. So I needed to go toe to toe with you know the likes of whoever was in the – working the comedy clubs in those years. And that was the late 80s and early 90s. So – and a part of that, doing what I do, being a ventriloquist, you’re not just telling jokes through the dummy.
You’re basically a comedy team. And so what I had not developed growing up was just what you asked, “Who the heck was I?” And who was I in the act? And you couldn’t have Abbott and Costello without Bud Abbot or Lou Costello. So that’s basically what I was. I was a comedy team with one side that didn’t say too much.
So, that was one reason that I started doing standup myself and became my own opening act on the road doing comedy clubs because then I would go out there and do 10 or 15 minutes of just me. And people would get to know me. And – but then I realize they weren’t of course there for me. They were there for the dummies.
Then you pull the dummies out and you’ve got the entire comedy team on stage. So the short answer to your question is I think I’m just this average guy who happens to have these little partners that live in suitcases and we’re a comedy team. And you now so that’s the short answer.
Greg Staffa: Can’t wait to check out the special.
Jeff Dunham: Thanks, Greg. I appreciate it. Thanks for the question.
Greg Staffa: Just a couple of quick follow-up questions. First, who’s the easiest character to write for?
Jeff Dunham: I think hands down the easiest again I’ll go back to Walter because I think I can identify with him. So many people can identify with him. And he’s just kind of in every man. And I think you know there’s so much cynicism in the world now that – well, look at Trump for god’s sake. I mean he’s just saying what he thinks.
And I think that Walter is kind of a – you know they – it’s kind of – they’re kind of cut from the same cloth, really. They just say what they think and they don’t care what anybody else things. And you know, people ask me, “What was the inspiration for Walter?” One of the very first – when I very first got the idea of doing Walter was Betty Davis, the last time she was on the Tonight Show with Carson.
Here is a woman who’d gone everywhere, done everything and lived life to its’ fullest. Still smoked. Didn’t care what anybody thought. Spoke her mind. And it was refreshing. Carson would spin around in his chair laughing at some of the stuff she said. And that to me was the inspiration for Walter, one of the inspirations for Walter.
And it’s the same thing with Trump. He’s just kind of unbridled and says what he thinks. And Walter is kind of the same way. You can just you know – and again, people accuse me of using the dummies as some sort of platform or a different voice of me saying outlandish things. That’s not it at all. I write for the character.
And I write for what would this character say in these given situations. And I think to answer your question, Walter is the easiest one to write for because there’s – it’s kind of mindset there that everyone understands.
Greg Staffa: You were just on an episode on Tanked. Is there any future kind of crossovers that we can look forward to seeing you on? And secondly, you have several specials that are now out on DVD. As you gear up for this special on NBC, is there a quintessential Jeff Dunham special that a fan who hasn’t really seen you YouTube clips or anything can go back and watch that you think this is you at your finest until my next finest coming up?
Jeff Dunham: Sure. I think that – and again, the dust hasn’t settled on Unhinged in Hollywood yet. But I had to keep in mind that it being NBC first and then Comedy Central you know comes later. And there – a Comedy Central version airs on November 1. But this NBC version of the show obviously I have to be more family friendly. We can’t use the – you know there can’t be any bad words in it.
That kind of thing. So it’s going to be – well, I think once the dust settles on this and we see what the reaction is, I know my feeling. It would be one of 2. I think it’ll either be this one or it’ll be the Spark of Insanity because Spark of Insanity had some of my favorite standup. It was when my girls were growing up.
They were still little girls. And my standup at the begging was all about family. And some people can identify with that. And it really gets you to know me and my background. But then the characters I think are – really do well in that special as well. And it was the special that I introduced Achmed the terrorist.
Nobody knew who he was up until that point except for the handful of audiences where I tried him out first. But that’s what got the thing going internationally is Spark of Insanity. And then – and again, Unhinged in Hollywood, because its’ NBC, it’s a new audience. And people that don’t pay attention to Comedy Central or the standup world, they have no idea who I am.
So I had to a little bit reintroduce the characters or introduce them as if you didn’t know who they were which was great. Which is fine. And I accomplished that. And so again, I have to let the dust settle in my head to see what I think. But it wouldn’t surprise me if this special would be the one that I would had to somebody if they didn’t know who I was because I’ve matured as a comic.
The characters have matured. The comedy has matured, everything. So I think it would be this one.
Greg Staffa: Thank you.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Paulette.
Paulette: Thank you. Hey, Jeff.
Jeff Dunham: Hello, Paulette. Hello.
Paulette: You’ve developed a lot of characters over the years. Can you talk about what inspires to create a new character? And will you be introducing one on the special?
Jeff Dunham: I think – so what inspires me first. Unfortunately for comedians I think the funnier the guy is usually the more garbage he’s gone through – he or she has gone through in their lives. And I think that the best inspiration for any comic is just to live life and live it to its’ fullest. And whether you succeed to fail or make mistakes or you know do great things, we all do that throughout life.
But, you know the more steps that I take in life, the more there is to draw from. And I – you know, I used to hear that back when I was in college that I had people telling me that a comedian really doesn’t reach his stride or at least a stride enough to keep succeeding until probably late in college or after college because he hasn’t lived life enough.
You don’t know really what’s it’s all about until you get out in the real world and get a couple of knocks. And so again, back to your question, I think what inspires me is just seeing my kids, raising my children. Now my girls are 18, 20 and 24. I’m now remarried. And the greatest thing about – well one of the greatest things about being remarried now is that there’s a whole new well to draw from for material.
And I guess one of the most important – well, the most important one right now besides the marriage is that I’m now 53 years old. And in two months, Audrey and I have twin boys due.
Paulette: Oh, wow.
Jeff Dunham: So, yes. So where do I draw inspiration? Well, I guess the fact that my boys will be entering college when I’m 71 years old. How can you not draw material from that? And so then with characters like Walter who is this curmudgeonly old guy. He’s basically been making fun of me since he entered the act.
And he entered the act when I was in college. So many years – a couple of decades now I’ve had Walter in the act. And it’s very interesting to me because it started out young man/old man. Here I was single and dating and Walter making fun of me and giving me advice for all that. Now life is progressed.
I’ve gone through marriage. I’ve gone through – I’ve had kids. I’ve gone through a divorce. And all along the way, the materials has changed because Walter can give me advice or make fun of me every step along the way. And I think that all those steps so many people can identify with. And I know that’s what makes people laughs is things they can identify with and they’ve been through or they’ve heard about.
Or you know at least than on the periphery of seeing other people go through them. So again, what inspires me is just living life like that. And as for the new characters, I pretty much respond to what’s going on and been going on in the world at that time. The best example – well start with Walter. He came into the act in what 1987 I think.
And basically, he was just this old guy that I knew people would identify with because everybody knows some curmudgeonly old man. You’re either married to him or you are him or you work for him. He’s your uncle. So that worked. And it’s been working for decades now. Now you take 9/11. Nothing funny about 9/11.
A year after 9/11, we’re still looking for Osama Bin Laden. And I turned to David Letterman. I turned to Jay Leno. What were they joking about? They were joking about him and those guys that did all that. That’s where the comedy was coming from. Never anything funny about 9/11. So everybody was saying, “Where’s Osama Bin Laden?”
Well, I thought, “I know where he is. He’s dead. But he’s not dead. And he’s a skeleton. And he’s been hiding out in the suitcase with all my other characters.” So I came out with the first iteration of Achmed which was the dead Osama. And I wrote material as if there were relatives of victims sitting in the room.
What would they laugh at? What would they be okay hearing about? And what would they respond to? And then I thought, “I’m not going to chicken out and go do this somewhere far away from New York.” My first show with the dead Osama was about 8 miles from Ground Zero just outside New York City in a comedy club.
And I said, “Ladies and gentlemen, there’s one sentence we’ve all be waiting to hear. And that is Osama Bin Laden is dead.” Everybody applauds. And said, “Well” – and this was 45 minutes into my show. So I’d already won the audience over. They trusted me. I said, “Well, I know where he is. He’s here with us this evening. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Osama Bin Laden.”
And of course, the room was completely silent right there. Everybody thought, “Oh my gosh. This guy has lost it. What horrible thing are we going to hear now?” And there’s this bumbling stupid skeleton comes out of the suitcase and just I went through the material. It was the perfect material. I just made him look like an idiot.
And everybody laughed. And then I used him for a couple of years. Time went on. We’re going to come out with my second DVD which is “Spark of Insanity.” I thought I can’t do Osama Bin Laden. It’ll be dated. It won’t be evergreen. Whenever we find the guy or whenever he’s killed, then it’ll be dated.
I know, instead of insulting one guy, I’ll insult an entire group of dangerous people and just come out with a terrorist, just a general terrorist. We don’t know exactly where he is. I was just – I was very – the one thing I did do is make sure that everyone knew that he says he’s not Muslim. You can tell because look on his ass, it says “Made in China.”
So – and again, that big long example was me just responding to what’s going on in the world at the time. What I think people will laugh at. What they can relate too. And that character comes along. As for a new character, in this particular special, I had one bit that I used to do with my character, Peanut where Peanut would say, “I’m a ventriloquist now too. And I have my own dummy. And he’s Little Jeff.
And he comes out with a little version of me. And he makes fun of me because he’s ugly and all that. So, we came out with Little Jeff ventriloquist dummies that weren’t selling very – they weren’t selling well after the shows. And I thought, “I’m just going to demonstrate this Little Jeff dummy on stage.”
So that little 30 second commercial now turned into a 15 minute bit you know two years later where I introduce Little Jeff and show how a ventriloquist dummy works. And then it just goes horribly downhill from there. So that’s the new character in the special. And it’s one of my favorite parts because it’s just me pretty much making fun of what I do for a living.
And the dummy just picking on me. So that’s the new guy. As for the tour that’s coming up this fall, yes, there’s a couple of more characters on the back burner. And I’ll be at the work bench before we hit the road on the tour bus in December.
Paulette: Well, thank you so much.
Jeff Dunham: Alright. Thanks, Paulette.
Operator: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Krista.
Krista: Hey, Jeff. Thanks for taking the call today.
Jeff Dunham: Hello. Thanks for having me.
Krista: First of all, I’d like to say my husband and I love to watch you on TV.
Jeff Dunham: Well, thank you. Wait, you’ve got to tell me where you are right now. It’s got to be somewhere. Let me guess, hold on. Is the Carolinas somewhere? Georgia?
Jeff Dunham: Okay. Close enough.
Krista: I get that all the time.
Jeff Dunham: Well, that’s good though.
Krista: My question is do you have a favorite character that you do? Or are you about the same for all of them? Or do you – do you have a favorite?
Jeff Dunham: Well, I’m pretty much a chameleon or a whore. However you want to look at it. It’s whatever the audience wants is where I’ll go with it. So if I have a particular crowd that really likes Walter, that’s my favorite for the evening. You know, back in the days when I was – started to doing Carson, I used Peanut and Jose Jalapeno on a Stick and Walter on my first Carson appearance.
And Johnny loved Walter. I think it was again for that very simple reason that people could identify with him. So my go too guy for – on television for many years was Walter. And that was because again, folks could identify with him. So if you’re going to ask me who’s my favorite one for television use, it’s got to be Walter.
For the live show, Peanut is this wacky purple guy that we don’t know what he is or where he’s from. And in the live show, he’s the one that steels it. Especially in this specials, he goes pretty high energy and nuts. And I think people will really respond to that. Achmed the dead terrorist is what got me on the international scene because our YouTube video came out and then Spark of Insanity.
And it went like wildfire throughout YouTube and the military sending clips to each other all across the globe and their families. And the military literally painting Achmed on the sides of tanks and on the sides of helicopters and putting little Achmed dolls in the windows of the vehicles. So Achmed is what got me to be able to tour to all these unbelievable counties that we’ve been too.
The fact that you know a year ago, I was doing shows in Abu Dhabi for a Muslin audience with all Arabs. And then two nights later, I’m in the middle Tel Aviv, Israel doing the exact same show for 4,000 Jewish people. And they both loved Achmed equally. That to me said something special. It just showed me that you know that I think that a vast majority of people on this planet are good people and are concerned about the same things.
And it’s a handful of idiots that cause all the problems. So, went the long way around to answer your question. But my favorite guy – if I had to leave all dummies aside and pick just one that would really be tough. That would really be tough. I think it would have to be Walter just because – maybe because I’m most like Walter more than any other character.
Krista: Well, thanks. And we look forward to the special.
Jeff Dunham: Oh. Thanks, Krista. Tell your husband I said “Howdy.”
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Stephanie.
Stephanie: Hey, there.
Jeff Dunham: Hello, Stephanie. How are you?
Stephanie: Hello. You’ve been entertaining my family for a long time.
Jeff Dunham: Thank you.
Stephanie: I wanted to ask you on a more serious side how things are changing in the comedy world where some people aren’t accepting some of the jabs that some comedians are doing. How do you balance that?
Jeff Dunham: Well, you know that’s – I love that question, Stephanie, because when we’re coming up with this special. For – you know for each character, I want to make sure that I don’t obviously repeat anything that I’ve done before. And I want to make sure that I progress with the characters. And it’s really interesting to look back even at my own material and think, “Wow, the world has really changed because I would not do that joke today. I would not do that bit today.”
And it’s – and you say, “Is it out of trying to be politically correct and fearful that you’re going to offend people?” Or that you know you don’t want to be criticized and persecuted for your own comedy? I – you know there’s a certain line that you can pass. And the way I judge it is there are people in my audience that pay good money to see the show.
And they expect comedy on a certain level. At the same time, I’m not going to dumb it down and do things that I would – that I don’t think are right. But, I play to the audience that there’s to see me and have paid the money. And I think growing up in Texas where I did in a middle income family and just general doing shows for Gowanus clubs and Cub Scouts banquets and shows at church.
I kind of learned what a good section of society will laugh at no matter what age, what demographic. And so I do the same thing when I’m picking material and when I – you know when I decide what jokes to do. But I do think that the climate is so much more different now than I guess it’s ever been.
Then again, I wasn’t – you know I wasn’t cognizant of what was going on politically in the 60s because I was a little kid. But people are so sensitive now. And there’s so many sensitive issues. And the world is such a small place with social media. And everybody knows instantly that happens and everything everybody says.
So there is a different – you have to approach things much differently now as a comedian than you did even 8 years ago. So it – you know I feel sorry for the guys that are just coming up and just getting started in comedy because they’re going to have to come up with a whole new – a whole new gage. A whole new barometer of what’s okay and what’s not okay.
And it is amazing how you can tell one wrong joke or say one wrong thing and you’re going to paying for it for an awfully long time. And I’m very cognizant of that. And you know I just want people to laugh. I want them to have a good time and enjoy the show. But I don’t want it to be at the expense of other people.
And I – you know I do have characters that are – you know Bubba J for example. White trash, trailer park good old boy. And I get it because I grew up in Texas. And I knew guys like that. And had – my dad not had a good job. We probably been living in a trailer and it had been fine. And so, I – and to me, you know Foxworthy is a good example.
He – this was years ago he and I were talking. And he said, “You know you might be a redneck if.” And he said he got those same questions. “Don’t you think people are going to get upset with you for making fun of rednecks?” And he said, “No. They embrace it. They love it. They’re proud of the fact that they’re rednecks.”
And I think Bubba J, people, it’s the same thing. People don’t think I’m making fun of them. They think I’m making fun of the people that live in the trailer next door to them. But even with Water – even with Walter, people say, “Don’t you think old people are going get upset thinking that you’re making fun of them.”
No. Most old people love Walter. Of course, you’re going to have those handful of people that are upset and get offended. But that just goes with the territory being a comedian. And I guess the number that I put on it. If I’m offending a handful of people. If I’m offending 3 to 5% of the audience, then I’m doing my job because the other 95% of the people, whatever those 5 people got offended at, the 0ther 95% are laughing the hardest at those things.
But again, it is different now than it was 5 years, 8 years, certainly 12 years ago.
Stephanie: Great. Well, thank you. I appreciate that.
Jeff Dunham: Thank you, Stephanie.
Stephanie: Looking forward to your specials.
Jeff Dunham: Thanks. Thanks very much.
Operator: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Kristen.
Kristen: Hello, Jeff. Thank you so much for speaking with us today.
Jeff Dunham: Well, thanks for the upcoming question, Kristen.
Kristen: Great. So, I’m curious. You know all of your characters have definitely taken on you know a life of their own. And they have you know tons and tons of fans. Have you you know ever found yourself you know surprised by which ones fans tend to gravitate towards. Did you ever think something was going to go well and it didn’t? Or vice versa?
Jeff Dunham: Yes. I’ll go back to Walter. I was talking about Walter earlier. But I was in college and here’s this – we have a ventriloquist convention every summer which is kind of frightening in itself. But you know it started out at 100 people. And now 30 years later, there’s 4-5-600 people that show up every summer at this convention in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio.
And it’s at the Vent – it’s sponsored by the Vent Haven Museum which is the largest collection of ventriloquial memorabilia on the planet. There’s over however many dummies? 600 dummies? 700 dummies? I can’t remember what it is now. Anyway, so, with Walter, there was a guy years and years ag back in the early 80s that had made a grumpy looking dummy with his arms crossed and all that and had copied Edgar Bergen’s version of Charlie McCarthy that they used in a movie where Charlie was grumpy and frowning.
So this guy made the dummy. I was in college. I didn’t have a lot of money. And I said, “Could I – could I buy that from you?” And he said, “Sure.” I go, “Could you help me out on the price? I promise you I’ll make him – I’ll do well with him.” And he goes, “No. No. I’ll stick with the price.” And so, I didn’t have the 2 grand or whatever it was that he was charging at the time for the dummy.
So I went home and I thought, “Oh, I’ve got to try my hand at making dummies. I’ve made a few before.” But I sat down and made this frowning dummy that – and I had a mirror and clay and one knife. And I sat up late one night looking in the mirror and matching my frown lines to Walter’s. So if I shaved my head and frowned like him, I look exactly like Walter.
And – but here I had this grumpy negative dummy. And every dummy from the beginning of whenever guys started using dummies, ventriloquist men or women started using dummies, it was always – usually 90% of the time, it’s cheeky little boy typical scary ventriloquist dummy. Basically knockoffs of Charlie McCarthy or Jerry Mahoney, the early famous ventriloquist from early TV and first Bergman was radio.
And I thought, “Who – what in the world could I do with this frowning dummy with the crossed arms?” And I thought, “You know what? This’ll e great for 2 or 3 minutes on stage.” And then nobody can handle that negative comedy, that negative character for longer than that. How wrong I was. Again, I brought Walter on stage. And people identified with him. They got it. And that surprised me early on of how that character caught on.
And again, it was early in you know my thinking. But then I realized it was because again, people identified with him. So, he surprised me. And then Achmed, the dead terrorist. Boy oh boy, when he was – you know the first iteration of the dead Osama I thought, I’m going to take a big chance here.”
And again, I was so cognizant of the material. But I’m going to take a chance because I think people will laugh at this. They’re laughing at Letterman. They’re laughing at Leno when they’re telling jokes about Osama Bin Laden. I’m going to try the same thing and do it live on stage with a dummy. And I did that.
And I mean every club I would go – I was doing comedy clubs. I did comedy clubs for 20 years almost. And every time I’d go in there, they were responding more to Achmed than any other character. Now grant it, I came back to LA and in a you know much different kind of thinking. More politically correct.
Down to Irvine, California, I used Achmed. And my – the guy who managed the club. He was my manager at the time. He says, “You know what? We’re getting more complaints on Achmed than any other dummy. Could you please stop using him?” And I said, “Okay.” And then I went back to the dressing room and I thought about it for a second.
And I said, “No. I have been doing this all over the country. People have been responding to this. They think it’s great. I’m not doing anything horrible here.” There’s been relatives of victims in the audience that think it’s great. No. This is fine. This is good. My audience loves this. And I kept doing it. And then pardon the pun, but it exploded after that. And on the international scale, we’ve got the YouTube videos out there.
And people just went nuts for it. Every country, every society. Again, in Abu Dhabi, in you know the United Arab Emirates, in there. And then over in Israel. And then all over Europe, used him and people love him. He’s the biggest character there. My favorite joke I think was in Belfast, Ireland. I pulled Achmed out.
And he goes, “Am I here for a job interview?” Get it. Paris. And the place went, I mean the roof came off the place at that joke. And you know where else? Singapore. Iceland. Australia. South Africa. All these places and Achmed is the big hit everywhere. So there’s your surprise.
Kristen: Okay. Thank you so much.
Jeff Dunham: Thanks, Kristen.
Operator: Our next questions from Cody. Please go ahead.
Cody: Hello, Jeff. Thanks again for speaking with us today.
Jeff Dunham: Hello, Cody. Thanks for taking the time.
Cody: First of all I wanted to ask, what can fans expect from Unhinged in Hollywood? And what would you say sets it apart from your past specials?
Jeff Dunham: Sets it apart. I was at first very – a little bit frightened of doing a show in LA because I had done the shows in LA before – before this – whatever this giant – bigger fame came along. And I was a little bit nervous because LA and New York, you know the big metropolitan cities are just – it’s a different animal.
And I was so used to do the midsize cities, St. Louis or even Dallas or Chicago. Chicago’s huge. But I was a little bit nervous of LA because I never quite thought they got me there. And I had to listen to management. I had to listen to people who know this business. And they said, “Trust us. We think you’re going to be great there.”
And then they said, “Let’s do it at the Dolby.” And I thought, “The Dolby. This is where they did the Academy Awards.” How many people have you seen onstage go there and try to do comedy and die a horrible death trying to do funny jokes.” And it’s always because it’s just a tough audience. You know, that industry crowd.
And “Oh my gosh, everybody’s nervous. And it’s just – you know it’s not great for comedy. So you see Ellen going there and kill and do great. You know, the list is short of the people that have done well on stage doing comedy there. So I was very nervous. I’m like, “Oh, man. There’s something about that place.” So, “No”.
So sat down. Wrote a bunch of jokes about Hollywood, about Southern California, about Los Angeles. And I think the rest of the country loves to laugh at us here in LA for whatever reasons. And you know I got on stage in Las Vegas. And I had my show there. It’s still there for a little while longer. But basically the purpose to go to Las Vegas was to work out this show and get the material down.
And I started doing Los Angeles jokes and Hollywood jokes. And so, what people can expect? They can expect the guys that have been with me for a long time plus Little Jeff being the new character. And you know, just material about LA and the trappings of living in Hollywood. And then some typical comedy stuff that I think that people like the most.
And I think what sets it apart. Every time we do a special, I love the sets. I love the look of the show. But this one, the particular camera’s that we used. It is a beautiful, gorgeous setting. You can’t beat the Dolby. All those levels there. And we had a jib – a couple of jib cameras. And I mean I don’t know how many – I guess we had 7 camera shoot.
But it’s just gorgeous. The guys did an amazing, amazing job. And I guess what I’m proud of most is that every joke hit. It was because I practiced it enough. And I knew all the beats. And when I do something like this, I try and make sure every breathe is timed just right because I know these things will live on for a long time.
And you know I guess what sets it apart is the look of it. And I guess I try and progress and make each one better than the last one.
Cody: Great. And then just as a follow-up, a lighter follow-up. What is the craziest thing that has ever happened to you while traveling on the road with your various characters?
Jeff Dunham: We did the international tour, it be a year ago this past April. So a year and a half ago. And I was very nervous about going to all these different countries because I’m like how do they know who I am? And you know again, the world is small with YouTube and all that. So like and obviously they knew who was because we get to the – you know the smallest show we did was for 4 to 5,000 people.
Some places were – I can’t remember where the biggest one was. But we did one in London that was – Oh my gosh, it was crazy. 12-13,000 people. It was nuts. So, I’ll tell you two of the craziest things that happened. Where were we? We were – I think we were actually in Abu Dhabi. We were going through – or getting ready to go to Abu Dhabi.
Somewhere like that. We’re going through security at the airport and it was amazing to me that some of the TSA folks or the security folks at the airports knew who I was. And I would never say anything. But I always carry the dummies in the suitcases going through the airport because god forbid they get lost, I don’t have a show.
So there were you know 8 of us on the tour. Managers and you know my wife an all that. So, everybody had their own dummy in a suitcase as one of their carry-ons. So five dummies. And I had Achmed with me because he’s the most – the fragile one. The most – the one I care about the most not being able to replace.
And I put him on the x-ray and it goes through. I’m at the other end and the guys goes, “Is there a dead terrorist in your box.” I’m like, “Yes.” And so they tell you not to make jokes. Well, they’re making jokes asking me if there’s a dead terrorist in my suitcase. So that again – this guy barely spoke English. And he asked me if there’s a dead terrorist in my box.
And then the other one – and again, just because the culture’s so much different, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought when we got to Abu Dhabi, it was going to be you know ex-patriots, military and folks who’d moved there for some reason. They just wanted to see an English-speaking show. And I walked out on stage not having – I didn’t curtain peak.
And I walked out on stage and here in the front row were all the guys in the typical Muslim dish dashes they call it, all the white garb. The women were a few rows back in all black. And I mean, I was terrified. I didn’t know where they here to judge me? Why were they here? But they laughed at every single joke.
And when Achmed came out, again, I thought what are going – what do they think? It was a like a home coming. He’s like – they were like, “He’s back.” Okay. Whatever you say so. So, there you go.
Cody: Alright. Thanks again so much for speaking with us.
Jeff Dunham: Alright. Thanks, Cody.
Operator: Our next question comes from Jamie.
Jamie: Hello. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today.
Jeff Dunham: Hello, Jamie.
Jamie: I was wondering. We hear a lot about Walter’s wife. So I was wondering if we’ll ever get the chance to meet her and hear what it’s like to be married to him.
Jeff Dunham: You know, it’s amazing how many people want to see Walter’s wife. And I’ve kept it like they did Maris on Frazier. Do you remember Frazier’s brother.
Jeff Dunham: And we never saw here ever, ever, ever. And I do that on purpose because it leaves it open to the imagination. And I’ve been very inconstant through the years of Walter making fun of his wife saying either there’s no sex at all or she wants it too much. Or she’s overweight. Or she’s skinny. Or – so I – you know if the joke is good, I’ll tell the joke.
And nobody is going to say, “Hey, 4 years ago, you said she was fat. Now you’re saying she’s not.” So I just leave it open to the imagination. And you know and it’s so much fun to get pictures from people who they send me photos of people or illustrations that they found that they think is what Walter’s wife looks like.
So again, I’ll go back to Frazier or who was the doorman. This was way before anybody that’s probably on this call. Was it Cartman the doorman? I can’t remember if it was Bob Newhart. I can’t remember. But it was the same thing. You never saw the guy. It was or Carl the doorman. I don’t remember.
You never saw they guy – or was it Mary Tyler Moore. I don’t remember. But you never saw the guy. But you just had an imagination of what the guy looked like. And same thing with Home Improvement. The guy on the other side of the fence. I just think there’s some kind of fun little mystery there that everybody has in their head what they think that person looks like.
And if I were come out with a version of Walter’s wife, I think the fans that have been with me for a number of years, they’d be a percentage that think it’s funny. And another percentage that are disappointed. But I will put an asterisk on my paragraph here. I’m not saying it won’t happen. I think it would be a really interesting – you know one of things I love when I build my characters is there’s two things that I love when I build them.
No. 1 is the original sculpting when I sculpt them in clay, the original because that’s really the face coming to life. And then the very last of the process is painting them after they’ve – you know after I’ve put all the movements in and turned them into an actual dummy because those are the two times that they’re life really pops.
And so to sculpt Walter’s wife’s face, I think there would have to be a few beverages involved to give me inspiration. So, yes, that would be a bunch of nights of drinking beer or wine or whatever or Tequila and seeing what came out.
Jamie: Well, there’s another ventriloquist on America’s Got Talent this year in the finale. Do you think he has a shot of winning since you’ve already won?
Jeff Dunham: Oh, I was never on America’s Got Talent. The guy that won America’s Got Talent…
Jamie: No. I meant like since you’ve already had success. I meant since you…
Jeff Dunham: Oh. Okay. You know the first guy ventriloquist that won America’s Got Talent as a ventriloquist was Terry Fader. And then oh my gosh, what’s this guy’s name? I can’t remember. Oh, this is horrible. Can you Google it for me real quick?
Jeff Dunham: I know it. It’s on the tip of my tongue here. This is horrible. This is like forgetting your sister’s name or something because you’re supposed to know that stuff. If you tell me his first name, I’ll tell you all – his full name. Total brain fart here. Anyway, there are different – different – you know just like different athletes, different musicians, everybody’s good at different aspects of whatever that art or that sport is.
And I tend to focus on the comedy and the jokes and the character development because I – to me those are the most important things. If you look at the most famous ventriloquist in all of American history probably the world history, it was Edgar Bergen. Edgar Bergen came to fame as a ventriloquist when he got a radio show which makes no sense whatsoever.
But him – being on radio, he was forced to concentrate on two things, character development and the comedy. So people actually believed that Charlie McCarthy, his dummy was a little boy playing a ventriloquist dummy. That’s how good he was with the voices and the characterization and how good he and his writers were with developing the material.
And the jokes were funny. And his radio show as No. 1 for years. He was the Seinfeld of that era. So those are the most important things to me. Terry Fader, an unbelievable voice. An unbelievable singer and an entertainer in that aspect. What’s his name?
Jamie: Paul Zerdin.
Jeff Dunham: Oh, yes. Paul Zerdin, right from – pretty sure from the UK, right? I think he’s from the UK. He is an amazing technician and does some amazing…
Jeff Dunham: Say it again.
Jamie: You cut out.
Jeff Dunham: Oh. Well, he does some amazing technical things with the ventriloquism and just beautiful technique. And does he have a chance? Yes. It depends on the public. If the public like it and they vote, he’s going to win. So you know, yay. There’s room for everybody.
Jamie: And my last question is you’re part of social media. Are you looking forward to that instant fan feedback you’re going to be receiving once Unhinged in Hollywood airs?
Jeff Dunham: Yes. That’s another part of this business that has surprised me. It’s just the social media is such a powerful tool, an amazing tool, an amazing way to communicate. And again, I go back to the world tour from a year and a half ago. It’s amazing to have gotten all those international fans. And that was one of the things that surprised me on that trip.
And even now when I tweet or put stuff on Facebook how many people respond to all that. So, yes, I think we’ve even – they’ve even been promoting the show on NBC, on AGT. And it’s been great. So, yes, I’m very much looking forward to that. And again, that’s another part of the job. It’s not like you can go on stage, do your show, go back to the hotel room or home and be done.
Now you have to do the follow-up with the social media. So, yes, I’m looking forward to that a lot. But at the same time, it’s – you know, its’ work. You do it right, its’ work.
Jamie: Great. Thank you so much.
Jeff Dunham: Awesome. Thanks, guys.
Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude the conference call for today.
Photos: ©2015 NBC Universal. All Rights Reserved.
© 2015, Greg Staffa. All rights reserved.
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