Who says ventriloquism is a lost entertainment form? Certainly not comedian Jeff Dunham, who has parlayed his ventriloquist talent into regular sold-out performances, a series of popular specials on Comedy Central, DVD sales of more than 7 million plus more than 500 million hits for his YouTube clips.
Among many accolades, Dunham, who is appearing 4 and 8 p.m. Sunday, July 14, at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, has been named "Funniest Male Stand-Up Comic" by the American Comedy Awards, cited as the top comedy tour in North America by Pollstar for three consecutive years, and landed on Forbes magazine's Celebrity 100 roster of "power entertainers" for three years in a row.
Dunham, however, doesn't work alone. He's created a supporting cast of puppet characters that includes Walter the Grumpy Retiree; Jos� Jalape�o, "the spicy pepper from South of the border"; Bubba J, who loves NASCAR and all things stereotypically Southern; Achmed the Dead Terrorist; and high-energy Peanut, which has its own ventriloquist dummy, Little Jeff.
These characters have spawned such catch-phrases among Dunham's big fan base as Achmed's "Silence! I Keel You," and Jos� Jalape�o's "On A Steek!"
A performer since he was 10, Dunham attended Baylor University and then moved to Los Angeles, where he built his act for the national club circuit, before graduating to arenas. His first hourlong special for Comedy Central, "Arguing With Myself," debuted in 2006 to strong ratings, and has spawned several successful follow ups.
The most recent special, "Minding the Monsters," premiered in October to an audience of 5 million, the cable network's largest viewership for all of 2012. The Halloween-themed show was set in a haunted house, where each character became its scarier alter-ego.
In addition to his specials, he also starred in the limited series, "The Jeff Dunham Show," which scored the best ratings ever for a Comedy Central series, and has made cameo appearances on NBC's "30 Rock" and the big-screen comedy "Dinner for Schmucks," co-starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd.
Dunham's YouTube fame has extended his name overseas, where he has toured Europe multiple times and visited such far flung spots as South Africa and Australia.
His 2010 memoir, "All By My Selves: Walter, Peanut, Achmed, And Me," was a New York Times best-seller, and a little quirky: Dunham structured the book with frequent interruptions by his characters who offered their own interpretations of his life story.
Another take on his life can be found in The Bio Channel's 2011 documentary, "Jeff Dunham: Birth of a Dummy," which set a new ratings high for that network.
Clearly, Dunham is no dummy when it comes to building a career.
WHEN: 4 and 8 p.m. Sunday, July 14
WHERE: Event Center, The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Atlantic City
WEB SITE: JeffDunham.com