"You're arguing with yourself! And losing!"
—Peanut, Jeff Dunham: Arguing With Myself
He's made appearances on numerous TV shows, as well as being featured on Comedy Central Presents.
He's had four specials on Comedy Central so far:
- Arguing With Myself
- Spark of Insanity
- Very Special Christmas Special
- Controlled Chaos
...and briefly had his own show on the channel, called The Jeff Dunham Show
He has a cast of puppets, some of which have fleshed out back stories and diverse personalities who provide their own unique interaction with Jeff. Usually he is the Only Sane Man trying to provide some sense of control as the characters go off on random topics. He has also published a biography, entitled All By My Selves.
His cast includes:
- Walter -- a Grumpy Old Man who says exactly what's on his mind whenever he damn well fells like it. He's been married for 47 years, fought in The Vietnam War, and worked as a welder for over thirty years. One of his most popular puppets; mostly for the fact that everybody knows a Walter.
- Peanut -- a Woozle, which is a hyperactive furry animal...hybrid...thing. He has purple skin, white fur, has green hair, big feet and wears only his left shoe. He is apparently from an island in Micronesia and stowed away on a cruise ship, where he met Dunham in Florida.
- José Jalapeño on a Stick -- Exactly What It Says on the Tin, and pronounces "on a stick" as "onna Steek." A Deadpan Snarker who is one of the only characters who can handle Peanut; as a result he's often paired up with Peanut for his bits.
- Achmed the Dead Terrorist -- Lived his life as a suicide bomber and is now a skeleton with a turban, big bushy eyebrows, red eyes and a goatee. He plots to kill everyone but can never seem to do anything to make it happen. (trust us on this one).
- Melvin the Superhero Guy -- A goofy superhero wannabe with an extremely big nose (which looks like a penis when viewed sideways). Has no actual powers to speak of, but he is really enthusiastic about it.
- Bubba J. -- NASCAR lovin', beer swilling redneck. Wholeheartedly embodies every trope associated with being a back woods country redneck.
- Sweet Daddy D. -- A "Player In the Management Profession" and Jeff's "agent." According to Sweet Daddy, since he's the pimp, that makes Jeff his ho.
He has one new character he uses on tours but haven't been filmed are Dianne from Dinner For Schmucks. He recently unveiled AJ, or Achmed Junior, in his latest special, as well as Little Ugly Ass-Jeff (Peanut's ventriloquism puppet)...ItMakesSenseInContext (barely).
Dunham and his act provide examples of:
- Affably Evil: Achmed
- All Men Are Perverts: All of Jeff's puppets are male, and they all fit this trope to varying degrees.
- Ambiguously Gay:
- As far as Peanut is concerned, Jeff and Guitar Guy.
Peanut: "Which one of you is the girl, the one with the guitar, or the one who has the dolls?"
- AJ, Achmed's son
- Audience Participation:
- During one of his televised events, an audience member named Mike gets up and walks out (to use the bathroom) in the middle of the show. The audience ragging on him was a given, but Jeff and Walter -- especially Walter -- really let him have it.
Walter: Welcome back, dumbass!
- In one blooper, Peanut's hair falls off during the show. Ignoring the reaction of Peanut ("I look like that guy", pointing to a bald audience member), Peanut (Jeff in tow) then goes down and hugs said audience member... then offers to sell him his hair.
- In yet another blooper, Jeff accidentally lets go of Walter enough that his hands fall down from their normal crossed arm position. Since this is going on one of his DVDs, he shouts out "Edit" to mark it and then Walter just goes Off the Rails. During all this, Jeff forgets where he was in his act, and someone in the audience tries to help. Mistake!
'Walter: Excuse me, do the tickets say Jeff, his Friends, and the drunken asshole in the back? Me thinks not! Shut the hell up! Bastard! Three hundred million sperm, thats the one that got through!?
- And then Jeff honestly forgets where he is in the act, and they have to ask the guy to help again.
- In several shows, the audience has helped Jeff deliver lines for Bubba J, occasionally delivering the entire routine.
Bubba J: Is it bad when your audience know your act better than you?
- In a recent show starting his new material, someone in the front row walked up to go to the Bathroom and Walter let her have it, asking what her job was. (Administrator for a locating firm) Then throughout the show, he worked it into the routine.
- Big Screwed-Up Family: Implied in the background. Peanut often is telling stories of adventures he and Jose Jalapeno have shared in the background - Walter and Achmed (and anyone else who would add to the story) are mentioned as if they are along, too.
- Blatant Lies: During the Sparks of Insanity special, Jeff does a bit of traditional stand-up, and talks about his life and his daughters.
Jeff: And Kenna, uh, seems to be... I don't know. She got some sort of real twisted sense of humor. We have no idea where she got that from.
- Brick Joke: Suicide Bomber Chicken, sort of. It Makes Sense in Context. Also, the hand lotion, the Prius, and "Sa Nata A Na is Hell" bits.
- Peanut brought the lotion up in an entirely different special.
- Body Horror: Achmed Junior.
- Butt Monkey:
- Jeff to the rest of his puppets, for any number of reasons, including his powder-blue Prius, his ex-wife's "yippy chihuahua", and his sexual prowess... not to mention the lotion thing.
Jeff: My wife calls me "The Hurricane!"
- The Guitar Guy, so much.
- Catch Phrase
- Achmed: "SILENCE! I keel you!" and "Good evening, infidels!"
- Melvin: "Duh duh-duh-daaaaaah!"
- Bubba J.: "Watchin' NASCAR and drinkin' beers!"
- Walter: "...dumbass.", "I don't give a damn", and "Ehhuhuhuuuhhuh!" (mocking the audience laughing)
- Peanut: "It's goodidy it's good it's goooooooood!!", "Jeff-fa-fa... Dun-HAM... Dot com!", "What the hell was that?!", his rather insane laugh, and quickly swiping his hand through his hair with a "Neeee-yow!" (signaling that something's gone over someone's head)
- José: Adding "on a steek" to random things
- Sweet Daddy D: Him sucking his teeth. It's that "tch" noise that's kind of hard to describe without actually hearing it. Also "That's funny shit right there!"
- That's him blowing kisses to the audience.
- Jeff: "Will you stop!"
- Character Development: Peanut especially. Contrast this old Peanut with the modern one.
- Cluster F-Bomb: There's a lot more profanity in live shows than on the specials. Peanut and Walter in particular curse frequently.
Peanut: (to Guitar Guy) He thinks this is all real... We're making a shitload of money off of this, don't fuck it up!
- Companion Cube: Parodied and lampshaded whenever the puppets (especially Peanut) point out they're... well... puppets.
Peanut: I'm a real boy!
- Corpsing: One bit where Achmed tells the audience how his life (that is, the "life" he has after dying) pretty much sucked. He went to the doctor one day because he thought he had scoliosis, so the doctor recommends an X-ray, which is completely pointless because Achmed is a skeleton. This causes a bit of corpsing (you can definitely hear the strain in Jeff's voice as he tries to do Achmed's voice without laughing). Achmed's story then goes on to say that he thinks he has polio too, and the strain of trying to keep a straight face catches up to Jeff, causing him to ask Achmed about "poliosis", causing Guitar Guy to just give up the act and start laughing, and Jeff tries his darnedest to hide his laughing, covering his mouth with his hand and shouting "Don't look at me!"
- Achmed: "That's what she said."
- Dating Catwoman: Discussed by Melvin.
- The Dead Have Eyes: Achmed.
- Deadpan Snarker: Walter and, to a lesser degree, Peanut.
- Death Glare: Usually given by Jeff to Peanut.
- Deep South: Bubba J.
- Dem Bones: Achmed
- Demoted to Extra:
- Sweet Daddy D and Melvin
- Bubba J. only had a cameo appearance in the latest special.
- Department of Redundancy Department:
- Say, did you know that when an Asian guy says "Taste of China", it sounds like Taste a vagina? Did you also know that he also says the same thing about fish? And did you know that he says "Fork" so that it sounds like fuck? And did you know that apparently, Peanut needs to repeat it at least twelve times for you to get it?
- And did you also know that Achmed the Dead Terrorist thinks that the Guitar Guy is gay? Well he spent the last 20 minutes calling him gay, so how can you not know that?
- Didn't Think This Through: In A Very Special Christmas Special, Achmed slams Jeff for giving him phlegm without an esophagus with this exact line.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Achmed's death:
Achmed: I had a premature detonation. I set the timer for thirty minutes, but it went off in four seconds. (to Jeff) You know what that's like, right? MR. HURRICANE?
- Also, a knock-knock joke by Achmed is told in two separate specials.
In "Spark of Insanity":
In "Controlled Chaos":
- Don't Explain the Joke: Walter pulls this in Spark Of Insanity with an audience member.
- Duct Tape for Everything: During Controlled Chaos, Achmed's limbs flail out of position several times; after the third instance, a stage hand duct tapes Achmed's legs to the table.
- made even better if you recall in the earlier Christmas Special Achmed actually requested some Duct Tape after his legs started flailing around.
- Escalating Punchline: Walter
Walter: When I was young I had to walk five miles to get a condom! Uphill. In the snow. With a boner.
- Get Out!:
Walter: I think my house is haunted.
- Girl-On-Girl Is Hot / Yuri Fanboy: Walter starts off the "Walter's Relationship Advice for Lesbians" sketch on an episode of the TV show by staring at the two girls for several seconds before whispering "This is awesome..."
- Grumpy Old Man: Walter. Part of the reason this is so funny is because everyone knows somebody like him!
- Happily Adopted: Jeff says in All By My Selves that he was an adopted child, but that he always knew he had been, never had a problem with it, and that his parents are great.
- This leads to a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming when his first daughter was born and he realizes that she is the first blood relative he ever knew.
- Hey, That's My Line!: Achmed doesn't care too much for his French cousin Pierre because he stole his catchphrase and turned it into his own.
"SILENCE! I SCREW YOU!"
- Hoist By Their Own Petard:
- Jeff's ex-wife, who decided to breed their pet chihuahua, producing Rusty, the runt of the litter who Jeff claims will urinate on his wife in the middle of the night whenever the two have an unresolved argument.
- Achmed could be considered a victim of this too, as his incompetent suicide bombing attempt resulted in him being the only one killed by his own bomb.
- Ho Yay:
- Every now and then, Peanut to Jeff, complete with a stereotypical "gay lisp." Jeff is rarely amused.
- There's also Jeff and Guitar Guy.
- Hypocritical Humor: During the Christmas Special, Achmed asks Guitar Guy to play some inspirational music for Achmed's Christmas song. As a joke, he plays a Muslim (?) tune on his guitar. Achmed scolds him with, "You racist bastard."
- I'll Kill You!: Achmed. The trope name is practically his Catch Phrase.
- Silence! I Keel You!
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Achmed, who wants people to think he is dangerous but is also deathly afraid of Walter and once asked Jeff for a hug.
- Is That What They're Calling It Now?: Walter's reaction to Jeff's argument diffusion method by thinking of something different:
Walter: Like what?
- It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Peanut likes to point out how the actual pronunciation various names should be, like Je-Fuh-Fuh Dun-Ham (dot-com!) and Joe-zee. During Arguing With Myself, Peanut constantly pronounced the city of Santa Ana as "Sa-Na-Ta Ah-Na".
Look, I know I didn't finish school, but that frickin’ says "Sa-Na-Ta Ah-Na"! Dumbass!'
- Jerkass: Peanut. Most of his routine consists of mean-spirited jokes, belittling and antagonizing Jeff, and tormenting José.
- Keet: Peanut. Holy freakin' crap, Peanut.
- Lampshade Hanging:
Peanut: What the hell is wrong with you? We cannot talk at the same time! I talk, you talk, I talk, you talk, that's it! Focus!
- In another bit:
(Peanut and José are conversing in Spanish)
- Littlest Cancer Patient: Parodied with Achmed, who has
Polio ScoliosisPoliosis much to his confusion.
Achmed: What the fuck is Poliosis!?
- Loophole Abuse: Jeff mentioned that when he was younger, he and his parents were too cheap to get professional photos of him and a dummy to help his ventriloquist act. However; in grade 7, he realized that he could get free professional school pictures so he simply brought one of his dummies and put it on his lap.
- Medium Awareness: Peanut seems to be the only puppet who is consistently aware of his "true" relationship with Jeff, and even comments on the various portions of Jeff's mind that his puppets must represent. Peanut is disturbed by the implication that Jeff could create something as odd as Peanut.
Peanut: The sad part is that I really am pissing him off! And he would like to kill me! But he will not because that it would be a form of suicide!
Peanut: When you're laughing and having a good time, that's ME. When you're tired and fed up and thinking why did I marry this broad, that's Walter. When you really feel like you wanna kill her, that's Achmed.
- He even tears into Guitar Guy over it, too:
Peanut: Do you know how else I know you're on drugs? You're looking me in the eye and you honestly think I'm looking back.
Jeff: Peanut, what is wrong with you?
- No Fourth Wall: The dolls frequently mention the fact that they're just dolls. Peanut in particular - somewhat ironically given his over-the-top, hyperactive personality - is completely aware of the nature of the act and often compliments or harangues Jeff on the quality of his ventriloquism.
Peanut: I will never blink!
- No Sense of Personal Space: Peanut.
- Not Making This Up Disclaimer: The lotion story: "This is too stupid to make up."
- Oh, No, Not Again
Achmed: SILENCE! I ke--(notices his legs falling out of place) Oh, not this crap again!
- This happened SO MUCH in 'Controlled Chaos' that his legs has to be duct taped to the table he was sitting on.
- During a live performance in South Dakota that took place outside, Jeff's skit with Achmed kept getting interrupted by planes flying overhead causing Jeff to forget the skit and Achmed to grow increasingly annoyed by the planes, whom Achmed mistakes for bombers arriving too early.
Achmed: Not yet, dumbasses!
- Only Sane Man: Jeff usually plays this to his puppets' antics. It's especially hilarious when Peanut or Walter start abusing audience members and Jeff tells them off for it.
- Out of Focus: Melvin, Bubba J, and Sweet Daddy D aren't as popular as Achmed, Peanut, José, and Walter. As a result, they haven't really shown up as much in the more recent years when more people have been demanding the more popular acts. (One time, Bubba J actually told Jeff that the audience knew the jokes better than he did.)
- He seems to do the bit with Bubba J regularly, but perhaps not every performance. Twice he's given live performances in South Carolina where, at the end, he brings out Bubba J, has the audience help him through the act, and lampshades it.
- Don't know who that blonde puppet in the picture is? Well you're not alone.
- Padding: Jeff's been known to occasionally stretch material past the breaking point to fill time, sometimes building up to a joke. (See: Department of Redundancy Department up there)
- Overly Narrow Superlative: The Most Beloved Terrorist throughout the world. Achmed the Dead Terrorist
- Parking Payback: Walter talks about running down a man who parks in handicap spots to "make an honest man out of him."
- Prop Recycling: Jeff tells the story of how he had Achmed's head casted in All By Myselves by a Hollywood special effects artist. When Jeff went to pick it up the artist mentioned that he would need big eyes to fill the sockets and handed a pair he had lying around to Jeff. Jeff couldn't put his finger on where they were from. The Artist said he had them lying around since he finished work on Mars Attacks (Film) It's true - go on and take a look at Achmed in the page photo, we'll wait. You'll never see him quite the same way again.
- Power Perversion Potential: When Melvin claims he has X-ray vision:
Jeff: Well can you see through anything useful, like clothing?
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Subverted with Achmed. While he does have bloodshot eyes with red irises, he's far from dangerous (though he'd have you believe otherwise).
- Refuge in Audacity
- Running Gag: "Guitar Guy"'s supposed drug use, Jeff's blue Prius and The Lotion.
- Sarcasm Failure: Peanut's reaction when Jeff reveals he can't speak Spanish when Peanut & Jose were just doing so.
- Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Walter, who wanted to work at Wal-Mart as a greeter now that he's retired.
Walter: Welcome to Wal-Mart. Get your shit and get out! (pause) Have a nice day!
- Show Within a Show: A variant. In Jeff's old performances and his newest special, Peanut would perform his own little bits of ventriloquism. This resulted in a few early instances of Ugly-Ass Jeff. The character returned in Controlled Chaos. In early skits, Ugly-Ass Jeff, Jeff, Peanut, and José would banter back and forth, and at one point during some of his shows, Jeff would get out a bottle of tequila— complete with a talking worm...and a basement, somehow— and would drink while Peanut commentated on it.
- In Controlled Chaos, Peanut decides to bring back his old ventriloquist dummy Ugly-Ass Jeff, who just so happens to look a lot like Jeff, hence the name. He then does a little skit basically portraying Little Jeff as an extreme example of This Loser Is You. Jeff retaliates by putting a hand puppet on his other hand which happens to look a lot like Peanut, portraying him as a hyperactive idiot. And they all argue with one another. Rapid-Fire Comedy, indeed!
- SILENCE (you fool)! I KEEL YOU!
- Straight Man: Jeff is more or less this to his various puppets.
- Take That Me: In Controlled Chaos, he shows pictures of himself as a kid, including school pictures. Numerous times, he wonders why the hell he did that and why his parents let him do it. He also points out that he wore some really ridiculous clothes in the 70s.
I must've walked into the clothing store and said, "Excuse me, but do you have any pants that don't even go with themselves?
- Talking to Himself: Jeff is a ventriloquist, after all.
- In his newest special (and some of his older performances), he has a five way conversation with himself.
- Title Drop: The aforementioned "arguing with yourself" line.
- Which has less to do with his actual material, and more to do with the fact that he's often considered family appropriate in the south. Seriously.
- Verbal Tic: Jeff's speech is constantly peppered with phlegm (such as ACHK-med and sometimes HECK-ff for Jeff and HOCK-se for Jose.) It gets passed on to his puppets, especially when they say anything with a K sound. Even Achmed points out, "Why do I have phlegm? I don't have an esophagus."
- Visual Pun: Jeff asked Melvin what his most distinguishing feature was. He turned to look at Jeff, displaying a righteously large nose.
Melvin: "...My costume."
- What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: Lampshaded by Peanut:
Peanut: Never smoked pot?
- X on a Stick: Jose
- You Gotta Have Green Hair: Peanut!
- You Mean "Xmas": During the Christmas special, when Jeff brings out Walter, this exchange between them takes place:
Jeff: Happy holidays, Walter.