Dummies helped Jeff Dunham get through school.
In his recent memoir, “All By My Selves,” Dunham, a ventriloquist and stand-up comedian, writes about his first ventriloquism dummy, Mortimer Snerd. Dunham got Mortimer as a Christmas gift when he was 8 and brought the dummy to school one day to deliver an oral book report on “Hansel and Gretel” to his third grade class. He got an A-plus.
“It’s clear to me that the dummies helped me through my early years at school,” Dunham writes.
Dummies have also made Dunham a worldwide celebrity. A YouTube video of his sketch featuring Achmed the Dead Terrorist -- a skeletal character who repeatedly snaps “Silence! I kill you!” -- became one of the most viewed videos on the site.
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“YouTube took us around the world. The folks in Europe were just as enthusiastic as the fans here in the states, and they even knew some of the jokes. The show seems to have universal appeal. When that happens, it is sobering,” Dunham wrote in an e-mail.
Dunham will perform his new show, “Identity Crisis,” at the Columbus Civic Center on Wednesday. This is Dunham’s second time in Columbus. He also performed here in 2009.
In addition to Achmed, Dunham’s other characters include:
-- Walter, a sarcastic old grump, who “doesn’t give a damn” about anyone, including his own wife.
-- Peanut, a purple fuzzy puppet with one shoe. He’s often described as “the bad kid” in the act.
-- Jose Jalapeno, a talking jalapeno on a stick.
Dunham said he likes to introduce new characters in his acts and has gone through several -- the really nervous Y2K guy, Melvin the superhero and the dead Osama puppet.
“But for every one that’s succeeded, there’s one that I don’t know what I was thinking,” he wrote: “I have Tony the talking meatball, and that one never worked. There’s only one good joke that works with him: ‘Do you speak Italian? No, because I don’t have-a no hands.’ ”
Ask him what his favorite character is, however, and Dunham wavers.
“It goes without saying, however, that Achmed certainly has allowed me to break through in places that otherwise might have remained closed for a while. His clip on YouTube put whatever ride it is that the characters and I are on into a very high orbit. The recent shows in Europe are certainly a testament to that. Folks in London, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, and Oslo were NUTS for the characters, especially Achmed. So is he my favorite? I couldn’t say that and hurt Peanut’s feelings ”