Jeff Dunham (Lewis the Ventriloquist) in Dinner for Schmucks
With humor that transcends any and all demographic boundaries, JEFF DUNHAM (Lewis the Ventriloquist) is consistently setting and breaking records and conquering every realm he enters. Over the last decade, he and his hilarious troupe of comedic sidekicks have risen from the standup comedy clubs to charm the world and become an unprecedented entertainment phenomenon with an astounding international 360-degree reach.
With staggering and ever-growing DVD sales of more than five million; the highest-rated season premiere ever on Comedy Central with his debut television series “The Jeff Dunham Show”; 300 million worldwide views on YouTube; consistently packed and sold-out shows in 7,000- to 10,000-seat venues; and a briskly-selling line of some 50 items of merchandise offered at his concerts, on his website and in retail stores across North America, he has a comedic gift that turns laughter into overwhelming success. Declared by Time magazine as “perhaps the most popular comedian in the U.S.,” as well as “America’s favorite” by Slate, his audience appeal has fostered a constantly burgeoning following of loyal and loving fans who savor his concerts, TV appearances, DVDs, CDs and YouTube clips again and again and fervently spread the word on Dunham and his winning characters.
The secret to Dunham’s comedic genius and unprecedented success is found in the believably real personalities he has created that are his partners in hilarity: Walter the grumpy retiree; the beer-swilling, NASCAR loving and resolutely redneck Bubba J; the furry and manic Peanut; José Jalapeño, the spicy pepper from south of the border; and the bumbling skeletal Achmed the Dead Terrorist. Although Dunham can rightfully be declared one of the funniest humans on the planet, it’s his interactions with them as they banter, quip, kid and vie with each other that makes their comedy so distinctive, potent and irresistibly funny. They may have been conceived and crafted by Dunham, but his characters, who are anything but dummies, have now taken on a life of their own and are stars of everything Dunham does.
Named by Forbes to its Celebrity 100 list of most powerful entertainers, Dunham enjoys a unique multi-year, multi-platform deal with Comedy Central that includes his series, “The Jeff Dunham Show,” future one-hour comedy specials, a consumer products program and DVD distribution through Comedy Central Home Entertainment. It follows in the wake of his record-setting late 2008 one-hour holiday celebration “A Very Special Christmas Special,” which drew 6.6 million viewers on its premiere airing to become the channel’s most-watched program ever, and top ratings for his previous Comedy Central specials “Arguing with Myself” (April 2006) and “Spark of Insanity” (September 2007). Dunham has also struck content partnerships with YouTube (where his Achmed clip is the fifth most all-time viewed and fourth all-time video designated as a favorite), Amazon.com (whose customers rated “Spark of Insanity” the best DVD of 2008) and iTunes. Dunham was also declared the top-grossing domestic live comedy act of 2008 and 2009 and the top-grossing international live comedy act of 2009 by the concert industry trade magazine Pollstar.
It all began when Dunham was growing up in the Dallas, Texas area with a Mortimer Snerd dummy and an instruction manual and LP he got when he was eight-years-old. Throughout his teen years, the comedian performed anywhere and everywhere he could find an audience. After graduating from Baylor University, he moved to Los Angeles and was soon a sensation on the national comedy club circuit, renewing a lost art that he has taken to new levels of finesse and technique with hilarious results. But Dunham saw even wider horizons for his talents. “I knew if we could let the masses see it and not just the comedy club fans, then it would explode,” he says.
Frequent guest appearances on “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night with David Letterman,” as well as a host of other TV and radio programs, set the stage for what was to come. Eventually he was voted “Funniest Male Stand-Up Comic” at the American Comedy Awards and became the only person to ever win the prestigious “Ventriloquist of the Year” award twice. With his debut self-produced Comedy Central special “Arguing with Myself”—which quickly sold more than one million DVDs (compared with average comedy DVD sales of 35,000)—Dunham’s popularity exploded. Soon fans were posting clips of his routines on the Internet, which went viral, and had a rapid climb to tens of millions of views.
In 2008, Dunham sold out headlining major venue shows at the prestigious and star-studded Comedy Festival in Las Vegas and the Just For Laughs festival in Toronto, and his first CD, “Don’t Come Home for Christmas,” jumped to #1 in comedy sales and #6 in overall CD sales in pre-orders alone when it was announced on Amazon, and entered the Billboard Independent Album charts in the Top 10.
Then in 2009, he triumphed on his first-ever full nationwide tour of Canada, wowed audiences with his debut appearances and sold-out shows in five European capital cities and, without performing there previously, completely sold out a four-show visit to Australia in November of 2009. He recently returned to Europe in March of 2010, performing sold-out shows in Amsterdam and all over the UK, including a performance at the world-renowned O2 arena in London. [All three specials have been released on television, DVD, and mobile platforms in Canada, UK, Benelux, Scandinavia, Italy, France, Spain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The DVD of “A Very Special Christmas Special” topped the Danish entertainment chart and “Spark of Insanity” hit the Top 5 of the overall DVD charts in Holland (#2) and South Africa (#5). “Spark of Insanity” is the most viewed show ever on Comedy Central Holland, and upon their initial release the only two titles by an American in the Top 20 of the U.K. comedy DVD charts are both Jeff Dunham specials.]
“The Jeff Dunham Show” (Fall 2009) forged a new mode of television comedy as it shows the life of the comedian and his characters for the other 23 hours of the day when they are not onstage. They interact out in the world and at home with real people in real locations to uproarious results. The show was the highest rated premiere ever on Comedy Central and garnered 5.3 million viewers in its first airing. Late 2009 also saw a cameo Dunham appearance on the Emmy®-winning comedy series “30 Rock.”
Dunham has done it all as an independent business entity that creates, produces and finances his TV specials/DVDs, merchandise, tours and more, and through a highly interactive relationship with his fans via his website, social networking platforms, and an email list to rival any in the entertainment industry.
By now Dunham has become a part of popular culture, and such character catchphrases as Achmed’s “Silence! I Keel You!” and José Jalapeño’s “On A Steek!’” are embedded in the contemporary lexicon. He has developed a brand of comedy that is edgy, yet has mass mainstream appeal, taking his cues from the stuff of everyday life and people he and we all know.
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