Jeff Dunham: Check your brain at the door

Tickets still available for Baltimore performance

Comedic ventriloquist Jeff Dunham has one request of his audience: relax and unwind.

"It's not brainless comedy, but at the same time, I'm not trying to make you think real hard," Dunham said. "It's just come in, leave your problems at the door and have a great time."

Currently touring with his beloved misanthropic puppet characters, Dunham's "Disorderly Conduct" worldwide tour is in full swing. Recently called the "most successful comedian working in America" by The New York Times, his tours have been Pollstar's No. 1 comedy choice for three years running.

Real fans know why: his success has largely been driven by his Comedy Central specials' ratings and sales. His fourth special, 2011's "Controlled Chaos," premiered to 8.3 million viewers.

For this tour, spectators can expect to see the usual suspects: Achmed the Dead Terrorist, Walter the Grumpy Retiree, Bubba J, Peanut, José Jalapeño and even Little Jeff -- Peanut's ventriloquist dummy.

Achmed the Dead Terrorist will soon appear in his first animated feature, "Achmed Saves America."  In it, the world's most incompetent suicide bomber accidentally blows himself up and is whisked away from his homeland by a giant bald eagle. He is dropped off in Americaville, USA.

Mistaken by the kind-hearted Wilson family for a visiting French exchange student, he plots to destroy the town. Once he's exposed to the sweet things in life, including all-you-can-eat buffets and frozen yogurt, Achmed's campaign of hate turns into a patriotic All-American lovefest.

Dunham took a break during back-to-back tour dates to discuss life as a ventriloquist and the "Disorderly Conduct" tour.

What's the hardest part of being a ventriloquist?

There's a disdain for ventriloquists – you're lumped in with plate spinners, accordion players and mimes. It's considered quite sad and dated. I pride myself on the fact that I'm putting a fresh patina on an old, tired art and make it hip and fun again!

You also make ventriloquist dummies (although Walter would not appreciate being called a dummy ... he'd definitely have a good comeback). What's that like?

Well, every character in my act has a different creation story. So ideas for a new puppet come from all sorts of places. You're right, I do make my puppets. I do everything from selecting materials used to complication of movements, to what type of paint and how it's applied. The more difficult part is creating material and writing the funny stuff!

What's the best part of your job and why?

I love what I do, and I always have. The little guys in my trunk allow me to say whatever I can get away with, and the results are usually big laughs. And there's no better feeling than to hear and feel hundreds or thousands of folks laugh at goofy things that pop into my head and then come out of the mouths of formerly inanimate objects. No matter how geeky it seems, there's something very cool about that.

Dunham's tour makes its stop in Baltimore on Saturday, December 30.

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