In an era of flashy handheld digital devices, Jeff Dunham has single-handedly, so to speak, resurrected the old-fashioned art of the standup ventriloquist and his dummy.
But the straight man/ringleader with his posse of politically incorrect alter egos has also harnessed modern technology and amassed numbers that Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy could only dream of: 360 million views worldwide on YouTube, 4 million DVDs sold and the most-watched telecast (6.6 million viewers) in Comedy Central history.
“If Comedy Central was the launchpad, YouTube and the Internet was the booster rocket that sent it into the stratosphere worldwide,” Dunham says. “I just did my first European tour, and the one huge surprise of the past year has been the international fanbase. I never expected that.”
Currently on a U.S. tour expected to gross $45 million, Dunham, who began performing when he was 8 and cautions that “you never know when your 15 minutes may be up,” is unlikely to return to earth anytime soon.
With his own merchandise company, deals with Amazon.com and iTunes, an autobiography titled “All by Myselves” scheduled for spring and a new series premiering Oct. 8 on Comedy Central starring Achmed, Peanut and the rest of the gang, he has his hands full.