Jeff Dunham has always maintained full control over the world of characters that he’s created, and over the years has built various companies (On a Stick Prods., Red Wire Blue Wire — “a nod to Achmed”) that produce and finance all his projects across all distribution platforms, including live, television, film, merchandise and home video.
“Ticket sales are the big revenue stream, but merchandise is also big business on the road, from T-shirts to animatronic talking dolls,” says Dunham who has a multimillion-dollar consumer products business that consists of sales of more than 100 SKUs at his live shows, on his website, and at various retailers across the country. A T-shirt featuring Achmed has been one of the top five most popular shirts in Wal-Mart. He doesn’t do endorsements and rarely does commercials (“I did one for Hertz back in ’96”) because “there’s just so much involved with all that and tour sponsorships, and I like to give fans a pure show. I haven’t sold out. If the right endorsement or product came along, maybe. But I’m not doing mattress commercials yet.”
According to Judi Marmel, a partner at Levity Entertainment Group, which manages Dunham, the company has always positioned him as “a global brand, and what makes him unique is his ability to connect with audiences of all ages worldwide.”
Dunham “has kept expanding his horizons” in other areas over the years, she says, appearing in a variety of movies and TV shows, including “30 Rock,” the Jay Roach-directed comedy “Dinner for Schmucks,” and doing voice-over for characters in the recent animated features “Nut Job 1 & 2,” “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” and “From Up on Poppy Hill.”
“We have some new film projects we’re working on, and a couple of TV projects,” Mermel says.
“There’s always new, exciting stuff,” Dunham says. “When I was 40, I remember thinking, ‘I won’t be touring and doing the same thing in my 50. But here I am at 55, still touring and doing the same thing — and still having fun with it.”