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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

16 December 2008

On Humor - Jeff Dunham

I'm not a funny guy. I love to laugh, but I'm not really good at making others laugh - except unintentionally, like when I make one of my many and various goof-ups (and I do). But I do believe that one of the more important secrets to life is having a good humor about you - to see the lighter side of things and not take stuff too seriously. I want people to meet me and go, "Man, that guy loves life!" And afterward, I want them to remember me as a guy who was always in a good mood.

This may sound strange, but every morning, before my day gets started - like when I'm driving to work - I think about funny stuff. And not just mildly amusing stuff, but really hilarious things that make me laugh out loud. I think that if you're crabby when you wake up, then there's a certain psychological momentum that'll keep you crabby throughout the day. And there are certainly enough crabby people in the world, thank you very much. I just don't want to be one of them. If you try to make yourself laugh, it'll lighten your mood - which can only be good, right? And to be honest, it doesn't take much to crack me up.

Speaking of which, the other night Matt, Alisha and I went to see this comedian named Jeff Dunham. Maybe you've seen Dunham on TV or YouTube. He's a ventriloquist - something I thought was a lost art. Throughout the history of comedy there used to be plenty of ventriloquists around. But that type of humor fell out of favor, and they pretty much all disappeared along with the Ed Sullivan Show. So Dunham (who happens to be a helicopter pilot, which earns him high marks in my book) has the field to himself. He's been doing comedy since the late 1980's and has appeared on the old Johnny Carson Tonight Show.


Humor is very personal, and certainly Dunham may not be everybody's cup of tea. His act covers many subjects, some of which are quite offensive and adult in their content. Yet I saw plenty of families with their young teenage kids attending. The couple next to me brought their thirteen year-old daughter along. I questioned the wisdom of that. "Oh, most of the jokes will go right over her head," the wife said. Man, I hoped so. I hope the language and the racist stereotypes did too.

I think Dunham's funny. His act is edgy and...well, kind of bizarre. He's got seven dummies, and he'll use most of them in every show. Each, of course, has its own personality.

The amazing - and somewhat weird - thing about Dunham is his, err- relationship with the dummies. I mean, you know that it's just him giving them a voice, but still...there comes a time in his act when you go, "There's something going on here..." Check this short clip out. It's Dunham and "Achmed, the Dead Terrorist." Achmed's signature catch-phrases are, "SILENCE!" and a terse, bleating, "I KEEL YOU!" You'll see...



I'd seen many of Dunham's video clips on YouTube (and you can too!). I wondered if his show here in Pensacola was just going to be a rehash of old material. Not to worry, there were only a couple of things - very little, actually - that were familiar (like Achmed's soon-to-be-classic Christmas song, "Jingle Bombs"). And even they were still funny.

One major plus was that some of Dunham's material was pretty fresh. Even he was cracking up at some of the jokes. I like that...I like a comedian who's not so jaded by the job, the industry and the grind of touring that the material isn't even funny anymore. I like a comedian who keeps coming up with new material. Dunham honestly looked like he was having a good time up on that stage. And at some of his own bits, he'd crack up sufficiently that he'd lose his place. It's what makes a ventriloquist act different from regular old stand-up. And it is exactly that spontaneity and improvisational quality that makes watching such live comedy (and live music for that matter) so enjoyable.

In fact, during the finale, when Dunham pulled out his rednecky, "Bubba J" doll (part of the act with which I was not familiar), the admittedly rednecky people in audience in the packed-to-the-rafters Pensacola Civic Center (who evidently were familiar with it) began "singing along" with the jokes and calling out punchlines a split second before Bubba J did. Dunham initially seemed startled and taken aback. Then, he got into it and, with genuine glee continued the rest of that part of the act at a slightly slower pace to allow the audience to paricipate. It was a very "Rocky Horror Picture Show" moment. You could almost see Dunham thinking, "I gotta come back here!" And I hope he does.

What would this world be without humor and music? A pretty dreary place, that's what. But it's not, thanks to guys like Jeff Dunham. (And he's a helicopter pilot, too!)


Jeff Dunham's Website

Jeff Dunham Wikipedia Page

YouTube Videos

5 comments:

Redlefty said...

I've only seen a couple of his bits but they were great!

Not only is ventriloquism almost a lost art, I fear that actually attending comedy shows is pretty rare these days. I must confess I haven't been to one in years. Thanks for the reminder.

coffee buzz said...

Jeff Dunham is perhaps the greatest ventriloquist alive... or at least the funniest

Bob Barbanes said...

No argument from me! (Is that you, Jeff?)

Greybeard said...

Yeah, he's laugh-out-loud funny, and pushes the envelope "PC"-wise too. Love that.

And yeah, being a fellow fling-winger elevates him in my book too. But have you seen what he flies?

We get comments about how crazy we are for flying SAFE aircraft...
Jeff truly is CRAZY!

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