Jeff Dunham spent the Memorial Day Weekend in Hawaii, resting and relaxing after a final show for the U.S. military following his first tour as a ventriloquist in Asia.
Dunham’s “All Over The Map” Tour found him visiting the Middle East, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore this month. Following the Malaysian date in Kuala Lumpur, Dunham posted an Instagram photo, not from the stage as he has been wont to do, but of the famous Petronas Twin Towers, writing: “As everyone will soon learn, it was certainly a ONE OF A KIND show!”
That’s because it was Dunham’s first time performing with his Achmed The Dead Terrorist puppet without ever calling him Achmed.
His May 20 performance at the Sunway Pyramid Convention Centre may have teased Achmed’s appearance, telling Malaysians, “I keel you!”
But Achmed was neither seen nor heard from in Malaysia. Rather, a review of his show the following night in Singapore noted that Dunham’s Malaysian act had turned Achmed into a not-so Islamic-sounding Frenchman — swapping the turban for a beret, and slapping a mustache on him to call him “Jacques Merde.” Jack Shit. Pardon his French.
Through his publicists today, Dunham said that Malaysia’s Ministry of Culture and Arts had demanded the changes, including his name, likeness, references to virgins or anything else that might mock Muslims. Malaysia Major Events, a division of the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau, sponsored his first-ever visit there.
So the bits involving Achmed’s dead terrorist son (seen above) asking about Achmed’s multiple wives and whatnot? Not happening.
“While I respect the wishes of our host country, I’m also an American and a firm believer in the freedom of speech. On the other hand, I wanted to avoid Achmed and I getting thrown in jail and being caned,” Dunham said today. “So let’s just say that the character that took center stage in Malaysia was strikingly familiar to all in attendance, but it was a last-minute twist that became the highlight of the entire tour. Who knew Achmed had a brother?”
Dunham said he rewrote the changes in the hours before his performance a week ago.
The reaction to his act was much different two weeks earlier in Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, he said.
“It’s simply amazing and crazy: Three nights ago, the audience in Arab Abu Dhabi could not have been more fantastic; Then tonight you see the Jewish people of Israel in this selfie, as they just about took the roof off the place with their laughs. To my new friends in both nations with so many differences: Thank you. My goal was to give you laughter. What you gave back to me was not just acceptance and acclamation, but a sense of awe and of gratitude to have had the opportunity to entertain each and every one of you. What I am learning in this journey is that no matter the differences between peoples, nations, religions and even languages, laughter all sounds pretty much the same. See you tomorrow, South Africa!”
The laughter may be the same, even if the freedom of speech is not.
The night after his censored performance in Malaysia, Dunham took to joking about chewing gum in front of the Singapore crowd. And he took Achmed back out of his case, once again free to joke about his ineptitude as a terrorist puppet.