No, you’re the puppet!
Jeff Dunham is undoubtedly the biggest ventriloquist in the world. By fans. By tickets sold. Dunham set ratings records for Comedy Central, and landed his previous special in primetime for NBC in 2015. Now he’s on Netflix. Because everyone in the comedy game is on Netflix in 2017.
His new special is called Jeff Dunham: Relative Disaster, and spoiler alert (as pictured): He has introduced a new dummy/puppet into the act, a crude-talking alcoholic Irish baby named Seamus.
But there’s something about Dunham that continues to fascinate me. It’s not the nature of his jokes, and whether they’re any good or any good for society (that’s been debated and decided years ago by many other critics). It’s how he seems to want to be something other than a ventriloquist now. In both his failed Comedy Central sitcom and here in his Netflix special, he separates himself from his puppets, trying to make them a living breathing thing on their own that interact with humans as if nothing odd to see here. You know. Like The Muppets.
He even has sparked lively debates among puppeteers on message boards about how Dunham has blurred the lines, causing casual fans to confuse puppetry for ventriloquism. They’re two distinct art forms.
As for the innuendos and other jibes that serve as jokes for Dunham to tell via his ventriloquist dummies, I liken it more to mass-produced comfort food. No. It’s not really that good, nor good for you. But we lap it up all the same.
Read my review of Jeff Dunham: Relative Disaster, over at Decider.com, where my editor hyped up the Hillary Clinton angle.