His television specials and series have been the highest rated programming in Comedy Central history, his DVD sales have reached seven million units, his videos have received a half a billion views on You Tube, and his live concerts have become mega-events played in front of sold-out arenas worldwide.
No wonder Time Magazine wrote that he is ‚Äúthe most popular comedian in the United States‚Äù and Forbes named him to its Celebrity 100 list of most powerful entertainers two years running.
Today, Jeff Dunham is a phenomenally successful global entertainment brand.
Dunham has, of course, plenty of help on-stage: his entourage of signature characters who are there to challenge and chastise his every sentence. There‚Äôs Walter, the grumpy retiree; the beer-swilling, NASCAR-loving and resolutely red neck Bubba J; the furry and manic Peanut; Jos√© Jalape√±o, the spicy pepper from South of the border; and the bumbling skeletal Achmed the Dead Terrorist. They may have all been conceived and hand crafted by Dunham, but his characters, who are anything but dummies, have now taken on a life of their own, each with their own legion of fans.
Dunham‚Äôs fascination with ventriloquism began at age eight. It was his parents who gave their son a toy Mortimer Snerd dummy and an accompanying instructional record album.
By the time he was ten, Jeff was performing anywhere he could find an audience. After graduating from Baylor University, he moved to Los Angeles and soon became a sensation on the national comedy club circuit. Multiple performances on just about every stand-up comedy show known to man followed, as well as frequent guest appearances on The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman.
In 2006, Jeff‚Äôs self-produced Arguing With Myself, his first one-hour prime time special, premiered on Comedy Central. The audience reaction was explosive. Almost immediately, fans were posting clips across the Web, views rocketed into the tens of millions, and Jeff Dunham became a comedy phenomenon, reviving a lost art with new levels of comedy and a contemporary voice.
In 2007, Dunham‚Äôs self-produced ‚ÄúSpark of Insanity,‚Äù his second Comedy Central special, again premiered to record ratings and million plus DVD sales. Amazon‚Äôs consumers rated ‚ÄúSpark‚Äù the best DVD of the year. In 2008, his third television event, ‚ÄúA Very Special Christmas Special,‚Äù premiered with 6.6 million viewers to become the cable channel‚Äôs most-watched program ever.
Today, Dunham‚Äôs global appeal is undeniable. He was named top-grossing live comedy act in the world in 2009 and 2010 by Pollstar, the concert industry trade magazine. He has sold-out stadium-sized shows across three continents, from the United Kingdom to Sydney, Toronto to Copenhagen. He sold-out an 8,000 seat hockey arena in Helsinki, Finland on Easter Sunday, and Dunham doesn‚Äôt speak a word of Finnish. Or Swedish. Or Norwegian. Or Afrikaan, which are the official languages of some of the countries he has visited. There is universal appeal to Dunham‚Äôs relationship with his characters that transcends any small gaps in language translation.
All three Dunham specials have been released on broadcast, DVD, and mobile platforms in Canada, UK, Benelux, Scandinavia, Italy, France, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The DVD of “A Very Special Christmas Special” topped the Danish entertainment chart and “Spark of Insanity” hit the Top 5 of DVD charts in Holland (#2) and South Africa (#5). “Spark of Insanity” is the most viewed show ever on Comedy Central Holland, and at one time only two American comedian titles had reached the Top 20 on the UK charts. Both were Jeff Dunham specials.
His limited-series commitment, ‚ÄúThe Jeff Dunham Show,‚Äù premiered as the highest rated series in Comedy Central history with 5.3 million viewers in its initial airing. The DVD was released in May of 2010 and sold more than 100,000 units within the first four weeks.
In late 2010, Dunham released his autobiography, ‚ÄúAll By My Selves: Walter, Peanut, Achmed and Me,‚Äù which immediately landed on the New York Times best-seller list. Dunham‚Äôs personal story is often interrupted by his characters who are quick to dispute Dunham‚Äôs recollection of their history together.
Dunham has also made many cameo appearances across television and film, from the Emmy-winning comedy series “30 Rock,” to the Jay Roach-directed comedy “Dinner For Schmucks,‚Äù starring Steve Carrell and Paul Rudd.
The beginning of 2011 saw Jeff launch his third multi-country European tour, on which he set venue firsts selling out shows at the largest indoor venues in Holland and Belgium, the latter for a total of 24,000 tickets over 2 nights. After stops in Denmark and Norway, Jeff wrapped with his French debut at the L‚ÄôOlympia in Paris, the first show by an international comedian at France‚Äôs most prestigious venue since Jerry Lewis performed there.
Jeff‚Äôs latest, much-anticipated fourth stand-up special, Controlled Chaos, made an unprecedented multi-territory release in a dozen countries upon its U.S. bow on Comedy Central on September 25 and DVD release two days later (September 27). 5.5 million people tuned in to watch the special on Comedy Central, making it the third most watched program in the channel‚Äôs history.
Dunham maintains a unique multi-year, multi-platform distribution arrangement with Comedy Central, content partnerships with YouTube (where his Achmed clip is in the top twenty most all-time viewed and video designated as a favorite), Amazon.com, and iTunes.
Just as Dunham has maintained full control over the world of characters that he has created, he has built an independent company that produces and finances all Dunham projects across all distribution platforms, including live, television, film, merchandise, and home video. He maintains a highly interactive relationship with his fans via JeffDunham.com and many social networking platforms.
As an entertainer, Jeff Dunham has truly impacted popular culture, and his character catchphrases, such as Achmed’s “Silence! I Keel You!” and Jos√© Jalape√±o‚Äôs “On A Steek!’”, are now part of our vernacular, much to the delight of multi-generational audiences worldwide.