Jeff Dunham: Controlled Chaos

I’ve always been a fan of Jeff Dunham. I first discovered his comedy around the same time everyone else in SA did, when the Achmed the Dead Terrorist clips began gaining traction on YouTube.

Over the years I’ve followed his work on DVDs and the internet until finally getting the chance to see him work his magic on stage last week. Here are a few thoughts on the night.

Jeff-fa-fa goes way back
Thanks to a great video intro, I discovered that Jeff Dunham’s actually been in the business for far longer than I imagined. How long you ask? Well, long enough to once have had hair like this.

He started out experimenting with ventriloquism when he was just 8 years-old and spent most of his youth performing at schools and talent shows around America before getting small spots on TV shows, which gave him the opportunity to get his name out there.

The show itself
As is obligatory in most shows of this nature, Jeff spent the first twenty minutes or so sans puppets, regaling the audience with tales of his adventures in Sun City and a nearby lion farm. I’ll admit, he’s arresting and, it’s always nice to hear someone foreign talk about how much they love our country, but, try as I might to love it, I found Jeff’s solo jokes falling a bit flat. After about 10 minutes, I was ready to stop hearing about his fiancé and start hearing from Walter.

Meet Walter
That being said, as soon as Jeff’s characters came to life, the show was transformed. From Walter, Peanut and Josè to Bubba J and Achmed, Jeff Dunham has the power to make you forget, just for a second, that you’re listening to a wooden doll. For me, that’s a key measure of just how amazing he is at what he does.

With the premise of this particular show revolving around Halloween and an upcoming Monster themed special he’s filmed for Comedy Central, Jeff allowed each of his characters to appear in their favourite scary costumes, which for Achmed of course, meant a blonde wig, a shiny pink dress, silicon boobs and high heels.

With all new jokes and more than an hour of laughs, the show was a definite success. As I was leaving I heard someone say how tough it must be for one person to command a sold-out audience and keep them laughing for such a long period – and that, in effect, sums it up for me – Jeff Dunham is great at what he does, make sure you make the effort to go see him the next time he’s in the country.

To Narnia and beyond
On a completely different note, let this serve as a public pleas to event organisers – please, pretty please…. Next time a big star is in the country, let’s try and go with somewhere other than Carnival City.

Never mind that I felt like I was transported to the 80s when I stepped inside, never mind that there are only about three restaurants, which on a sold-out event day, have lines long enough to waste about 40 minutes of your time, never mind that it’s a giant monstrosity – let’s rather talk about the shoddy design.

Thanks to there being only one exit from the Big Top Arena, it takes a sold-out show about 40 minutes to simply leave the area… add in another 15 minutes of wading through a massive crowd and you’re finally out the door – and out the door you want to be, there really is nothing else to do there.

Of course, don’t pat yourself on the back just yet… once you’re finally outside, you still have to attempt to join a line of cars that stretch all the way to Narnia,  to make your way to the exit, wasting another half an hour.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to hundreds of events and exiting is always an issue but, in Carnival City, you can multiply the usual frustration you feel by 100. I never thought I’d say this – but, I’d rather go to the Dome.

Enough said.

Deanna Campbell

Deanna spends her days buried in a jumble of words and her nights trying to balance family life and everything in between, all while doodling the name Grohl on her notepad and watching reruns of Supernatural. If it’s on TV, she’s seen it. If it’s the latest fad diet… she’s tried it. She’s got a lot to say.

Be warned.


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