Jeff Dunham’s tour is going through an identity crisis. The one-man comedy-ventriloquism show, which used to feature an all-male cast of characters, now includes a woman, Diane. And she has brought a host of problems.
“I don’t understand the way women think,” says Dunham, who hired two middle-aged women to help write Diane’s jokes. The ventriloquist jokingly says he modeled the character—a wine-guzzling, money-hungry cougar of a woman—after his ex-wife. He created her as part of his role in Dinner for Schmucks (he plays the kooky ventriloquist Lewis), but he ended up falling for the brash blonde and decided to incorporate her into his act.
So far, Dunham’s relationship with Diane has worked out better than his past marriage did. “To hear women laughing louder than men in my show, and for women applauding and hooting above the men is really unusual,” Dunham says. But he’s getting used to it.
Still, Diane isn’t the only recent addition to the act. “Achmed [the Terrorist] has a son,” Dunham says, alluding to his newest and perhaps most controversial character, a half-human, partly successful suicide bomber he has dubbed “AJ the half-hearted terrorist.”
“He’s literally going to be a split personality,” Dunham says. “On one hand, he’s like this surfer dude who doesn’t have anything to do with his dad, and on the other hand, he’s half crazy that his dad has made him what he is.”
So if Achmed is the father, which of his wives is AJ’s mother? “We don’t know,” Dunham smirks. “There’s 72 to pick from.”
Or course, if you’re any fan of puppetry, then you can’t help but wonder what Dunham thinks of the other big-name ventriloquist in town, Terry Fator. Here’s your answer: “He and I are just, I think, completely different acts,” Dunham says. “My act is pretty edgy, it’s mainly stand-up comedy. His is mainly music and singing and impressions. We both happen to be using ventriloquism for what we do best.”
Still, he has nothing but good things to say about the America’s Got Talent champ at The Mirage. “He is, from what I understand, best at singing and entertaining in that way, with music, and has the orchestra and all that,” he says. “I’m one guy on a stage with a trunk full of dummies, telling jokes.”