Jeff Dunham was a lone wolf in the world of ventriloquism for a long while, having had a slew of TV specials since first releasing on the titular network in 2003. These days, however, ventriloquists in mainstream acts aren’t as difficult to come by, and a lot of this is due to the massive popularity of which has seen three ventriloquist winners and countless contestants over the show’s 17 seasons. With Dunham having paved the way for a lot of these folks, one can’t help but wonder if he feels as if they’re crowding the space he used to monopolize. So I just straight-up asked him about that.
We recently caught up in order to discuss his new Comedy Central special When I asked how Jeff Dunham felt about the emergence of ventriloquism in the mainstream, he said the following:
Well, having been a lone wolf for so many decades… suddenly, you know, they had like three major winners on America's Got Talent that were ventriloquists and there have been a bunch of other contestants. And I, I think it's great because now, you know, I used to call myself a ‘comedian/ventriloquist’ because the ‘V’ word was a bad word. And so you didn't want to say ‘ventriloquist.’ People would just roll their eyes and go like, ‘great, a ventriloquist.’ But now because all these other folks have come along and because they've done so well and won, now I help them, they help me, that stigma is kind of gone… for years we've said ‘comedian slash ventriloquist,’ now you're putting ‘ventriloquist’ first.
Welp, there you go. Jeff Dunham has no ill will towards his competitors and feels as if they’re all working together to eliminate the stigma surrounding ventriloquism. It’s nice to hear that Dunham is now comfortable identifying as a ventriloquist first and foremost, because even though he made his career incorporating comedy into his acts, . Three decades is a long time to be playing with puppets, and while some of his early career decisions have , he’s finally at a point where he can safely consider himself to be a ventriloquist/comedian.
The first ventriloquist to take the big prize on was Season 2’s Terry Fator. He takes a different approach than Dunham, as his act is more musical, but inevitably includes comedic elements. Next was ventriloquist/comedian Paul Zerdin from Season 10, followed by 12-year-old Darci Lynne from Season 12. Terry Fator was described as Darcy Lynne's “hero,” and she too has an act that’s largely musical.
That is a massive amount of winners when you consider how few ventriloquists are household names. The art form’s popularity on the show has even gone so far that we’ve even seen and . It hasn’t slowed down either, as early next year.
Jeff Dunham may have made it clear that he has no ill will towards his peers, but he still has a fairly competitive attitude. When I asked if we can look forward to a televised boxing match between he and Fator, he responded with this:
Oh, no, I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't want to hurt the guy too much.
This is proof that even though the ‘V’ word now comes first, he'll always be a 'slash-comedian.' You can catch his new special and various streaming platforms. If stand-up (or ventriloquism) isn’t quite your jam, there’s plenty more coming up on our