Ventriloquism became a bit of a lost art. As chilren we were regularly entertained with the Muppets, and loosely entertained with Nookie the bear or Orville. But by the mid 80s it would appear to be incredibly unpopular, Keith Harris was about the only one still televised and by the 90s the act involving a hand stuck up a bottom was long gone (except in some seedier clubs in Soho). So, a couple of decades later, and one person returned from the Dummy wilderness and was received with open arms. If you ever get the chance to watch Jeff Dunham, do. His most famous incarnation is Achmed, the dead terrorist. He takes everything that is so wrong about fundamentalism and makes it not only funny, but highlights just how stupid their arguments are. In his words "I didn't get 72 virgins, I got one 72 year old virgin." His catch phrase of "Silence! I kill you" is widely available across t'internet and back on the days of buying your ringtones, his sound bite must have been as popular as Crazy Frog.
TDT's favourite is a new creation called Sweet Daddy D. He's supposed to be Jeff's new manager, and is a very 70s Huggy Bear style pimp. The highlight he does again parodies the bad attitude black guy, with the kissing of the teeth, something not only very funny, but technically difficult to mimic with a dummy.
He has other characters, including AJ (Achmed Junior, Achmed's gay and also unsuccessful son) and Peanut, a strange looking "failed muppet" with a disrespectful attitude not that dissimilar to a teenager. But by far and away the best one is Walter. Walter, as far as I can tell, was modelled on my father. He's a grumpy old man who is self obsessed with his own dislikes, and tries to force his beliefs on everybody else. He sits there with a down in the mouth facial expression and arms permanently crossed to show his disdain, bitching and moaning about everything.
Walter on youtube.
Now the thing about this is Jeff Dunham is a brilliant act. But, technically, he's not as good as Roger De Courcey or Keith Harris. You can clearly hear the "Gottle of Geer" type expressions with the speaking, and his throat and mouth both move. But, to be honest, the material more than makes up for it. If you get the chance to watch his stage acts, I'd highly recommend them. Some of his quotes are priceless, and for some reason because it's a dummy making the statements, he gets away with things no other person on earth could get away with without the politically correct police knocking at his doors. What next though for him? Half of me dreads to think what other characters he can come up with, the other half wrings my hands together in eager anticipation.
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