Reviewed at Qantas Credit Union Arena on Saturday May 17
Anyone who says ventriloquism is dead hasn’t been to a Jeff Dunham show. The American comedian may not have sold out his Disorderly Conduct act tonight, but looking around, he came damn close.
The atmosphere inside Qantas Credit Union Arena reads much like a rock concert. Devotees in black branded t-shirts employ the rock’n’roll animal \m/ to express their excitement, and coddle toy versions of Dunham’s oddball characters as if they were their own children.
Dunham’s running late, but he’s keeping the crowd in a constant state of hushed, laughing, hushed, laughing et cetera by playing unscramble-the-quote puzzles, fun ‘Jeff Dunham’ facts, and a Q&A session with his crotchety retiree persona, Walt, on the big screen.
When Dunham finally emerges, he introduces himself as his own opening act. It’s a standup bit about his family, the tour, and the SpongeBob and Hello Kitty humidifiers that are smoking onstage to keep his throat moist. It’s not fantastic stuff, but then when are opening acts ever as good as the main event?
There’s no intermission. Dunham gets right into things, pulling out grumpy old Walt from a box and sitting on a pedestal. There’s flawless detail to Walt’s voice, personality, and head-eye-mouth movements as Dunham’s lips remain, pretty much, unmoved. Instead, his throat juggles uncontrollably, creating Walt’s voice, and his eyes flutter slightly, a sign he is concentrating on keeping up with the cynical two-way ad-libbed banter he’s having with… himself.
Watching Dunham switch up dolls, it feels as though he’s suffering multiple personality disorder – his voice, and jokes, changing with each character. Australian favourite Bubba J’s bit sadly falls into unforgettable territory, but the dynamics between ladies’ man Peanut, snarky Jose Jalapeno and Dunham are second to none, while Little Jeff, a sarcastic mini-version of the comedian, adds quirk and a certain childishness to the show.
But, as always, it’s Achmed the Dead Terrorist who steals the spotlight with his signature “I keel you” line (which spark those \m/ signs from men in the front rows) and an impromptu audience Q&A session. He’s rude, he’s brash, and he’s bang-on Jeff fa-fa-funny.
Ventriloquism, dead? Nar. You must be confusing it with Achmed.