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Jeff Dunham, a puppet comedian, has shown that a ventriloquist can succeed in the mainstream. People often think of Dunham as one of the Blue Collar Comedians. He and his "suitcase posse" (puppets) have sold out clubs and theaters across the country and put out several very popular stand-up specials, giving Comedy Central its highest ratings.
Dunham's act is mostly banter between himself and his puppets, each of which has its funny character. He does insult comedy, where he targets himself. Most of the time, his humor picks up race and political correctness, which his puppets convey to the audience.
On April 18, 1962, he was born in Dallas, Texas. A real estate assessor Howard Dunham and his housewife Joyce adopted him when he was three months old. They nurtured him as an only child in their pious Presbyterian home in a posh Dallas suburb. By the time Dunham was in the fourth grade, he knew he wanted to be a professional ventriloquist and the best one ever.
Dunham studied Edgar Bergen's routines and the instructional record Jimmy Nelson's Instant Ventriloquism, spending countless hours perfecting his own performances in front of a mirror. He found that ventriloquism is a skill that can be learned, just like juggling, by anyone with a normal speaking voice.
Dunham started putting on shows when he was a teenager. He did so in school, church, and at his work at Six Flags. By the time he was in middle school, he was performing at banquets where people like Roger Staubach, quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, were there. He had developed a style of making fun of the people he was performing for by having the puppets say things he couldn't say himself.
Dunham was interviewed by Dallas reporters like Bill O'Reilly in 1976, when he was still a youngster, for a local news article. This was his first time on TV. Later, when he was in high school, Dunham did ads for Datsun dealerships in Dallas and Tyler. He had to deal with a heckler at a high school talent show and won over the rest of the crowd. At one point, he and one of his dummies even "co wrote" a story for the school newspaper, demonstrating how immersed they had become in the act. He also posed with his dummies for yearbooks as a cheap way to get professional photos of his act to promote it.