The career of Jeff Dunham was the product of a dummy - several of them, in fact. Born April 18, 1962, he was adopted at the age of three by a devout Christian couple and raised as an only child in affluent surroundings. A gift of a ventriloquist dummy at age eight, however, forever changed his life, as the Mortimer Snerd figure spurred Dunham into a world of throwing voices, joke-telling and comedy that he successfully followed into a lucrative professional career.
The dummy was his constant companion from day one, with the young budding performer (after honing his skills through a book he admittedly stole from his local library) accepting any gig that came his way, including schools, churches, even amusement parks. For Dunham, it was all about saying (and getting away with) things through the dummy that otherwise regular folks would not, with high-profile targets such as Roger Staubach among those to feel his young comedic wrath on the way up the ladder of fame. After graduating high school and enrolling at Baylor University, Dunham routinely worked weekends around the United States at various gigs, where he developed his first three characters of José the Jalapeño, grumpy old Walter and the childlike Peanut (all of which were created by his own hand). He also landed a role in the Broadway show "Sugar Babies" in 1985 alongside Mickey Rooney and Ann Miller. Still, Dunham knew Los Angeles was the place to make or break his career and moved there in 1988 with the goal to make an appearance on "The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson" (NBC 1962-1992), something he accomplished in 1990.
Despite Carson's approval (and subsequent appearances) a rather anonymous 12 years followed, rife with Improv dates, the odd bit TV role and rare commercial, all before an appearance on "The Best Damn Sports Show Period" (Fox Sports 2001-09) propelled him into a more mainstream consciousness. He used it as a springboard to self-financing his own one-hour special, "Arguing with Myself" (2006), that was later broadcast on Comedy Central to great success. Later specials for the network included "Spark of Insanity" (2007) and "A Very Special Christmas Special" (2008). Eventually, he landed "The Jeff Dunham Show" (Comedy Central 2009), which ran for one season. Later specials included "Controlled Chaos" (2011) and "Minding the Monsters" (2012). Dunham's first animated special, "Achmed Saves Christmas" was scheduled to debut March 2014. It is based on his most controversial character, a three-foot tall dead skeletal terrorist, which some critics have branded as racist toward Muslims - a claim Dunham routinely denied, all the while trumpeting a comedian's right to free speech in an effort to make people laugh.