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REVIEW: Comedian Jeff Dunham Sells Out Fritz

August 1, 2008

By Paulette Tobin, Grand Forks Herald, N.D.

Aug. 1–How funny is a dead terrorist? Very, very funny, judging from the reception comedian and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham got from a full-house audience Thursday night in the Chester Fritz Auditorium in Grand Forks.

Achmed the Dead Terrorist is one of a suitcase full of characters that inspire Dunham, currently on a North American tour that’s selling out most venues, including the 2,384 seats at the Fritz.

“Every seat here tonight will be filled,” Betty Allan, director of the auditorium, said before the show.

Achmed, whose skeletal presence makes him a great foil for jokes about food that goes right through him, is a character who says his greatest tragedy was taking his son to “Take Your Child To Work Day.” Worse yet, he’s been disappointed by the failed promise of finding 72 virgins as his heavenly reward.

Others of Dunham’s characters include Walter, an old grouch; Peanut, who Walter has described as “a Muppet on crack,” and Jose, a jalapeno on a stick.

Mention Dunham to a friend or to a colleague at work, and you’re likely to get either a blank stare, or a fervent “I love that guy!” reaction. His fans are legion. His DVDs are best-sellers, his YouTube clips get millions of hits and he’s got so many concerts right now that his managers are nixing interviews because they want him to save his voice for performing.

Dunham’s brand of humor goes from the insult kind (Walter scowling as he gazed at the Fritz’s top balcony and muttered: “Jump”) to the silly and absurd (Achmed, who claimed a doctor wanted to take an X-ray of his already skeletal frame). Achmed also has perhaps the most widely quoted of the show’s catch phrases — “Silence! I kill you!” (Except “kill” is pronounced “keel.”)

Dunham’s philosophy about what’s funny perhaps was best expressed by Achmed when he said: “Killing is easy. Being politically correct is a pain in the ass.” The loudest applause of the evening came for Walter when he responded to the greeting “Happy Holidays” by saying, “Screw you. Merry Christmas.” There were also jokes about Native American casinos and singing, technology dorks, men who get way too friendly with goats, and Angelina Jolie and breastfeeding.

Opening the show — and returning periodically to help keep the laughs coming — was Brian Haner, also known as Guitar Guy, who paired comedy with guitar riffs and stories about his rock ‘n’ roll past and his family, which includes his son, Synyester Gates, who plays in the band Avenged Sevenfold.

Haner described how he overheard his 11-year-old daughter tell her mother: “I hate my teacher. He doesn’t know anything about history or math, and he’s got liquor on his breath at 9 in the morning.”

“Screw this,” Haner said. “This is the last year she’s getting homeschooled.”

Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or send e-mail to ptobin@gfherald.com.

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Copyright (c) 2008, Grand Forks Herald, N.D.

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