In 1970, on Christmas Day, an 8-year-old Jeff Dunham woke up to a Mortimer Snerd ventriloquy doll from Santa. Today, according to Forbes magazine, that small boy from Texas is the highest grossing touring comedian in the world.
As soon as he was able, he went to check out a how-to ventriloquy book, that to this day, hasn’t quite found its way back to the library. Hours were spent in from of the mirror, practicing and mimicking, Edgar Bergen’s routines. In 6th grade, he started attending the Vent Haven ConVENTion, an annual meeting for ventriloquists from all over the world. Eventually, the organizers had to declare him a ‘retired champion’, to prevent him from entering any more competitions since the other participants were too intimidated to compete against him. He began performing at every school event, church gathering, six flags, and any other type of event he could get his act in. It was this time period where Jeff developed his signature style of mockery and risqué comedy. His unique act payed his way through college, performing in small private avenues across the country during his weekends, making up to 70k his junior year.
He continued sharpening his act in comedy clubs throughout the Southwest, now including Jeff Dunham characters Peanut and José Jalapeño. These experiences taught Jeff Dunham how to adjust to regional humor, honing his act according to which city he was performing in..
When he moved to California, he was met mockery from the Stand-up world; to many, ventriloquy didn’t seem like a profitable act. Thankfully, Jeff Dunham’s passion for his craft was louder than people’s No. Financing his own comedy special “Jeff Dunham: Arguing with Myself” he took a gamble that payed off with over 2 million viewers when it aired in 2006, and about the same number in DVD sales.
Jeff Dunham’s Characters
Jeff Dunham characters travel the world with a one-of-a-kind Posse of dolls, which he created and designed himself; Jose Jalapeño on a stick, a Mexican immigrant with a heavy accent, who highlights all jokes with his catchphrase “on a stick”. Peanut, a “woozle” creature of purple skin, who is off-the-walls hyperactive and enjoys making everyone the butt of his jokes, specially Jose Jalapeño and Jeff Dunham himself. Walter, an old prickly vet, can’t seem to find pleasure in anything outside of complaining, particularly about how much he hates his cheery wife. Achmed the dead terrorist, Jeff’s most famous and controversial puppet, was a suicide bomber who blew himself up by accident, and now passes his time threatening to kill the audience and struggling to hate the Infidels. Bubba J, the epitome of redneck stereotype, is a simpleminded, scatterbrain guy. He’s mostly known for loving beer and nascar; who’s wife may or may not be one of his cousins. Other members of the supporting cast are Achmed junior, Melvin the superhero and Sweet Daddy D, Mini Jeff and Seamus the Irish baby, who have made a few appearances and add quite the whimsical spark to the stories of the main cast.
Jeff Dunham’s Family
Howard Dunham, a real estate appraiser, and his wife Joyce adopted 3 month old Jeff Dunham in 1962. He was an only child, raised in a devoutly Presbyterian household in a prosperous Dallas neighborhood. They have always shown great support for his craft; during his senior year in high school, Jeff Dunham’s family took a professional portrait, including Jeff’s doll, which they proudly displayed in their living room for years.
Jeff Dunham’s Children
Born in August 1991. Bree is Jeff Dunham’s adopted daughter from his first marriage. She’s married to Erick Hemphill, and has recently welcomed her first child Harrison Thomas.
Born in September 11, 1995. Ashlyn is Jeff Dunham’s first biological child. Her most popular anecdote (Dunham’s very special Christmas special) is as a teenager trying to learn how to put gas in her first car. Jeff Dunham has said that he holds the video of that incident for prank revenge purposes in the future. Ashlyn Dunham appeared on B Positive (2020) and Jeff Dunham: Birth of a Dummy (2011).
Born June 19, 1997. Kenna is Jeff Dunham youngest child from his first marriage. Jeff has proudly mentioned in his special “Spark of insanity” that she inherited his twisted sense of humor. She’s currently a student at Cornell in clinical psychology.
Jack and James Dunham
Born October 11, 2015. James and Jack are fraternal twins, who apparently give Jeff and Audrey a run for their money with their playfully deviant personalities. They are showcased in many sweet family videos about potty training on YouTube.
Jeff Dunham’s Wives
Paige brown (ex-wife, m. 1994-2010)
March 13, 1968. Jeff met Paige at the “Comedy Corner” in West Palm Beach, Florida. In May 1994, Jeff married Paige and adopted her 1 year-old daughter, Bree Dunham. She was a key player in Jeff’s success as a comedian. But his career kept him on the road for weeks each month, which chipped away at his marriage until they eventually decided to part ways. She’s a businesswoman, philanthropist and advocate for divorced women, who runs multiple charities.
Audrey Murdick (wife, m. 2012)
Born August 29, 1980. Certified nutritionist, ex-bodybuilder and personal trainer. The couple met in 2009 and married in 2012. “No matter what the day, we got to sleep laughing, and we wake up laughing. We can’t imagine a love any better than this.”the couple told People. Jeff Dunham’ wife gave birth to twins, Jack Dunham and James Dunham, 3 years later, one day before their wedding anniversary
Jeff Dunham’s Net Worth
Jeff Dunham has enjoyed a career in entertainment for close to five decades. Being the highest-paid comedians in the world, he has had an annual salary ranging from $15 million to $30 million. As of May, 2021, the comic has a net worth of $150 million.
In November 2009, Jeff Dunham had over 350 million hits on YouTube and sold more than 4 million DVDs and merchandise worth upwards of $7 million. His DVD “A Very Special Christmas Special” is the most-watched in the history of Comedy Central. During its first two weeks of release, the DVD sold over 400,000 copies.
With Jeff Dunham tour “Jeff Dunham: Seriously?!” coming up soon, we can only expect his new special to reach extreme high levels of net worth growth.
Jeff Dunham’s Tour
Now, after 8 successful specials, Jeff Dunham along side his hilariously insolent companions: Jose Jalapeño, Walter, Peanut, Bubba J, and Achmed prepare for the much awaited tour of “Jeff Dunham:Seriously?!”which includes a new cast member; Walter’s grandson Url.