Jeff Dunham’s headed to SA for the third time

By Kirstin Buick
06 May 2014

Funnyman and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham is headed to SA shores once more for a show at Joburg’s Coca Cola Dome on Saturday 10 May.

Funnyman and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham is headed to SA shores once more for a show at Joburg’s Coca Cola Dome on Saturday 10 May.

Jeff and his band of puppets, including favourites Peanut the purple-skinned "woozle" and Achmed the Dead Terrorist, will take the stage as part of his Disorderly Conduct world tour, which has seen him perform from Iceland to Israel – but he’s particularly excited about coming back to South Africa. “I love coming to SA,” he told YOU during a phone interview. “I’m always delightfully surprised with the audiences there. South African people have a great sense of humour!” The most memorable experience of his previous SA trips? “The thing that really stuck out in my mind was walking with the lions. It was so fascinating. We got to walk around with the adult ones and hold the cubs.”

'I’m always delightfully surprised with the audiences there. South African people have a great sense of humour!'

Jeff even learned something about himself from the experience – he’s allergic to lions! “I was red-eyed and sneezing the whole time,” he laughs. “But it was totally worth it. Next time I’ll bring my allergy meds.”

He never has to water down his act to appeal to a South Africa audience, he says. “I always like to do a bit of research and see what people on the street are talking about though,” he says of performing abroad. “I also read some newspapers – people love jokes about current events.”

“But you always have to find that balance between giving them the old favourites. It’s like paying to see a famous rock band. You want them to play with their greatest hits along with some of the new stuff. As a performer, you have a resposnibilty to give the audience what they pay for. They’re customers – I don’t want to waste their hard-earned money.”

Jeff hasn’t endeared himself to all South Africans, though. In 2008, an ad featuring on of his most popular characters, Achmed the Dead Terrorist, was banned by the South African Advertising Standards authority, after being labelled offensive to Muslim people.

Jeff and Achmed. PHOTO: Jeff and his pal Peanut. PHOTO: facebook.com/JeffDunham Jeff and Achmed. PHOTO: facebook.com/JeffDunham

Jeff said at the time he didn’t understand it, because Achmed made it clear in the act that he wasn’t Muslim. "I've skewered whites, blacks, Hispanics, Christians, Jews, Muslims, gays, straights, rednecks, addicts, the elderly, and my wife,” he said. “As a standup comic, it is my job to make the majority of people laugh, and I believe that comedy is the last true form of free speech ... I'm considering renaming Achmed 'Bill'," he added.

Jeff says the controversy was no skin off Achmed’s nose.

“I don’t think he cares at all,” he jokes. “On this tour we’re taking Ahmed to places like Dubai and Isreal – I’m sure he’ll cause even more of a stir there. But I understand that he might be offensive to someone who hasn’t seen my whole act.”

And he eventually decided against changing Achmed’s name to Bill. “It didn’t come to that. But maybe I should revisit that. He’ll cause less trouble if I call him something like Bob."

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