Comedian and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham does not shy away from being offensive. Onstage, he brings on controversial characters who embody the views of many Americans, and his arena-sized audiences howl with laughter. But a character is just a character. That doesn’t mean Jeff agrees with the political parties his characters often align with, or does it?
As Jeff prepares for a guest spot on Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing, many wonder if the two are real-life friends. Tim Allen speaks openly about his conservative political views, which leads some to expect Jeff to agree with him. Regardless of what Jeff’s political party lines are, he and Tim definitely share an audience, and that is pretty telling.
Jeff Dunham tries to stay quiet about to which political party he belongs.
Throughout Jeff’s over 20 years touring America with his ventriloquist characters, he has used these characters as somewhat of a shield. Rather than being forced to share his own views, like many standup comedians, Jeff is able to share perspectives through the voices of characters he creates. Many of these puppets make fun of disenfranchised populations, but just because Jeff’s characters make fun of certain people doesn’t mean that Jeff feels the same way.
Many comedians create personas to mock a certain idea or perspective, like Stephen Colbert’s alter ego on The Colbert Report, in which he played a staunchly conservative version of himself to mock conservative politics. However, the difference with Jeff is that his audience is much whiter, much more conservative, and much more middle America. There are few people laughing at themselves in the audience, but rather laughing at the stereotypes Jeff is openly mocking.
From this fact alone, it’s easy to surmise that Jeff leans to the right in his political party. And to solidify this, Jeff said he supported then presidential candidate Donald Trump in a 2015 interview with FOX News Talk Radio, in which he shared he’d “rather have the crazy one, the one who has run businesses and succeeded than the one who really didn’t do anything.” He went on to say it annoyed him when people supported Hillary because she's a woman.
Jeff Dunham has not been able to dodge controversy surrounding his characters.
Jeff’s characters can be construed as so offensive that a Columbus Alive reporter even ranked them from least to most racist. Even still, Jeff denies that his characters are racist and homophobic. He shared, “I’m honestly confused when I see ‘racist and homophobic’ and I really think it is people reacting to maybe a few jokes I said in the past."
However, it can be argued that Jeff’s characters are inherently offensive. A middle-aged white man impersonating a Mexican immigrant named Jose Jalapeño on a Stick and a deceased suicide bomber named Achmed the Dead Terrorist, whose jokes are simply mocking their accents and stereotypes, can be seen as a form of racism.
Jeff also isn’t apologetic about who he offends. He shared, “I don’t mind pushing the boundaries and making a few people angry. I have always said … if a comedian is offending a small percentage of the audience he is probably right on that line of where he should be. Because whatever those people are offended at is what everybody else is laughing the hardest at.”
However, comedians are often encouraged to punch up and mock people more powerful than they are, but Jeff definitely punches down as well.
Jeff Dunham is all about pleasing his audience and playing to their political party.
Although Jeff claims that it’s okay to mock certain people because he mocks everyone, he actually doesn’t mock everyone. In a New York Times piece, Jeff confirmed that he’s more sensitive towards his “conservative ‘country crowd.’” He shared, “That’s why I don’t pick on basic Christian-values stuff … Well, I also don’t like to, because that’s the way I was brought up.”
Even though he tries to stay out of politics, his characters can’t say the same. However, Jeff has been taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously and went so far as to donate winnings from a COVID-related lawsuit to coronavirus relief. On the flip side, Jeff has not taken complaints about his offensive characters as seriously, mostly because those complaints aren’t coming from his audience. Jeff wants to please his audience since they’re the ones buying the tickets to his shows after all.
You can catch Jeff on Last Man Standing March 4 at 9:30 p.m. ET on FOX.