Review: Jeff Dunham, First Direct Arena, Leeds

There were queues around Leeds arena more than two hours before America’s favourite ventriloquist Jeff Dunham started, proving his popularity.

By Martin Hutchinson
Monday, 16th May 2022, 8:50 pm
Ventriloquist Jeff Dunham.
Ventriloquist Jeff Dunham.

The first part of the show was Dunham talking about his home life and also taking the mickey out of local town names.

He does have a serious side and he warned the packed audience that political correctness and comedy do not go hand in hand and there might be some jokes that may cause offence. Then he said the magic words...

“Do you want to see the little people in the boxes?” The crowd erupted.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

First up was the grouchy pensioner Walter, but with a difference. He was pretending to be Joe Biden and as usual he poked fun at Dunham, Biden’s age and even the Royal family (“You guys say ‘Long live the Queen’ and that lady listened!”)

Next, we had the redneck drunk Bubba J with more excellent interplay with Dunham, and we also realised that there was a recurring joke throughout the show, that first appeared in Dunham’s preamble. I won’t go into detail, but “Three Holes?” The end of Bubba J’s spot was a ‘Bubba J’s Drinkin’ and Thinkin’’ slot where he regaled us with his thoughts and words of wisdom.

At last came the moment we had all been waiting for. The arrival of Ahmed the Dead Terrorist. Apparently, this icon of comedy is from Pacmanistan and, as well as telling us about his catchphrase (he led us in shouting it out), an unfortunate latecomer received the full force of his temper.

The Ukraine situation was mentioned with us being left in no doubt what Jeff and his cast of characters thought about Putin – but all in a comedy vein.

Dunham is also interested in the history of ventriloquism, and he explained the difference between US and UK dummies with a 60-year-old dummy from Britain.

A new character was introduced – Url, a younger character who is addicted to his mobile phone (and with his thumbs tapping away like crazy).

Peanut was up next, and had declared himself Head of PR for Dunham’s retinue (and described the Changing of the Guard as a ‘shift change at work’). Jose the Jalapeno also joined in and there was some excellent vocal gymnastics with an argument between Jeff, Peanut and Jose.

The show ended with Peanut answering audience questions.

Dunham was on stage for over two and a half hours without a break or a drink, to have in an interval would probably have interrupted the flow of banter. But it was a comedy tour de force and I doubt whether the audience had laughed so much in a long time. I know I hadn’t.