Ventriloquism is a very subtle method of making an inanimate object (like a puppet, doll or dummy) appear to be saying words which are actually coming from the person (holding the inanimate object). In effect, the individual throws his/her voice to the puppet and can even appear to be having a conversation with it. Not many people have a knack to do this, but Jeff Dunham is an exception.
He is one of America’s highest-earning comedians who has won himself millions of fans with his funny puppet characters and skill at ventriloquism. Find out more about his background here, family and his messy divorce story.
Jeff Dunham Bio
The American Comedian and movie producer was born on April 18, 1962, in Dallas, Texas. He was adopted as a baby by Howard Dunham and his wife Joyce. Howard was a real estate expert and Joyce a homemaker. The wealthy couple raised Jeff as their only son. At the age of 8, young Jeff started practicing ventriloquism with a doll given to him by his parents as a Christmas gift.
He began to study ventriloquism and soon started to hold performances at his school. As he became popular in his Dallas neighborhood, Dunham began to pull jokes about prominent members of the community. He made an appearance in an international convention in Kentucky called the Vent Haven Convention where he completely floored other competitors to be named the retired champion.
Jeff’s first TV appearance was in 1976 as a teenager in his high school after he was approached by the reporter, Bill O’Reilly. Following his impressive performance, he was interviewed by a local News agency and thereafter got jobs doing commercials for Datsun dealerships. Dunham graduated from high school and began attending Baylor University where he studied communication. He continued to perform his acts earning up to $70, 000 between 1983 and 84. In 1985 he joined the Broadway show Sugar Babies show.
On graduating from the university in 1986, Dunham’s career had a slow growth before leaving Texas for Los Angeles, California. In LA, he honed his skills the more by studying the acts of comedian Jerry Seinfeld and heeding to the advice of Bill Engvall to focus more on adult-rated themes rather than G-rated ones.
Following his improvement and growing popularity, Jeff got his first spot on the The Tonight Show in April 1990 which marked a big career breakthrough for him. He continued to make appearances in small venues, clubs as well for some roles on TV. It wasn’t all rosy for Jeff though as his career seemed to have dwindled in the mid-90s but true to his determination, he kept on improving and endeared himself to the public.
His solo DVD comedy titled Arguing With Myself was aired by Comedy Central in 2006 signaling the comedian’s biggest success in his career. He gained more than 2 million viewers and earned himself a booking with Comedy Central who had dumped him earlier in 2003.
His next work Spark of Insanity released in 2007 sold over one million copies and got 140 million YouTube hits. A very Special Christmas followed in 2008 and was also a hit. Dunham signed a deal with a TV network in 2009 and released his own The Jeff Dunham Show which became the most watched program in the history of Comedy Central.
The show was however canceled after one season. Comedy Central aired Dunham’s Jeff Dunham: Controlled Chaos in September of 2011, Minding the Monsters in October 2012, All over the Map in November 2014 and on March 28, 2015, Achmed Saves America was aired by Country Music Television. NBC showed his September 17, 2015, Unhinged in Hollywood.
The comedian ventriloquist performs with dolls he created himself. They are Walter, Peanut, and Jose Jalapeno on a Stick, Bubba J, Sweet Daddy Dee, Melvin the Superhero Guy, Achmed the Dead Terrorist, Little Jess, Diane, Seamus, and Achmed Junior.
He has also acted in several films and made documentaries, his work Jeff Dunham: Relative disaster in 2017 streamed live on the popular website Netflix special and it amassed large views for the comic actor.
His Net Worth
Jeff Dunham is one of America’s highest-earning comedians who has won himself millions of fans with his funny puppet characters and skill at ventriloquism. Forbes rated Dunham fifth as the highest paid comedian, pegging his net annual earnings at $13.5 million. The Ventriloquist and comedian’s total net worth is $120 million. He has sold more than 10 million DVDs and has also earned handsomely from numerous sales and endorsement deals.
Wife and Children
Jeff Dunham is presently married to Audrey Murdick, his personal physical trainer, and nutritionist. The couple took their forever vows in 2012, after dating for about two years. Audrey who is 18 years younger than the popular comedian gave birth to twin boys in October 2015, whom the couple named James Jeffrey and Jack Steven.
He was formerly married to Paige Brown, a single mother of one daughter, whom he had met in 1992 at West Palm Beach in the Comedy Corner show in Florida. They married 2 years after in 1994. The couple had 2 daughter Ashlyn and Kenna who were born in 1995 and 1997 respectively before their marriage packed up in 2008 due to strain from being apart from each other for a long time.
Facts About His Messy Divorce
It was alleged that while Jeff was away on tours, Paige had a sexual relationship with another man; a gym coach from her children school. Sequel to this, Jeff had his own series of affairs that impacted negatively on his marriage with Paige.
Seeing that their marriage had reached a dead end, Jeff filled for divorce in 2008 but the divorce proceedings dragged for 2 years and got finalized in 2010 thus ending their 15 years old marriage.
Reports have it that Audrey Murdick and Jeff had met (before 2008) in a restaurant where she worked as a waitress. The pair began hitting it off before he officially filed for divorce from Paige in order to fully be with Audrey who is 18 years younger than he is. This suggests that he called it quits with his then wife to be with Audrey and not necessarily because they (Audrey and Jeff) drifted apart in the cause of their marital life.
Paige went ahead to have her own pound of flesh by using her ex-husband’s new wife’s name to create 3 domain business names – audreydunham.com, audreydunham.org, and audreydunham.net in January 2012. This led to Audrey Dunham suing Paige Brown for cyberpiracy, in a lawsuit valued at $300,000.