Jeff Dunham: Spark of Insanity DVD review

You might not have encountered Jeff Dunham before, but as this DVD proves, there's plenty of reason to check him out...

Jeff Dunham

Before I was sent this disc for review, I had to ask who on earth Jeff Dunham was. It turned out nobody else knew either. The DVD arrived and the packaging contained Achmed The Dead Terrorist – I’d heard of this, but only because he was part of a damn annoying ringtone being marketed on the Internet a few months ago. It looked like an unpleasant, juvenile cash-in on recent political events, and so I feared what I might end up watching.

Turns out that you can’t judge anything by a ringtone taken out of context. A ventriloquist who makes his own puppets, Dunham turns out to also produce a pretty competent stand-up routine and this covers both, along with some nice background into his work.

Material tends to focus around the political and the politcially incorrect, with Walter the old man making his views on women clear and the aforementioned Achmed saying somewhat dubious things about every faith (including his own). José (‘the jalapeno on a stick’) is the excuse for a number of Mexican gags, while purple oddity Peanut takes a shot at just about anything that moves – especially Jeff’s wife. Final character Melvin the Superhero is the world’s least likely saviour when he can’t even keep his hair on.

It’s potentially offensive if you have particularly religious sensitivities, or you’re perhaps a vehement feminist, but for anybody else it’s just funny. And it is funny. Admittedly, the audience is a seriously hyped crowd who have clearly been told they’re on camera, laughing and whooping far too loudly at everything, but underneath all that is a genuinely amusing show that really doesn’t need an over-reactive audience or to be marketed by a dodgy piece of mobile phone download tat.

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Dunham’s heart appears to be firmly in the right place and he lacks the arrogance displayed by some stand-up comics (and I can think of several names who should be standing up). His delivery is masterful and you get the impression that he could take any random sentence and make it funny by putting a certain tone on a couple of words. Use of ‘bad’ language is sparing, and even when he does start laying into one social group or another, you never feel like he’s going too far.

The main feature clocks in at a full two hours, and is accompanied by an extra bit of Walter, some brief audience comment and a very interesting documentary about how he creates Melvin – literally. He stands at home moulding, sanding, painting and putting mechanics together until the character is born, and Melvin starts talking before he’s even got a body (“Get this paint out of my eye!”). It’s a fascinating insight into his methods, not to mention his garage.

The idea that you need to be American to get the jokes is erroneous. Yes, he’s American, and there are lots of American references, but there’s nothing here you won’t understand unless you need to get out a lot more.

I enjoyed this and watched it twice in an afternoon. Well worth getting hold of.

Feature:

4 stars
Disc:
3 stars

Rating:

4 out of 5