SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Jeff Dunham is no dummy. He knows his audience, and they know him.
Dunham holds the Guinness Book World Record for tickets sold on a comedy tour, with almost 2,000,000, and it all started with the legends he watched on TV.
“You know, I started when I was just a little kid. I got a dummy in the third grade. In fact, wait, he’s right over there. The guy with the orange hat. Right there, with the straw hat. That’s little Mortimer Snerd,” said Dunham.
His own cast of characters evolved as his audiences grew from Scout Banquets and Kiwanis Clubs to appearances around the country, pulling down $70,000 a year while he was still in college, something that baffled his father.
“I never forgot, he says, ‘you know, our friends the Johnson’s, they have their son and he’s gonna be a neurophysicist. And the so and so’s, the daughter, she’s going to be a veterinarian.’ And we have to say, ‘well, Jeff still has his puppet show,'” said Dunham. “It’s when the income later in college finally reached a certain level that dad went, ‘ok.'”
Today, Dunham is selling out the same arenas as mega-stars like Taylor Swift and Metallica. But he says it took almost two decades in comedy clubs before the ability to simply throw his voice grew into something much more.
“What was left out was the comedy, and so it took me a good number of years being the guy with the dummies that then I think the level of respect came,” Dunham said.
He’s played to more than seven million fans over the years and has over a billion views on social media. And, no joke, he gives a dollar of every ticket sold to local charities.