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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Jeff Dunham - Arguing With Myself
Jeff Dunham - Arguing With Myself
Image // Unrated // April 11, 2006
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Mike Long | posted May 28, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Show

Calling a performer "stiff" is typically seen as a criticism which indicates that the person was unnatural or apprehensive in their performance. But such a comment wouldn't phase the characters who appear with comedian Jeff Dunham. Dunham surrounds himself with unique ventriloquist dummies for his act, and a performance from his latest tour is featured on the DVD Jeff Dunham: Arguing with Myself.

Ventriloquists may not make up a great deal of the entertainment landscape, but it seems that each generation has had it's signature ventriloquist and dummy. Over the years, we've seen the likes Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy, Shari Lewis & Lambchop, Senor Wences & his various characters, Willie Tyler & Lester, and even that guy who was on Soap (Yes, I know that his name was Jay Johnson). Currently, the best known ventriloquist is most likely Jeff Dunham, who has made numerous appearances on The Tonight Show and has been seen on 60 Minutes II. Dunhams' most recent special for Comedy Central, Arguing with Myself, which premiered on April 8, 2006, has now come to DVD.

Arguing with Myself features Dunham with three of his trademark characters, plus two new ones. Dunham's best-known character is Peanut, who is a purple-and-yellow wuzzle, a creature from Micronesia. Put simply, Peanut is crazy and he always speaks his mind and puts his peculiar twist on life. Peanut is always accompanied by Jose Jalapeno, who is a jalapeno on a steek (or stick, if you will). Jose is clearly a nod to Senor Wences, as he complains about being inside of a box and speaks in a thick accent. Invariably, Peanut and Jose get in an argument. Equally recognizable is Walter, a puppet who is a bitter, angry old man. Walter embodies every stereotype of a senior citizen who says exactly what he thinks and doesn't care what anybody thinks about it. Despite the fact that these puppets have been seen for years, Dunham is able to bring fresh material to the show. (More on that in a moment.)

For this program (as far as I can tell), Dunham introduces two new characters. The first is Sweet Daddy Dee, an African-American puppet who is introduced as Dunham's new manager. But, Sweet Daddy insists that he's a pimp and that Jeff is a "ho". Sweet Daddy makes a futile attempt to teach Dunham to be "street". Following this, Bubba J takes the stage. Bubba J is a dim-witted redneck who loves drinking and his ugly wife. These characters may not be familiar, but they do provide some laughs.

I'd seen Jeff Dunham perform several times in the past on late-night shows and Comedy Central and had always enjoyed his performances, and on that front, Jeff Dunham: Arguing with Myself doesn't disappoint. Dunham's talents as a ventriloquist are truly amazing, not just in the sense that he doesn't move his lips (very much), but also because he's able to do different voices and deliver those voices at different pitches and volumes. His interactions with the puppets is very good and the audience is able to forget that we are essentially looking at one man talking to himself. He gives the puppets a true sense of personality and to use a clich├ęd phrase, they "come to life". The jokes here range from clever asides to corny jokes that would embarrass someone in Vaudeville. (Jeff: What's your favorite kind of beer? Bubba J: An open one.)

This special also shows off something that's rarely seen in Dunham's brief TV appearances, and that's his ability to improvise. There are several moments where he reacts to activity in the audience or speaks directly to an audience member and his skill for improvisation is quite impressive. He's no Robin Williams, but the reactions are funny. While it's easy to view Jeff Dunham as a skilled puppeteer who has funny characters, he reveals himself to be a stand-up comedian who just happens to use puppets.

Video

Jeff Dunham: Arguing with Myself speaks for itself on DVD courtesy of Image Entertainment. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The special was clearly shot on HD video as the image is crystal clear and looks fantastic. The image shows no grain and the only true noticeable defect is some slight "white out" effects when the lights shine into the camera. The colors look great (although the red lights on the curtain so show some "bleeding"). This transfer rivals digital broadcast quality and is better than the Comedy Central broadcast which wasn't in High-Def.

Audio

The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue. Dunham's voice, both his own and the puppets, is easy to hear and there is no distortion. And of course, that's what we want from this DVD. The only thing that we get from the surround sound speakers is the laughter from the audience. The DVD contains two versions of the show's audio track, one "bleeped" and the other "unbleeped".

Extras

For a TV comedy special, Jeff Dunham: Arguing with Myself contains an interesting amount of extras. There is an audio commentary by Dunham and his friend Kelly Asbury, co-director of Shrek 2 and author of the ventriloquist study "Dummy Days". There's a commentary for the ventriloquist show? Yes, and it's actually quite interesting, as Dunham talks about the creation of his various characters and how he got his start in show-business. Asbury does a good job of keeping Dunham talking by asking genuinely interesting questions about the puppets and the act. There are two "Outtakes" which highlight moments in the show where there were technical problems with the puppets, one with Walter and the other with Peanut. Both clips contain commentary by Dunham, and the segment with Peanut is hilarious as Dunham again proves that he's great at thinking on his feet. The two "Bonus Clips" are both extremely brief (less than a minute each) and neither is funny.


We don't hear the word "entertainer" applied accurately much these days, but Jeff Dunham certainly fits the bill. His show is very funny and the inclusion of a "bleeped" track here makes the program accessible to a wide audience. (To be fair, he doesn't use that much profanity in his act, but he does drop a few "F-bombs".) The comedy is derived from the warped views of the puppets, and while some of the material could be possibly be construed as offensive, most of the show is simply fun.
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