As I watched the "Jeff Dunham- Spark Of Insanity" DVD, I realized I derived more entertainment out of staring at a puppet's nose and ear hair than with watching the entire 80 minute comedic performance. Obviously, this is a strong indication of the overall quality of the performance.
Jeff Dunham's routine (from the stunning Warner Theatre in Washington D.C.) starts out with him doing a 17 minute solo act talking about gas prices, cars, daughters, dogs, etc. Afterwards, he unveils 5 puppets throughout the course of the show. The first to appear was Walter, a grumpy old man who rambles on about weather and marriage. Next up was Achmed The Dead Terrorist, an embarrassingly bad skeleton character whose lines consists almost solely of "Silence! I Kill You!" Har-har. After Achmed, Melvin the long nosed geeky superhero was pulled from the suitcase, followed by Peanut (an obnoxious Jar-Jar like purple creature) and Jose Jalapeno On A Stick (self-explanatory).
While the crowd seemed to be having the time of their lives, I had to wonder what show they were seeing. Surely, the crowd was laughing more than usual since the show was being broadcast on Comedy Central, but still, there was no reason for laughing at nearly everything that came out of Dunham's mouth. To be honest, Dunham is not a memorable comedian or ventriloquist/puppeteer. The entire running length, I kept thinking of how I'd rather watch a Triumph The Insult Comic Dog sketch, or an episode of "Soap" featuring the hilarious Chuck and Bob (played by Jay Johnson). I guess part of the problem stems from the fact that Dunham's material is stale. Most comedians nowadays (like Dunham) have nothing new to say. Terrorist jokes? Heard it before. Jokes about Prius being a girly car? Been there done that. Marriage jokes? Yawn. The key to being a successful comedian is giving the audience something they haven't heard before, instead of resorting to lame catch phrases and safe jokes.
Even with all of my criticisms, I will say Jeff Dunham has a strong and lively stage presence. He clearly is enthusiastic about his work and he puts an enormous amount of effort into his puppet creations by giving them life physically and with speech. He deserves "props" for that.
The 1.78:1 widescreen picture contains a tiny amount of grain and a few out of focus shots, but overall the picture is high in quality and well above average for comedic performances on DVD.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track does a great job in balancing the crowd's laughter and Dunham's performance on stage. No complaints here. A Dolby 2.0 stereo track is also included.
A few extras have been included, most of which are worthless. There are 6 previews for other Levity Entertainment DVDs (including the other Jeff Dunham special "Arguing With Myself"), a website plug, a 1 1/2 minute featurette with the cameraman asking a question to audience members ("What would you put on a stick?"), and a 7 1/2 minute skit with Walter announcing his run for President. The only worthwhile extra is a 22 minute featurette titled "The Making Of Melvin." We see how Jeff personally creates the puppet by using clay, a silicon mold, adding mechanics, a head stick, and paint. One fun scene involved Jeff going to Renegade F/x studios and asking a man named Dragon (who sports a Serenity shirt) for help. Dragon is responsible for doing work on Batman, Riddick, and he even played a Klingon! Why can't we see a documentary on this guy? He's far more interesting.
In the words of Triumph The Insult Comic Dog, the "Jeff Dunham- Spark Of Insanity" DVD is a good comedy special...for me to poop on.
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.