So today I finally saw Jeff Dunham’s new Halloween special, which I had been really excited to see… and which ultimately let me down. Now, I loved Spark of Insanity, the Christmas special, and Controlled Chaos. But Minding the Monsters marked a radical change in his act — one which I’m not sure is a good thing.
Like his other specials, MtM starts out with Dunham doing a few minutes of stand-up, and as always, he’s hilarious even without the dummies. But then Walter, the grumpy old man with marital issues, comes out. It starts out okay, but rather quickly turns to crude humor, including such horribly crass jokes as “Happy Halloweener,” which, in context, is just as bad if not worse than seeing it written out. Dunham overplayed his grumpy old man and turned him into a grumpy, bitter, and vulgar old man. And while the gags will pull a laugh or two from you, they aren’t the same as in older specials.
Next up is Bubba J, the permanently drunk redneck. I usually don’t care for Bubba J, finding him a bit annoying, and, usually the most crass of all the characters. Ironically, his segment was possibly my favorite. Despite a few particularly vulgar gags, pretty much everything revolved around drinking or being a redneck. And let’s face it, having him dress as a vampire led to some pretty great gags.
Following Bubba J is Peanut, the purple ADHD monkey, later joined by José, the Jalapeño on a Stick, and Little Jeff, Peanut’s miniature Jeff Dunham ventriloquist’s dummy. Little Jeff might be more familiar by his Controlled Chaos moniker, “Little Ugly-Ass-Jeff.” Unfortunately this name does not return. Peanut, though always hyperactive, is usually fairly tame, though generally the most immature of the characters. In the new special, though, any semblance of maturity is lit on fire and thrown out the window into the path of an oncoming oil tanker. Dressed as “Bat-Nut,” the entirely of Peanut’s time on stage revolved around double entendres and blatant penis jokes. José, usually very low-key, joins in the vulgar banter, calling Peanut’s sister a whore and more than once saying something about Peanut’s mother’s posterior, and cheese. Little Jeff didn’t get much time, but his existence led to yet another terrible penis joke.
Finally, after all of this, the moment everyone was waiting for arrives — Achmed the Dead Terrorist, easily Dunham’s most hilarious character, takes the stage. Dressed in drag. And, for ten minutes maximum, he makes absolutely horrible jokes about sex, racism, and eating disorders. Achmed went from the lovable terrorist who blew himself up to a perverted cross-dresser with no sense of decorum at all. His funniest line was his listing of his favorite horror films — “I Know What You Did Last Ramadan” and “SILENCE! Of the Lambs.” But most egregious of all was that Achmed got the final 10 minutes of the show. That’s it? That’s all you give to the character who is arguably your most famous and beloved? Even Walter got enough time to get off one or two good jokes, and he was the worst offender. I mean, at least Peanut’s penis jokes were occasionally a bit funny. Achmed got enough time to make one good joke and slew of terrible ones. And a good quarter of his time was spent alluding to bestiality.
On top of the individual failings of his characters, Dunham seems to be losing his touch. Whereas he used to put together brilliantly funny dialogues between his puppets and himself, complete with backstories and such, now he makes only the smallest references to these histories, instead trading in good characterization and original jokes for terrible puns, crude one-liners, blatant and disgusting double entendres, and worst of all, a place to rant about his life. Because, let’s face it, this special was basically an opportunity for him to take a lot of digs at his ex-wife and at illegal immigration, for some inexplicable reason. Quite literally every single scene contained at least one insulting joke about Dunham’s ex-wife, from Walter’s jibes about divorce and the stupidity of getting engaged again, to Peanut’s pathetic joke about Little Jeff’s enemy being “Al E. Mony,” and, worst of all, Peanut’s follow-up that “Al E. Mony” can be defeated by “New Husband Man.” The latter joke borders on illegal, since Peanut asks if Dunham’s ex has found someone new, to which Dunham replies “Legally I’m not allowed to talk about this.” Peanut’s response? “But we can, right?” “Oh yeah, you’re totally fine.”
I’m pretty sure that no court in the world would buy that excuse; more likely they’d assume he had multiple personalities and put him in the psych ward.
Unfortunately what could have been a very funny seasonal special fell very short of the mark, making Dunham look like a bitter divorcee who clearly should not be getting married again if he’s still not over his ex-wife. Okay, Jeff, we get it, you’re divorced and she took half your money. It’s not like you’re ever going to be low on cash. Moreover, you already made all of these jokes during the last special, and it was fine then, but now, it’s played out, and it’s time to grow up and focus on your new marriage, not the one that fell apart.
Oh, and he also is apparently racist against Mexicans, particularly the illegal immigrants.
Overall I can’t in good conscience recommend this one. If you want some Dunham watch any of the far superior older specials, but Minding the Monsters is just a bitter middle-aged man’s attempt to make himself appear more relevant in today’s world.