Jeff Dunham: Spark of Insanity
Distributed by: Image Entertainment
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I'm a huge fan of ventriloquist/comedian Jeff Dunham. I've watched all of his television specials and do a pretty decent imitation of Achmed the Dead Terrorist. So when I saw one of his television specials in DVD format in the store, I had to pounce on it.
Jeff Dunham: Spark of Insanity is Dunham's second DVD featuring the comedian and his puppet cast of characters. This DVD features the debut of Achmed the Dead Terrorist - my favorite - and Melvin the Superhero Guy. Taped in the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C and airing on Comedy Central in a much shorter broadcast version in 2007, the DVD features twice as much footage and some nice added extras.
Things start off with some pretty funny stand-up comedy from Jeff Dunham alone. Those who say that the best part of his act are the ventriloquist dummies are mistaken. Dunham is just as good at stand-up as he is with the dummies. What makes the dummies section more desirable is the way he handles them when delivering the punch lines. That, and the fact that he can be less reserved with the dummies - I didn't say that, the dummy did!
When we get to the ventriloquism aspect of the act, we are treated to the grumpy ruminations of Walter, who expounds about his love/hate relationship with his wife and picks on Dunham over his newly purchased powder blue Prius. Following Walter, we are introduced to Achmed the Dead Terrorist, a new character at the time. Achmed is not certain he is dead, calling his skeletal look the result of a flesh wound. We learn how Achmed became a terrorist and how he died, about his fear of Walter and how he believes Walter's flatulence can make him a formidable enemy. And Achmed's puppet body movements are hysterical - the rolling eyes, the constantly moving bushy eyebrows, the uncontrollable legs and feet.
Next comes Melvin the Superhero Guy, a short, less than super looking character with an unfortunately large and awkward looking nose. Melvin doesn't have too many superhero powers, but he does report that he can fly...as far as Dunham can throw him, that is. He also reportedly has x-ray vision and enjoys staring through the clothing of the women in the audience. The final part of Dunham's act features Peanut, a hyperactive purple woozle whose main purpose of the act is to make fun of Jeff Dunham. He is accompanied by Jose Jalapeņo on a Stick, a giant jalapeņo pepper wearing a mustache and a sombrero. Once Jose appears, Peanut switches to making fun of him, but Jose gets a jab in here and there.
Jeff Dunham is a very funny man and his characters are well-thought out and performed. Dunham's dummies, created by Dunham himself with the minor help of a prop expert, are made to perfection. Their facial expressions when delivering Dunham's punch lines are priceless. The fact that they can express so much without a line being delivered is amazing. Dunham is not the best ventriloquist ever - we can see his lips moving quite often - but we are distracted by the movements of his dummies, making the act and what Dunham is projecting through them that much more hysterical.
The DVD version of Spark of Insanity contains three extras. There is the feature The Making of Melvin in which we watch the process Jeff Dunham goes through to make one of the characters for his act. The experience is quite interesting. Then there is What Would You Put on a Stick? in which a cameraman asks members of the audience what they would like to see on a stick if they were creating a ventriloquist dummy like Jose. Finally, there is a special political announcement from Walter in which he throws his hat into the Presidential race and answers questions from the audience.
Now, if you are especially sensitive, Jeff Dunham: Spark of Insanity is not for you. He doesn't just make fun of his wife, his choice in cars or his dogs. He makes fun of most religions, ethnicities, etc. If you are one to take offense easily at such jokes, then this would not be a DVD for you. However, if you just want to see a funny show and have a pretty thick skin when it comes to this stuff, Spark of Insanity is a hilarious 80-minute DVD well-worth watching - especially after a rough day at work.