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Comedian Jeff Dunham coming to Cleveland

John Benson • May 12, 2015 at 6:28 PM

Want to go?

• WHO: Jeff Dunham

• WHEN: 8 p.m. Dec. 31

• WHERE: Wolstein Center, 2000 Prospect Ave., Cleveland

• TICKETS: $49.50

• INFO: 877-468-4946 or visit wolsteincenter.com

What a year it’s been for comedian and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham.

After receiving overwhelmingly positive reviews for his fourth DVD “The Jeff Dunham Show,” the funnyman released his best-selling autobiography “All By My Selves: Walter, Peanut, Achmed and Me.” Dunham also made his film debut in the Jay Roach movie “Dinner For Shmucks,” which featured Steve Carrell and Paul Rudd.

As hard as it may be to conceive, this stand-up and ventriloquist veteran appeared for the second time in Forbes magazine, where he was featured as the No. 1 Top-Earning Comedian. He also recently made the magazine’s Celebrity 100 list of most powerful entertainers for the second year in a row.

It’s the latter list that is intriguing. Now that he has this power, how exactly is he wielding it? We’re thinking inane diva behavior, such as no red M&Ms backstage or bottled water coming only from

Mt. Kilimanjaro.

“I try to never let any of this stuff go to my head, because you never know how long it’s going to last,” said Dunham, in a brief e-mail interview. “It is great fun right now.”

Currently Dunham is on his “Identity Crisis Tour,” which comes to Northeast Ohio for a New Year’s Eve show Dec. 31 at the Wolstein Center. Fans have been packing auditoriums for years to see the funnyman and his friends Walter, Peanut and Achmed in action. Which begs the question: why are people so intrigued by a ventriloquist?

“There’s some sort of unwritten license that allows an inanimate object that becomes animate to get away with stuff that a mere mortal never could,” Dunham said. “It’s refreshing in a way, to hear someone speak their mind and not care what other folks think.”

Speaking his mind is something Dunham has been doing for decades. He got his start in his native Dallas, where early on comedy was his focus. By the age of 12, he taught himself ventriloquism and even met the legendary Edgar Bergen of Charlie McCarthy fame. A decade passed before the sharp-witted comedian dove head first into a career in show business. After a memorable appearance on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” Dunham started touring nationally and in many ways hasn’t stopped.

So what’s next for Dunham? Perhaps a new character or two?

“In the past few months, we’ve introduced two new characters — Diane and Achmed Jr.,” Dunham said. “And next year, we’ll be taping a new one-hour special.”

For now, Dunham remains happy on the road, giving audiences exactly what they need.  “My show has no socially redeeming value whatsoever,” Dunham said. “You’re not going to learn anything. All you’re going to do is have a big goofy time and escape your problems for a while.”

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