Dunham: ‘We all laugh at the same stuff’ — even Achmed

Along with being one of America’s most popular performers, ventriloquist Jeff Dunham is a frequent visitor to Pierce County, alternating visits to the Tacoma Dome with the State Fair.

On Sept. 18, Dunham and his retinue of puppets return to Puyallup for an evening show.

Dunham just wrapped up his All Over the Map comedy tour where he visited Europe, Africa, Australia, the Middle East and Asia. A special filmed on the tour will air on Comedy Central this year.

In late November, Dunham takes up residency at Las Vegas’ Planet Hollywood. The newspaper caught up with the comedian via phone at his LA home.

Q: Is this a completely new act from the last time you were here?

A: I’m not one of those comics who tours on material for X number of months and then goes off the road for a year. Every 18 months a large percentage is different. There’s some new material, a new character and we just keep going.

Q: I expect there are certain bits that audiences are always going to want to see.

A: It’s like going to see The Rolling Stones and they didn’t do “Satisfaction.” You’d be unsatisfied. Comedy is somewhat like music. I still have Steve Martin in my iPod and listen to those bits over and over again. But you still want to see new stuff. It’s an interesting mix.

Q: You are a frequent visitor to our area. Where are you most popular?

A: You’d think with somebody like me and the material that I have, it would be the red states. I try to play the middle. I have a character or two that’s way right and another character or two that leans to the left. Our biggest ticket sales are opposite of what you would think. They are in the Northwest and the Northeast.

Q: Did you have to modify your act, country to country, on your All Over the Map tour?

A: It’s just finding that universal humor that everybody can relate to and laugh at. One night I was in (Muslim) Abu Dhabi. Two nights later I’m in Tel Aviv, Israel, doing the same exact show for Jewish people. And then you have a Christian on stage doing the show. How odd is that?

Q: And you did Achmed (the dead terrorist) in both countries?

A: In Abu Dhabi, when I pulled out Achmed, it was like a freakin’ homecoming. And then I pulled out Achmed in Israel and they went nuts too. What the heck? And then I thought, in one place he’s an idiot version of one of them, and in the other place he’s an idiot of one of “those guys.” They were all laughing at him for different reasons. Those two nights were probably the highlights of the tour because I had no idea what to expect.

Q: So comedy is universal?

A: What I found on this tour, and from other tours, we all laugh at the same stuff. Most of us care about our children, our jobs, our parents, our security. We have the same frailties. That’s all the same stuff we can laugh about. Marriage. Bad marriages — whether you have one wife or 20.

Q: I hear you are following in the footsteps of Cher and Siegfried and Roy down in Vegas.

A: (Laughs) Can I use that? Those are the two perfect horrible names to pick. I’m following in the footsteps of Cher and Siegfried and Roy. Thank you for making me feel good about my future. I used to tell my kids, Vegas is either the beginning or end of a career. Now, these casinos are opening these big showrooms and it’s some big names. I love Britney Spears. I’ve been a fan for a long time. I’m looking forward to being right next to her at Planet Hollywood.

Q: Just stay away from white tigers.

A: There are so many horrible bits I could do. Can you imagine a white tiger that just keeps attacking me?

Q: We will look for that at the State Fair.

A: Every year I say to my road manager, here we are at the State Fair. Go find us the two most horrible fried things they’re making this year and we’re going to eat them.

Q: Tell him to head straight to the Totally Fried booth.

A: Have you ever had the bacon cheeseburger made with Krispy Kreme donuts as buns? My wife almost threw up when they brought that thing through the door, and I finished it in three bites. It was the most amazing thing ever. But then they brought in the deep-fried butter and I ate one bite and was sick for an hour and a half.