Happy Birthday Jeff Dunham

Today is Jeff Dunham‘s birthday.

Jeff Dunham with Achmed
Jeff Dunham with Achmed

Instead of sending the typical generic Facebook birthday greeting, I decided to list a few of the things I have learned from Jeff along the way. Lots of business and life lessons here for all of us.

  1. Laser focus on your goals – From the very beginning of his career, Jeff knew exactly where he wanted to go. Everything he did was aligned with achieving the level of success that he has now reached. This was no accident.
  2. Character development – Jeff’s characters are very clearly defined and consistent. Watch videos of his earlier performances and you will see the consistency. Yes, the characters have grown. But, they have not changed their core personalities. It is this strong character development that drives Jeff’s material. The photo above is from last year’s ventriloquist convention, where he sustained over 7 laughs per minute for nearly 8 minutes – by reading the cooking instructions on a package of ramen noodles. That is the power of a strong character.
  3. Get help, but you own the result – Sure, Jeff has a team of people who contribute to his material. But, before a joke hits the stage, Jeff makes his own adjustments to the final wording and delivery. Give Jeff a classic joke from an old classic routine, and he will tweak it just that much to make it his own. This hands-on approach to every aspect of Jeff’s stage presence is what preserves his brand. He knows how to ask for help, take the bits he likes, adapt it, twist it, and make it his own. He has a team of people working in the background, but ultimately, it is all Jeff.
  4. Test, test, test – Jeff is always adding new material to the act. He doesn’t just write a joke and that’s the end of it. He tests it. He varies the setup, the punchline, the timing, the vocal delivery, the physical movement that goes along with the delivery. He constantly hones and tweaks the nuances to get the maximum reaction from every line.
  5. Know your fan base – Some criticize Jeff’s material, complaining of the language, the content, blah, blah, blah. Guess what. Those people are not Jeff’s core fan base. He knows exactly who his fans are. He understands in great detail who buys tickets to his shows, who spends gobs of their hard-earned dollars at the concession stands buying T-shirts, stuffed Peanut dolls, and on and on. He knows his fan base, he knows what they want, and he delivers. Man, does he deliver.

I have learned a tremendous amount by watching Jeff over the years – not just what he does on stage, but also what he does off stage to earn the right to be on the stages that he plays.

Thank you Jeff, for all you have taught me. And happy birthday.