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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedDunham Looks Forward to Oshkosh
Comedian to include new aviation-based material in AirVenture act
  
Jeff Dunham isn't your average helicopter builder. Then he's not your average ventriloquist, either. Put the two together and it means an unforgettable night of aviation humor. Dunham and his troupe of "dummies" affectionately known as the "Suitcase Posse" will perform at 9 p.m. July 30 at Theater in the Woods presented by RotorWay International. It will be the ventriloquist's third trip to AirVenture, but his first time on the EAA stage.

Dunham, EAA 379404, has appeared on "Late Night with David Letterman" as well as "The Tonight Show, Starring Jay Leno," and possesses four of 20 top-rated clips of all time on YouTube.com. In addition, DVDs of Dunham performances have sold more than 2 million copies.

In a WebEx online conference with reporters on July 22, Dunham said he's always had a fascination with aviation, but was particularly drawn to helicopters as a 6-year-old. "I went to the state fair in Texas and they were giving helicopter rides," he said. "For some reason I fell in love with rotorcraft."

After building model helicopters, Dunham moved on to the real stuff. He said it took him seven months to complete his first helicopter, a RotorWay Exec. "I was a college senior when I purchased my kit, and my grades plummeted and I barely graduated," he recalled. "I spent 12-14 hours a day working on the helicopter. I had never built anything before. If the manual told me the carburetor faced so and so direction, I didn't even know what the carburetor looked like."

But that's now far in the past since Dunham has gone on to complete two more helicopters - a RotorWay Exec 90 and an Exec 162, and he said he is ready to start on RotorWay's latest offering, the A600 Talon, like the one being given away in the EAA Share the Spirit Sweepstakes this year.

Dunham said the time he spent building helicopters helped him build his 3-foot tall dummies that are part of his act. "I'm sure there are bolts and other pieces of metal that I didn't use (on one of my helicopters) that ended up on my dummies," he joked.

Dunham's on-stage buddies consist of Walter, an everyday curmudgeon; José Jalapeño, a jalapeno pepper on a stick; Melvin, a mild-mannered, no-real-power superhero; Achmed, the dead terrorist; and others.

Unlike the shows seen on Comedy Central and in the YouTube, his AirVenture performance will be aviation-based. "I'm actually working on some materials that have a lot to do with flying and building your own machines, and I look forward to stepping on some toes," he warned. "There are so many things you can joke about in a nice way when you have guys building and flying experimental aircraft…especially when the neighbors think they're nuts."

Dunham said every comedian or actor must draw on his or her experiences to come up with material. "You draw on what you know. I'm a cranky, old curmudgeonly guy like Walter. Everyone has some Walter in them."

But with a wife and three children, Dunham said some ideas come from everyday family life. For instance, a Christmas special on Comedy Central will make fun of the first time his 16-year-old tried to pump gas into the car. "You'd think in all the years she spent in the back seat while we filled up with gas that she would have looked out the window once or twice to see what I or her mother were doing," he said. "We were laughing out loud it was so funny. And we wouldn't help her at all."

Dunham admits he doesn't know where other characters came from, like José Jalapeño. "He first came into action in 1983, and I have no idea where he came from. Maybe it was a slow day in college. I don't think alcohol was involved."

When he's done entertaining, Dunham said he plans to enjoy AirVenture like the rest of the crowd. What will he look at? "The military stuff really impresses me," he said. "I love to see the highly trained guys and watch them. And the funnel cakes. That's all I pay attention to," he said, laughing.

 

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