Jeff Dunham’s fourth concert release, Jeff Dunham: Controlled Chaos, is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Comedy Central. The comedian and master of ventriloquism returns with all of his popular characters, including Peanut, José Jalapeño, Walter, and, of course, Achmed the Dead Terrorist, each with fresh material. The special is over an hour and a half long, much longer than the television air time, and the DVD includes a number of bonus features.
By and large, Controlled Chaos does not live up to Spark of Insanity, which is nearly flawless, and easily the pinnacle of Dunham’s career so far. While his latest jokes are mostly original and new, they have lost some of the edge and shock factor. Perhaps his act, which remains funny to some extent, but relies on hooks and gimmicks, can only go so far. No one is arguing that Dunham is very talented; he is. But the dummy schtick is growing stale after so much attention and screen time.
Achmed, in particular, seems a bit neutered, no longer half as hostile as he once appears. He only utters “I keel you” a few times, probably a good thing, because as awesome and popular as his catchphrase is, it’s been said many, many times already. Then Dunham introduces Achmed Jr., Achmed’s half-blown up, gay, British son, and Achmed doesn’t even react all that much. Sure, he isn’t comfortable with his son, but he isn’t offended or trying to kill him either. This seems like a major missed opportunity.
Perhaps, as other characters suggest, Achmed has let fame go to his head. Maybe suicide bombing and berating the infidels has taken a back seat to just being loved. But then, Achmed is a doll, not a real person. So assigning these attributes to him means this is a conscious decision Dunham has made. If so, it’s the wrong one.
Not all of Jeff’s puppet friends get equal billing. José barely makes it on stage before being placed back in his box. Bubba J is reduced to the video introduction and DVD menus, not getting any time at all during the actual special. Nor does he appear in the cover art.
Peanut gets the most attention in this newest special. The purple, furry, whatever-it-is is not only permitted to interact with Jeff and José, but also brings out his very own ventriloquist dummy. The special takes a turn for the meta when Peanut’s own doll turns out to be a version of Jeff, whom he dubs Little Ugly Ass Jeff. Jeff turns the tables again by pulling out a mini Peanut hand puppet. It’s almost too much, confusing, so it’s probably good that it stops quickly. But there is something to be said for Dunham’s voice talents, which tackle all four, plus José in the box, at once. Plus it takes three limbs to pull off the movements.
There are quite a few special features, almost all of them around three minutes in length. There are outtakes from Dunham’s filming process. A separate feature finds his necklace constantly getting in the way, though he never removes it. Dunham teases and flirts with two of his staff on stage while they resolve issues. Three tour openings from previous shows are included. Jeff is briefly shown performing in a number of countries, and the cameras capture fan reactions. Bubba J takes viewers on a tour of Dunham Winery. A photo shoot gives all of the popular characters brief moments.
There is a single, 14-minute featurette on designing the Achmedmobile. Or rather, the Achmed-looking head on the front of the car used in this special’s opening. It’s actually quite neat because the process Dunham uses to craft that head must be very similar to how he makes copies of his popular characters. The first few minutes even harken to how he makes the original designs.
Check out Jeff Dunham: Controlled Chaos, on sale now.