For the naive and devoutly-raised Dunham, Broadway was a new world filled with beautiful showgirls and crusty stagehands, and his first taste of entertainment industry egos came when Rooney called Dunham into his dressing room, and told him he was there for one reason alone: so that Rooney could change his costumes.He performed at the Westbury Music Fair on Long Island.These early experiences, in which he used characters like José Jalapeño on a Stick, taught him the value of modifying his act regionally, as the jalapeño jokes that worked well in Texas were not as well received by audiences in Long Island.After graduating from Baylor University in 1986, he continued honing his act in comedy clubs in the Southwest with new characters such as Peanut and José Jalapeño, but struggled against the perception he relates from fellow comedians that he was not a true comedian because he relied on props.After Dunham became friends with Mike Lacey, owner of The Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, Lacey gave Dunham a steady slot at the club, where Dunham sharpened his act by observing the techniques of comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, and taking the advice of colleague Bill Engvall, moving away from his G-Rated material toward edgier, more adult themes.At the end of 1988, Dunham was told by James Mc Cawley, a talent booker for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, that Dunham would be given a spot on the coveted program.Dunham also starred in The Jeff Dunham Show, a series on the network in 2009.
The organizers of the Con VENTion eventually declared Dunham a "retired champion", ineligible from entering any more competitions, as other attendees were too intimidated to compete against him.
By his junior year in college (1983–84), Dunham was making ,000 a year, and as word spread of his act, he landed featured spots opening for Bob Hope and George Burns, though he still perceived his act as raw, as he did not have any knowledge of standup comedy beyond his Bill Cosby albums.
He caught a break in 1985 when he was asked to join the Broadway show Sugar Babies with Mickey Rooney and Ann Miller, replacing an outgoing variety act.
Jeffrey "Jeff" Dunham (born April 18, 1962) is an American ventriloquist and comedian who has also appeared on numerous television shows, including Late Show with David Letterman, Comedy Central Presents, The Tonight Show and Sonny With a Chance.
He has six specials that run on Comedy Central: Jeff Dunham: Arguing with Myself, Jeff Dunham: Spark of Insanity, Jeff Dunham's Very Special Christmas Special, Jeff Dunham: Controlled Chaos, Jeff Dunham: Minding the Monsters, and Jeff Dunham: All Over the Map.