Jeff Dunham has realized the concepts for his puppets in some odd ways, but none are as strange as Jose Jalapeno on a Stick.
"That's the weirdest story," Dunham said. "When I was in college, I was doing a radio campaign on the radio station, and I was doing all the voices of this pizza. Every ingredient on the pizza spoke. And one of them was Jose Jalapeno. He ended up having all the funny lines.
"I thought about making a dummy in the act. So I thought why not a jalapeno on a stick?"
Ventriloquist and comedian Jeff Dunham, who will be performing at the Bryce Jordan Center on Jan. 13, poses with one of his most popular puppets, Achmed the Dead Terrorist.
The puppet - who, as his name reveals, is really a jalapeno pepper on a stick - will join Dunham and his famous cast of ventriloquist dummies - including Peanut, Walter and Achmed the Dead Terrorist - for his comedy routine "Controlled Chaos" in a performance at 8 p.m. Jan. 13 at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park.
Dunham has added two new characters for his "Controlled Chaos" tour: Achmed Jr. and a miniature version of himself.
"I try to come up with something every year or two," Dunham said. "There's a whole bunch of characters that have come and gone, but I keep the main three guys."
If you go
Who: "Controlled Chaos" with comedian and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham
Where: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 13
Tickets: $50 for reserved seating and $20 for University Park students, available at the BJC box office, the Eisenhower Auditorium, Penn State Tickets Downtown, online at www.bjc.psu.edu or by calling 865-5555.
Those "main three guys" are Peanut, a hyperactive, purple-skinned puppet with green hair; Walter, a grumpy, discontented old man; and Achmed, the skeletal remains of a suicide bomber.
"What has kept them alive all these years is the connection folks have with each one of the characters," he said.
Like Jose Jalapeno on a Stick, each has quite unique beginnings.
"Every character I've had in my act, none of them have a similar creation story," Dunham said. "I actually thought up Peanut and designed him in my head. I described him to a woman that was making soft puppets, and she drew up some sketches. And the character came to be just because he popped into my head."
Dunham described Walter's character as an "every man."
"I created him thinking that nobody would enjoy a grumpy old character like that," he said. "Little did I know, everybody has that guy in him. Either they're married to him or he's their father, but people for some reason love him."
Achmed was a result of Dunham's reaction to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York, Washington and Shanksville.
"Sad and scary things were going on in our country," he said. "I thought if I can make fun of [the terrorists], there's something people can laugh at. The big surprise was that I had no idea it would go worldwide."
Despite his talent at ventriloquism, Dunham knew that comedy had to be paramount in his act.
"I realized early on that the ventriloquism needed to be just a vehicle for the comedy," he said. "It couldn't be the focus of the act. In other words, I needed to focus on the material and the jokes and keep people laughing. I laugh right along with them."
Dunham's voyage to ventriloquism stardom began when he was in third grade.
"I was a shy little kid," he said. "I was terrible at sports, not one of the popular crowd, but to get up on stage in front of the class and be able to pick on my classmates or pick on the school or pick on the teachers or the principal and get some big laughs out of it, it became some cool thing.
"I was up there challenging things and saying things that no other kids could say and not get in trouble. That's pretty much the formula I have for now: Give the audience a few minutes of meaningful stuff, then make fun of everyone and everything for an hour or two."
Bernie Punt, the director of sales and marketing at the Bryce Jordan Center, said that seeing Dunham live "is totally different than seeing Jeff Dunham on TV or DVD."
"The audience becomes part of the show, and Jeff will sometimes improvise depending on the audience's reaction," adding that is the material one doesn't see on television.
This will be Dunham's third trip to University Park since 2008.
"The audiences keep getting larger and larger because Jeff brings new material each time," Punt said. "You can also tell the audience's personal favorites as far as Jeff's characters.
"Their sides are going to hurt from laughing so much. After awhile, you will not believe that Jeff is doing all of the voices. You will actually believe his characters are living, breathing comedians."
Mirror Staff Writer Cory Dobrowolsky can be reached at 946-7428.