Jeff Dunham’s Minding the Monsters brings together your favorites – Walter, Peanut, Bubba J, José Jalapeño…on a STEEK!, and Achmed the Dead Terrorist as you you’ve never seen them before!
Enter the ultimate haunted house where Walter transforms into something grumpier than he already is! Watch Bubba J rise from the dead! Meet Peanut’s alter-ego, the Purple Avenger of the Night, and his spicy sidekick! And witness Achmed literally dressed to kill in an outfit that would terrify the most terrifying terrorist!
The result is an all-new original live comedy event like no other, complete with each of Jeff’s stage partners starring in their own horror movie trailer!
Dunham’s Arguing with Myself, Spark of Insanity, A Very Special Christmas Special, and Controlled Chaos are among the most popular television specials and live tours worldwide. Minding the Monsters takes Dunham’s comedy to another level in a show that’s so funny, it’s scary!
Jeff Dunham is the most popular, highest paid comedian in the entire United States. I guess this goes to show that the cream doesn't always rise to the top, because Dunham's act isn't just offensively racist and sexist, it's also painfully unfunny. Great stand-up comedy makes the audience think. Dunham simply plays to his audience's worst impulses. I don't know if Dunham believes the racist things he makes his puppets say, or if he's simply doing it to fleece his audience of their cash. And, between the two, I genuinely don't know which is worse.
For 'Minding The Monsters', Dunham dresses up his puppets as monsters and does his show on a haunted house stage. The show is divided into sets, with each character getting its own portion, and interstitial mock-trailers introducing each one. Things start with Dunham himself doing a bit of straight stand up. Without the puppets, he seems a little lost. He tells meandering stories that frequently have weak or non-existent punch lines. He also spends a lot of time laughing at his own jokes, which doesn't feel very professional. Still, this section is free of the kind of rampant racism that makes up the rest of the show.
Dunham next brings out Walter, his perpetually cranky old man character. Walter is dressed up as "Crankenstein," with a Frankenstein-style dome on his head. A few jokes are made at Dunham's expense, and then it starts. Mexican jokes, Jew jokes, jokes about immigrants, you name it. Dunham has this "Oh, jeez" look on his face, as if he simply cannot believe what Walter is saying. And that's the way the ventriloquist act generally works, but given the material in question, it feels disingenuous.
Then comes Bubba J, the redneck trailer park perpetual drunk. He's dressed as Dracula, with an exaggerated tooth. Most of this act involves jokes on how Bubba is constantly dead drunk or on drugs. This set is like a raunchier version of Jeff Foxworthy's "You might be a redneck if…", with Dunham prompting Bubba to reveal ever more embarrassing behavior and activities. Again, at no point was any of this actually funny, and you might begin to notice exactly how often Dunham's lips actually do move, because it's far more frequent than what you'd expect for the world's most famous ventriloquist.
Next up is Peanut and Jose, on a Batman and Robin riff. Peanut is a Muppet-looking creation, purple with huge red lips, white fur, and a tuft of green hair. Jose is a jalapeno pepper on a stick, and I'm sure where you can guess where that ends up going. Actually, this section mainly mines sexual jokes (Peanut's Batman parody is called "Batnut") and gags at Dunham's expense. He even brings out a mini-Dunham doll dressed up as the Riddler, but instead called "The Loser."
Finally, and most disconcertingly, we get Achmed the Dead Terrorist, dressed as a blonde American woman (the scariest thing Achmed could think of). I had heard of Achmed, an elaborately designed skeleton doll that is meant to be the remains of an incompetent suicide bomber, but had never actually seen him in action before. This is, without a doubt, completely and utterly racist on every level. If Dunham had put together a blackface doll called "Jim Crow", it would hardly be more offensive than this.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not a prude. I love all kinds of offensive material. I defend all sorts of controversial things in the name of free speech. But if you're going to be offensive, do it for a reason. Do it to make a point. Don't do it just to capitalize on the worst impulses of your audience. When the show does cut away to the people in the theater, they are practically falling off their chairs with laughter. I'm not saying they're not allowed to laugh, or that Dunham isn't allowed to make money off of their beliefs, but it feels even more cheap and gaudy than the costumes that Dunham has his puppets wear.
'Jeff Dunham: Minding The Monsters' is presented in an AVC encoded 1.78:1 1080i transfer. In general, this is a strong transfer, especially in close-ups. No matter what you think of Dunham's act, his skills as a craftsman are evident in his puppets. You can see the grooves that make the lines in their faces, Bubba J's rosy red cheeks, Peanut's felt head, and the incredible amount of detail in Achmed. The stage lighting does make things look a little flat, but the color reproduction is good and you can still pick out plenty of interesting touches in the elaborate set. The interstitial trailers and introduction were professionally shot (by a college friend of mine, actually) and a few were purposefully degraded in post, but otherwise look good. There's a bit of noise, especially in the audience shots were the lighting is worse, but nothing bad enough to detract from the overall transfer.
'Minding The Monsters' sports a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround mix and a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround mix. As expected for a show like this, activity is focused in the front channels, with the audience relegated to the rears. Dialogue is crystal clear, which is what really matters here. The soundstage seems a bit confined, although not stiflingly so. You won't think you're at the live show, but it's a reasonable facsimile. The opening and trailers are more aggressive, especially the LFE track, which otherwise goes unused. A perfectly solid mix that won't stress your sound system.
Jeff Dunham is one of the most popular entertainers in the United States, but I can't fathom why. Not only is he needlessly racist and sexist, but he's wholly unfunny. Still, it's clear that people like him, and for those that do, 'Minding The Monsters' offers plenty of bang for your buck. The disc sports a good transfer and decent audio, and it has a strong set of special features that are better than the main show itself. If you don't like Jeff Dunham, there's nothing here that will change your mind. If you do like him, then this disc seems like a decent bet. For fans only.