Comedian Defends Offensive Act

It’s no laughing matter.

Funnyman ventriloquist Jeff Dunham is fuming after a ringtone advertisement based on his popular comedy skit, “Achmed the Dead Terrorist,” was scrubbed from South African TV because it mocks Islam.

The ringtone was taken from a puppet routine performed by Dunham, a native Texan, in a TV special on Comedy Central. A 10-minute clip of the comedian’s routine that was posted on YouTube has been viewed more than 66 million times since April.

But the government of South Africa doesn’t think it’s funny. According to, South Africa’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that a GloMobile ringtone commercial featuring Dunham and his puppet was offensive to Muslims.

The commercial depicts Dunham holding his skeletal puppet, Achmed, dressed with a white cloth around his head and demanding that the audience keep quiet, uttering, “Silence! I will kill you!”

ASA officials said a South African man, Moegamat Khan, had filed a complaint that the commercial was offensive to the Islamic religion and created an impression that all Muslims were terrorists.

And the ASA agreed. “To associate this divine inspiration to a terrorist is offensive to the people who believe in [Muhammad],” the authority ruled. Muslims make up 2 percent of South Africa’s population.

But Dunham begs to differ. In a statement to, he said: “Achmed makes it clear in my act that he is not Muslim, so I’m sorry the gentleman Khan didn’t see my entire show.

“I’ve skewered whites, blacks, Hispanics, Christians, Jews, Muslims, gays, straights, rednecks, addicts, the elderly, and my wife. As a standup comic, it is my job to make the majority of people laugh, and I believe that comedy is the last true form of free speech.”

Dunham — whose other puppets include Peanut, Bubba J and Walter, a grumpy retiree — said he has no plans to retire the controversial act.

The comedian said moves like this stymie the freedom to poke fun at any group.

“I truly believe that laughter can heal many wounds,” Dunham said.

In a jibe at the South African complainant’s name, he said: “I thought Khan was awesome in Star Trek.”

“If it would help things,” he added, “I’m considering renaming Achmed, ‘Bill.'”

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The funny thing to me is I have seen Jeff Dunham’s ENTIRE act with the Terrorist Puppet, and I FOUND IT offensive.  Maybe not offensive, but willfully ignorant.  I’m not a Muslim.  I’m barely a Catholic.  But my mother found the bit hilarious, and I remember chiding her for liking and encouraging that kind of shit.  As a ventriloquist Jeff Dunham is quite accomplished, if not for his turtlenecks the only thing you would see moving are the muscles in his neck.  However, as a writer the bits are often very simplistic (and catchy as hell, ON A STICK). 

The Achmed character however is just ‘wrong’ no matter which way you look at it.  For all the people who have died at the hands of suicide bombers, Americans and International victims.  The ‘bit’ is performed without an ounce of subtlety.

~ by chrismcdevitt on October 6, 2008.

6 Responses to “Comedian Defends Offensive Act”

  1. I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for throwing this up.

  2. I think it’s one hell of an act… he not only make digs on moslems but on jews and catholics as well. I am a devout catholic but I did not get offended. It was just for fun. You people should lighten up.

    Go Jeff D.! Love your act! Hoping for more to come!

  3. I think its a killer act too. Keep it comin jeff!

  4. you know what you ppl dont have to watch Jeff Dunham’s act if you dont want too. Jeff Dunham is the greatest comedian i have ever seen and i love to watch stand up comedy. you dont like it dont watch it. this is america you are not being forced to watch

  5. Jeff Dunham is perhaps the greatest ventriloquist on earth… or at least the funniest

  6. Granted jeff has some balls. But its all in good fun. Sometimes comedians make us laugh at the absurdities of life. Suicide bombers exist because they actually believe they will survive being blown up in some way. Jeff points at this by creating a puppet that we can laugh at, so we can find this idea truly absurd together and not give it any true merit or fear it.

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