Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Jeff Dunham: I’m With Cupid’ on Comedy Central, a new special filled with love and sex jokes for dummies

Over the course of 12 specials in 18 years, ventriloquist Jeff Dunham has dedicated an hour each for Christmas and Thanksgiving (in 2008 and 2020, respectively), and now in 2024, Dunham is back with his beloved dummies, asking them for their thoughts on love, sex and relationships in time for Valentine’s Day.

The Gist: This also is Dunham’s third in a three-special deal since returning to Comedy Central after a dalliance with Netflix from 2017-2019, following up on 2020’s Jeff Dunham’s Completely Unrehearsed Last-Minute Pandemic Holiday Special and 2022’s Jeff Dunham: Me the People.

Available so far only on Comedy Central via TV providers and not on Paramount+ (?!?), not yet anyhow, Dunham has put two of his most popular puppet sidekicks in the Valentine’s mood by modifying them for the occasion. Walter has wings and a halo, dressed down to his underwater to play Cupid. And Dunham’s most controversial character, Achmed the Dead Terrorist, now identifies as “Achamedes, Greek god of KEELER LOVE.”

What Comedy Specials Will It Remind You Of?: Terry Fator and teenager Darci Lynne Farmer may be famous ventriloquists themselves for each winning America’s Got Talent, but they’re all still following the lead and playing catch up in touring, specials, and fame to Dunham.

Memorable Jokes: The most obvious Valentine’s tie-in arrives early in the show when Dunham brings us the most revealing version of Walter yet, wearing only “wings and Depends.” “I’m half naked and my nipples are chapped,” says Dunham’s oldest and longest-serving sidekick, before cracking wise about Walter’s own longtime marriage and his resemblance to President Joe Biden.

Bubba J’s appearance includes inferences to inbreeding and incompetence, exhibited both through jokes about Bubba J sharing the exact same DNA as his wife as well as his signature bit set to music, “Drinkin’ & Thinkin’,” which is pretty much the shallower version of SNL’s “Deep Thoughts with Jack Handey.”

Dunham introduces Jose alongside Peanut to have the two characters roast each other, so to speak, while also having Peanut answer pre-written questions from audience members.

And then there’s Achamedes. Not to be confused with actual Greek mathematician and physicist Archimedes, this is how Dunham spins Achmed the Dead Terrorist for this hour, trading “I kill you!” for “I kill you…with love.” Dunham also indulges in a wordplay miscommunication routine with Achamedes over ewe vs. you, and then engages in some subtle misdirection with the audience that seems to back Dunham into corners while really setting us all up for a big crowd-pleasing finish.

Photo: Comedy Central

Our Take: The least divisive and most palatable comedy for Dunham or perhaps any ventriloquist are bits in which the ventriloquist shows off their skills or uses their puppetry to mock their supposed master. Dunham does always exhibit more of the latter than the former. Such as when Dunham asks Bubba J how he could be so smart on the one hand and so stupid on the other, Bubba J zings back: “Well, you’re half of it.” Later, the same puppet acknowledges after a joke: “Hey, hey, he thinks this crap up, not me!”

But this crowd definitely laps up the more politically-charged material.

Jokes at Biden’s expense are to be expected, not only because he’s the sitting president but also since Dunham’s crowd leans conservative. It’s wild, however, that they give Dunham an even bigger applause break for a joke at Nancy Pelosi’s expense. In 2024. She’s not even in Congressional leadership any longer. And yet digs about her age and looks are big hits with Dunham’s crowd.

Then there are the multiple jokes about gender and sexuality. With a Valentine’s theme, we should expect punchlines focused below the belt, as it were, and yet all of Dunham’s characters are laser-focused on protecting their heteronormativity. Bubba J talks about a gender reveal at the wedding, but it’s about his bride and not his future child. “Always a nail biter, right guys?” When Dunham asks Peanut for his sexual orientation while setting up a dating profile, the puppet prefers to answer in navigational directions, except when expressing his fear of cramped quarters with Jose becoming sexual. Having Achmed identify as someone else also is a choice.

But if you wonder what Dunham’s LGBTQ+ fans think of it, he’s more than willing to have the cameras spotlight a lesbian couple in the crowd who had asked Peanut for relationship advice. Peanut and Dunham’s reply? “Clearly we don’t have anything you need.” If they’re laughing it up, then why should we have a problem with it?

Our Call: Dunham’s never going to win any joke-writing awards, but he still fills arenas with his “that’s what she said” material. And as he and Peanut respond to one man who asked if spending their 10th wedding anniversary at his show served as a suitable gift for his wife: “10th is warm beer and a puppet show — yes, you’re good Frank.” If you’re still a cable subscriber, it might be easier to STREAM IT since it’s only on Comedy Central on demand for now. Otherwise, you may want to SKIP IT until Paramount gets its act together to put Dunham’s special on Paramount+.

Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat. He also podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.