It is hard to objectively judge comedy — what makes someone funny greatly depends on the audience, and every comedian has the potential to offend someone.
But when the entire basis of a comedy act is based on stereotypes, one should rethink laughing at these jokes.
Jeff Dunham will be returning to the Bryce Jordan Center this Friday, where he can easily reach his target audience of conservative white folks — the population generally found in central Pennsylvania.
Dunham is one of the world’s wealthiest and most successful comedians, and the majority of his scripts are based on stereotypes and racism. And while he does have a character mocking old white men, this does not justify the blatant racism behind his other characters.
As a ventriloquist, Dunham’s performances consist of him having conversations with a variety of puppets, all created from his own mind. His most controversial characters include Achmed the dead terrorist and José Jalapeño, a Mexican immigrant.
Dunham has specifically stated that he knows making fun of 9/11 will never be funny, and Achmed was created to make fun of Osama bin Laden instead — but making any jokes associated with the terror attacks on 9/11 should be condemned.
In his latest Netflix special — which is tagged as “politically incorrect” on the streaming site — Dunham jokes that he has been hesitant to bring out his beloved José Jalapeño since President Trump was elected. He also said in today’s politically correct climate, some people don’t think it is okay for him to talk to José.
It is not okay to make insensitive jokes about Mexican immigrants especially when this special was filmed in Dallas, a city that relies greatly on its immigrant populations and is greatly affected by Trump’s policies.
Clearly, people find Dunham funny, and this probably will not change considering his ongoing success. But his fans should be sure to understand how problematic his characters are.
Dunham pokes fun at politicians as most comedians do, and has created a new character who serves as one of Trump’s advisers. When telling Cincinnati.com about the character, he even said he has to be careful due to the “political-correctness garbage” present in the United States today.
He is also quoted saying he has only offended a small percentage of people, but how is it possible for him to know this for sure? How does he define offending someone and where are these numbers coming from?
It is impossible for comedians to understand the experiences of every individual, so this should not be a standard for what is acceptable in comedy. But Dunham and his supporters need to better acknowledge that his jokes are offensive to many populations.