Friday, January 07, 2011

All By My Selves

All By My Selves: Walter, Peanut, Achmed, and MeDay six of a major pain flare-up. It's been awhile since I had one last this long and be this intense. It's frustrating, because I had gotten the house to place where I was very happy with it and was working regularly to keep it up. Now the Christmas decorations need to come down, and I have no idea when it will happen. I'm trying to stay positive, not allow the pain to affect the way I treat my family, and go with the flow. Eventually the pain will lessen, and then I can get back to business. For now, I'll keep reading.

All By My Selves by Jeff Dunham is a quirky autobiography by an equally quirky man. Dunham has achieved international fame through his comedic ventriloquism act with puppets Walter, Peanut, Achmed, and more. He traces the course of that journey through this book that begins with his eighth Christmas when his parents purchased him a ventriloquist's dummy named Mortimer Snerd. Something changed in Dunham permanently that day and he began practicing how to operate the vent (that is the term used in the business for the puppet or dummy) and speaking without using his lips. After giving a book report with Mortimer, he discovered that he could make people laugh, and there was no turning back. Dunham spent his junior high and high school years traveling to ventriloquist conventions, performing for summer camps, business dinners, and eventually doing commercials for a local car dealership. Dunham's writing is interspersed with lines from his crowd of characters commenting on his lack of love life and major geekdom (Dunham is a huge fan of Star Trek, to the point of carrying a credit card with the Enterprise on it!). The book exposes Dunham as a genuinely likable man who is very driven to succeed. He sees opportunities where others would see walls and is constantly working to improve himself and his act. The book is a surprisingly enjoyable read. Dunham's writing voice is very conversational and friendly, and the interruptions by his characters lighten the mood and keep the story moving smoothly. The best parts are his stories of the road, how he cobbled together a Jose the Jalapeno from posterboard and masking tape when the airport lost his luggage, when a taking care of a heckler turned into a horrifying gaffe, rigging up his vent to move on its own for the high school talent show, and doing donuts in the parking lot of White Castle. Dunham is just as hilarious in book form as he is on stage, and when readers finish the book, they will want to immediately watch his DVDs now that they know the secret behind some of the best bits. If you are already a fan, you'll love this book, and if you aren't one, the book will make you one.

Thank you to the publisher, Dutton Books, for providing me with a copy of this book for review!