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Jeff Dunham has been snowballing into great popularity in the last five years. For those of you with your minds in the gutters, I’m referring to another definition for snowballing. The entertainer (I’ll refrain from using the word “comedian”) has built a career based on ventriloquism, which is difficult to do it today’s comedy world. Now, I’m not going to jump off the handle and call him a racist, but I’ll let you decide. Here are some of his characters:

José Jalapeño on a Stick, a jalapeño with a Hispanic accent, glazed eyes, a thick moustache and a sombrero.

Achmed the Dead Terrorist, a skeleton with a turban who speaks with an Arab accent and makes violent threats.

Sweet Daddy Dee, an African-American pimp, complete with broken grammar, a loud suit, and bling. I don’t think elaboration is needed.

So, what makes his characters so much different than Frito Bandito, who angered groups such as the National Mexican-American Anti-Defamation Committee for what was seen as a negative portrayal of Mexicans. Even the Taco Bell Chihuahua met protests from groups like this.

What makes Achmed so much different than the Merchant from Aladdin, whose lyrics “They cut off your nose if they don’t like your face” brought forth protest from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee? While the lyrics ma have been offensive, Dunham’s character says such offensive and stereotypical lines on a regular basis.

What makes Sweet Daddy Dee, with his flashy suit and poor grammar, any different than the Crows from Dumbo? Wait. Never mind. I found the difference. While Disney attempted to at least thinly mask the characters by making them animals. Dunham just removes the middleman and presents his character as an African-American man.

Of course, Jeff Dunham has heard accusations of racism, and has tried to defend himself. In an article for the New York Times, the author writes “He defends himself by noting that he tries to insult all races and ethnicities equally, and ultimately seems to treat jokes about all Indians being customer-service operators or all black people drinking malt liquor not all that differently from jokes involving other well-worn comedic tropes — like all wives being annoying nags or Florida being way too humid.”

That’s right. He treats any ethnic stereotype as very mild jokes. He says that his puppets are a result of his distaste for political correctness, not his projections about his feelings toward any ethnic group. The problem is, of course, that there is a pretty thick line between being politically incorrect and being straight-up offensive. I think Mr. Dunham may not know exactly what constitutes political correctness. It’s not refraining from saying offensive words, it’s refraining from saying seemingly commonplace words that can be construed as offensive, but are not blatantly so.

Being politically incorrect is the difference between saying “black” and “African-American.” It starts toeing the line into racism when he Dunham shouts (through one of his characters, of course) to Mexicans as a collective group “Learn [naughty word] English!”

Being politically incorrect is knowing the difference between “waiter”/”waitress” and “server.” Jeff Dunham, however, stands on the other side of the line when (again, through a character), he says “I would not kill the Jews. No. I would toss a penny between them and watch them fight to the death!”

Given this information, is Jeff Dunham a racist? The stereotypes are certainly blatant, and they mirror or even further stereotypes brought out by other characters. It isn’t a thinly veiled racism he presents. Jeff Dunham is proud to get laughs from each character, no matter which stereotype is exacerbated or whatever offensive comment is made. So decide for yourself just what you are laughing at when you applaud these stereotypes.

UPDATE: Usually when I bring up this topic, fans on Jeff Dunham tend to reply “Well, he has two white characters, so he can’t be racist.” His white characters are Walter, a cranky old man, and Bubba J, a redneck who loves NASCAR and beer. So do they balance out the racial stereotypes of Jose, Achmed, and Sweet Daddy Dee?
They would balance out the characters in the same way that the slow-witted Elmer Fudd and the constantly angry cowboy Yosemite Sam balance out this Looney Tunes gem:

I’m a huge proponent of the theory of evolution. It’s not a radical stance, but yet to some, I am living a lie thinking I share so much in common with other animals. The most common rebuttals: “Well if we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys at the zoo?” “Where are the transitional forms?” and “Isn’t evolution just a theory?”

The first is easy to respond to. The theory of evolution doesn’t say we evolved from monkeys, it says primates share the same ancestor. Humans, monkeys, apes, and gorillas shared an ancestor millions and millions of years ago.

The second, and possibly my favorite because it does deal with an evolutionary fallacy which was later met with a solution from scientists. For years it was extremely difficult to find the transition form between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens. That was of course, when they realized something: the human body is ever-changing – it gets rid of organs and finds better uses for others. The appendix is one piece of evidence suggesting transition forms are ever-present. It is an utterly useless piece of tissue that hangs off the intestine, but it’s still there, serving no purpose. It is theorized that it used to be a part of the immune system, but it later became defunct due to the rise of medicine. So my response to the transitional form question? “Look in the mirror.” Humans are constantly moving from one stage to the next. The average human today is taller than the average human centuries ago. Every species on Earth is at a transitional stage.

However, it’s that final question that creationists seem to spurt out constantly, with the feeling that they can stop and evolutionist in his tracks. “Well, evolution is just  a theory.It’s true, evolution is, after all, just a theory. No scientist or teacher refers to it as “the fact of evolution.” They refer to it as “the theory of evolution.

I enjoy reading out of my English 1310 textbook, The Arlington Reader. Every time I need to use the restroom, I open the book to an essay that looks promising, and I read it. You’d be amazed how much reading you get done if you do that. One of the essays I turned to once was called “Evolution as Fact and Theory” by celebrated professor Stephen Jay Gould. I was interested, but it was a bit long. After doing my research on Dr. Gould, I came across the fact that he was once on The Simpsons. That’s when I knew he was a scientist I needed to take seriously. In Dr. Gould’s essay, I came across what I think is one of the most important paragraphs in this debate. It reads:

Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered.”


I don’t think many could define the theory of evolution quite as well as Dr. Gould did fifteen years ago when this essay was published. Even the Catholic Church took evolution seriously when evangelicals were deriding it. Pope Pius XII actually said, “There is no opposition between evolution and the doctrine of faith. He called it a “serious hypothesis.” Fifty years later Pope John Paul II, with words that were for some reason shrugged off my much of the religious community, said that evolution is far more than just simple theory. In a very simple, but very profound statement, he said to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, “Truth cannot contradict truth.” “Today,” said the Pope, “new knowledge has led to the recognition of evolution as much more than a hypothesis.”


So to make this short: the idea of “theory” is far greater than you tend to imagine it. What you learned in grade school about what a theory about isn’t what the scientific community accepts as theory, and therefore is about as useful when arguing against evolution as reciting Thomas the Tank Engine is when debating over engineering problems.

Read while you are at it:

http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_fact-and-theory.html

http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_jp02tc.htm

My name is Adrian Ramirez. I am a student at Texas State University, and I am quite fond of it. Unlike my friend, roommate, and accomplice Dan Japko, I do not have a particular subject I feel I should write about. However, don’t think I am insinuating inferiority to Mr. Japko. Although he is a witty and fantastic writer, I am in no way subservient or lower than he is.
Because of my lack of a specific interest of mine for this thread, I think it appropriate that I should tell you all about myself. Hey, you’ve come this far; I bet you’re all sorts of interested in me. No? Well, you’re reading this, so guess who wins?

(I do.)

I was born in Abilene, but I don’t remember too much of it, because my family moved to San Antonio before I was two years old. I was raised in San Antonio, and I went to high school at Central Catholic High School, an all-male school smack in the middle of downtown. My mom was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico and my dad was born in the Bronx, so while my mom’s attitude toward San Antonio was one of being overwhelmed at its size, my dad used to talk about how small and friendly San Antonio was.
I love travelling, by the way. Though I’ve lived in Texas all my life, I’ve been outside the state at least once every year since the age of three. When I was 17, I got to go out of the country for the first time, on a two week summer program to Japan. The next year I went to Australia. Maybe I’ll tell you in another blog about all my overseas shenanigans. Trust me, there are a lot of them.
As you can probably tell from now, I love writing, and I also enjoy reading on my downtime. This last summer I read all seven Harry Potter books. I have quite an eye for literature, don’t I? As far as writing goes, I was a member of the newspaper and yearbook staffs for my junior and senior years of high school, and I was even the student life editor for the paper. I’m just that good with words.
Well, my dear reader, I figure I’ll leave you at that, because you’ve got other blogs to read. Check back again some time, maybe I’ll have something excellent to read. Or maybe just a blog about making trouble on an Australian beach. Either way, it’ll be fun.

-Adrian.