The TV Column by Lisa de Moraes
PASADENA, Calif., July 29 Jeff Dunham Show: Funny as a Block of [Expletive] Wood
Not my headline -- it's Dunham's, along with a slew of others he fed to TV critics who'd been giving him withering looks at Summer TV Press Tour 2009.
Comic/ventriloquist Dunham is a monster ratings magnet for Comedy Central. His Christmas special, with 6.6 million viewers viewing, was the network's most watched program -- ever.
Not surprisingly, Comedy Central wanted to do a series with him, which will debut on the network in October.
Not surprisingly, Comedy Central also wanted to bring Dunham to the press tour to promote the show. Press tour is that semiannual confab when TV critics and The Reporters Who Cover Television all shack up in a hotel in Los Angeles and TV networks take turns trotting out their new programs and -- the very brave networks -- their executives for Q&As.
Dunham thought he could have the TV critics eating out of his hand if, before taking questions, he treated them to some of his "old tired [ventriloquism]" to which he's given "fresh paint."
TV critics don't much go in for ventriloquism.
"It's a tough crowd. There's more tension here than in Chris Brown's car," Dunham said via his Grumpy Old Man puppet named Walter.
It's not the first time someone has died onstage at the press tour.
It is, however, the first time TV critics have stomped and danced on the carcass.
Maybe it's because Dunham was the third or fourth person in less than two days at the tour who has openly mocked them. It's an interesting strategy for trying to influence critics to say nice things about your TV show.
In Dunham's case, Walter delivered the nastiest bits because, Dunham later explained, Walter can get away with saying stuff he, Dunham, can't.