LINCOLN — Jeff Dunham came to Pinnacle Bank Arena on Sunday afternoon. So did Achmed the Dead Terrorist, Little Jeff, Peanut, Jose Jalapeno, Walter the Grumpy Retiree and The Coffee Guy.
Wild-haired and eyed, wearing a disheveled suit with a cigarette jammed between his fingers, The Coffee Guy is seriously over-caffienated, shaking, screaming and raving about Starbucks.
He’s the latest creation of ventriloquist Dunham and made his appearance midway through a two-hour show that kept the crowd of more than 8,000 laughing from start to finish.
Dunham opened with 30 minutes of stand-up, making the first of many jokes about the weather — suffice it to say that Achmed doesn’t care for the cold either. That intro traced Dunham’s career via some embarrassing pictures and set up a rapid-fire march of characters.
That started with Achmed and 90 minutes later wrapped up with the curmudgeonly Walter answering questions from showgoers — demonstrating that Dunham is as hilarious when he’s improvising as he is when he’s following his script.
That show, however, constantly changes. Dunham said he performs like a rock band, taking some of the required bits for each character and adding new stuff within each character’s routine. With The Coffee Guy, Dunham said he was writing new material while trapped in his tour bus. It was too cold for Californians in Lincoln on Sunday.
That meant some of the laughs came from familiar lines, others from new stuff. And when Dunham comes back in a couple years — a near certainty given Sunday’s attendance — the entire show will be different.
Among the highlights was his use of the Little Jeff doll, not so coincidentally sold at the merchandise stands, to explain old-school ventriloquism. Then Little Jeff got all sarcastic on the big version and real Jeff wound up rolling around on the floor trying to choke the little guy out.
It was also of note that a couple of Obamacare jokes fell pretty flat in comparison to the routines that drew huge laughs. Or at least that’s how it played eight rows back, directly in front of the stage.
But Dunham seemed to connect with those who filled the arena’s lower bowl, suites and second level.
After seven years in arenas, he’s got the presentation down. A giant screen above the stage projected Dunham and his sidekicks a couple stories tall, giving those in back essentially the same view as those of us who were far closer.
Dunham’s was the arena’s first comedy show. If nothing else, it proved that comedy will work as well there as does music and basketball, while confirming Dunham’s popularity and his laugh-inducing talent.