Tired of reporters telling you Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are neck and neck in the polls? Well, ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, currently on tour and filling arenas nightly with a new show called Perfectly Unbalanced, has a pretty good idea who he thinks the next president will be, even before the Republican and Democratic conventions are held.
Performing Saturday night at the BB&T Arena in Northern Kentucky University with his famous puppets, including Achmed the Dead Terrorist and grumpy Walter, the immensely popular ventriloquist has a nightly ritual. At one point during the show I attended on Saturday, Dunham decided to take a poll by applause. “Cheer for the candidate you support,” he told the crowd. Hillary Clinton’s name was said first: enthusiastic whoops and applause. When Dunham said “Trump,” however, the rafters shook with bellows, whoops, and clapping.
“I have to say, we have been all over the country, and I ask this at every show,” Dunham told the audience. “No matter where we go — and we go even to the Northwest, some of the left-left-leftiest places you could imagine. And the response is the same. I’d say about 10 percent [for Hillary] versus 90 percent [for Trump]. Maybe it’s a 20/80 split. But the majority is consistent — everywhere.”
Dunham allowed that “you have to figure in who it is that comes to my shows,” which is indeed a big factor: Dunham’s crowd this night was overwhelmingly white and on the late end of middle-aged. So adjust your faith in his impromptu poll accordingly. Still, Dunham was performing in what is billed as “Greater Cincinnati’s live entertainment destination,” a scant few miles from the site of the Republican convention this week, so he may know which way the wind is blowing as well as any member of the media. (It was also, Dunham noted, near the Hebron, Ky., site of the Vent Haven ConVENTion, the largest gathering of ventriloquists in the world. Attendees were invited to the show as well, so I guess that means Trump can boast of having the Dummy Majority.)
Dunham, who appears frequently on Fox News — a montage of his appearances on various Fox shows, from The O’Reilly Factor to Fox and Friends, was shown on a huge screen in the Kentucky concert hall — did a parody of the network on Saturday night. Calling his channel “Foxy News,” it could be used by Gretchen Carlson’s lawyers as proof of a certain common opinion of what sort of women work at the channel. In the pretaped bit projected onscreen, Achmed, calling himself “Achmedina” and wearing a blond wig “because only blondes work here,” interviewed Walter, who wore a billowy orange wig, passing himself off as a Trump substitute called “Wonald Grump.” Subtlety is something Dunham has little use for: To get candidate Grump to open up and give him a news scoop, the blond-wigged Achmed spread his legs in front of a horrified Grump, to the cheers of the audience.
Will Fox News air Dunham’s version of “Foxy News” the next time he appears on one of its shows? Not likely. And it remains to be seen if Dunham’s presidential poll actually predicted a winner.