LOS ANGELES, June 2, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- So much for freedom of speech. While comedian/ventriloquist Jeff Dunham's controversial character, Achmed the Dead Terrorist, went over shockingly well on his "All Over the Map" world tour stops in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and Tel Aviv, Israel, Malaysia was another story.
Malaysia's Ministry of Culture and Arts demanded that Dunham make major modifications to his star character, Achmed the Dead Terrorist, including name and likeness changes as well as steering clear of any reference to "virgins" or any other words which might contain religious overtones. Achmed the Dead Terrorist helped rocket the comedian/ventriloquist to unprecedented success and a bit of eyebrow raising with a controversial show and a signature catchphrase of "I KEEL YOU!"
"While I respect the wishes of our host country, I'm also an American and a firm believer in the freedom of speech. On the other hand, I wanted to avoid Achmed and I getting thrown in jail and being caned," says Dunham, who was forced to change-up Achmed and rewrite a large percentage of their act within hours of the scheduled performance.
"So let's just say that the character that took center stage in Malaysia was strikingly familiar to all in attendance, but it was a last minute twist that became the highlight of the entire tour," he explains. "Who knew Achmed had a brother?"
Back to the good news - one of two things could've happened when Dunham took Achmed the Dead Terrorist to the Middle East. Any of each of the three audiences he performed in front of could have been irrevocably offended and the evening could have quite literally ended in disaster. Or they could've remembered that, regardless of conflicting beliefs, they were there to be entertained by one of the funniest, cleverest, and most universally appealing talents.
Lucky for Dunham, that's exactly what's made him a comic force to be reckoned with all of these years - he is that universally appealing talent who can break down cultural, political, and religious walls and successfully entertain crowds regardless of opposing beliefs.
The act was met with thunderous applause, huge laughs, and standing ovations, both in Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv. "There's no way to walk away from this without thinking, 'What the hell just happened here?'" says Dunham. "Both of these very different audiences agreed on something equally, and that was their support of a goofball terrorist puppet."
Continues Dunham, "I believe that most people throughout the world share the same general concerns, hopes, and loves, so no matter where we're from, or what our individual beliefs or culture, we all tend to laugh at the same things... Like an inept suicide bomber whose love of life harshly conflicts with his own profession."
Dunham is completing a historic round-the-world tour across five continents, 12 countries, and 19 cities in just over a month, and those live shows will be featured in his next comedy special for Comedy Central, assuming he finds his way out of Malaysia.
"I'm glad that what we proved in the Middle East continued in Southeast Asia. If not, it might have marked the first time that the U.S. Military was asked to rescue a comedian and a dead terrorist," he adds.