Nelson’s Instant Ventriloquism, finding ventriloquism to be a learned skill, 10 Years of the Jeff Dunham show 2009 2019 show signature shirt similar to juggling, that anyone with a normal speaking voice can acquire. Dunham has explained that, as an only child, he enjoyed being alone, likening his solitude to a “warm blanket” with which he could explore his own thoughts and ideas, which prepared him for the solitude of living alone when he later moved to Los Angeles as a struggling comedian. When Dunham was in the sixth grade, he began attending the Vent Haven ConVENTion in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, an annual international meeting of ventriloquists that includes competitions, where he met Jimmy Nelson in person. Dunham has missed only one ConVENTion since then, in 1977.
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The organizers of the ConVENTion eventually declared Dunham 10 Years of the Jeff Dunham show 2009 2019 show signature shirt “retired champion”, ineligible from entering any more competitions, as other attendees were too intimidated to compete against him. The Vent Haven Museum devotes a section to Dunham, alongside Señor Wences and his idol, Edgar Bergen. He caught a break in 1985 when he was asked to join the Broadway show Sugar Babies with Mickey Rooney and Ann Miller, replacing an outgoing variety act. For the naive and devoutly-raised Dunham, Broadway was a new world filled with beautiful showgirls and crusty stagehands, and his first taste of entertainment industry egos came when Rooney called Dunham into his dressing room.