The first thing you notice when entering ventriloquist-producer-comedian Jeff Dunham’s home office is the 7-foot, full-size replica of Robby the Robot, a character from the 1956 film “Forbidden Planet.”
“He’s fully functional. He lights up. He talks. He moves,” said Dunham, 54, who bought the 7,200-square-foot Calabasas home with his wife two years ago.
Bookshelves house rows of toys; some are keepsakes from Dunham’s childhood and college years, others are more recent purchases to replace toys he always wanted or those that were lost to time or one of his mother’s decluttering sprees.
The puppeteer was named Forbes’ fourth-highest-grossing comedian last year and is currently on tour, performing 10 to 12 shows a month.
Many of the jokes I write and the bits and the routines I come up with are born in this office. The dummies are created here. So it’s a special place.
The toys are mainly for inspiration. What I do for a living is whimsical and fun and ridiculous. I’m supposed to make people laugh. We all have that child in us. For many people, that child gets pushed into a corner. But if you want to be creative, that little kid can never go away.
What’s your favorite toy?
The pants-down blushing Frankenstein. It’s a tin mechanical toy from the 1960s that moves his arms and sways back and forth and makes a scary noise. Then his pants fall down, and his face turns red.
You and your wife, Audrey, had twins in October. Have the boys been eyeing the toys?
They’re not old enough to appreciate the toys. But it’s going to be an interesting fight at some point. It’s going to be like, “No, those are Daddy’s toys.”
A lot of recent toys have been purchased with the excuse that, “Gosh, Audrey, the boys will love this.”
The room also has a century-old carpenter’s bench with a bunch of hand tools. Why?
I do the messy stuff, working with the chemicals and sanding, in the garage. But if I’m going to paint the dummies, do any delicate work or tinker with the mechanics, I sit at this workbench.
Where have the dummies been a hit that surprised you?
Abu Dhabi. It’s a Muslim country. I was scared to death. I was like, ‘How in the world did we get booked here?’ But we sold 4,000 seats. They thought Achmed the Dead Terrorist was the greatest.
In what part of the world do people not get the dummies?
Probably Washington, D.C., because they blend in.