Saturday, October 22, 2011

Trying to set things Right 
This is an open letter to any ventriloquist who has ever lived or ever will; and everyone else I have offended lately:
I have a friend who's aunt died in an old folks home knitting the ski mask she planned on wearing when she assassinated Bob Hope.  No one knew what her beef was with Bob Hope or why she planned to kill him but it consumed every part of her senior years.  Everyone just thought she was crazy.
Just the other day I flashed ahead in time to an old man sitting in an old folks home  carving a puppet he would use to assassinate Jeff Dunham.  I then realized that old guy could be me in a decade or so. I didn't like the picture.
I am a ventriloquist and perhaps for a while I forgot that I am also a human being. I would hate to end a lifetime as the best ventriloquist I could be without also being the best human I could be. 
As a ventriloquist when I make a mistake I try my best to correct it to help make my performance better; now as a human being I have to correct a mistake I made to help make my life better.  
I will cut to the chase.
If you read this blog regularly you will know that in the past I  have written some things that were very hateful about Jeff Dunham. Don't bother looking, they have all been taken down now, but the fact that they were there at all is not something that makes me very proud of myself at this moment.  Each one was childish, presumptuous, mean spirited and unsolicited. At this point I can't imagine why I would have wasted the Ethernet on such pompous crap. I have hypocritically railed against such infantile postings from other blog writers. I needed to turn that observation to my own page. 
I have known Jeff Dunham for a very long time and our careers have even dovetailed in some esoteric way. We went to the same high school and our kids attended the same school in Los Angeles.  We shared Ventriloquist week on the Letterman show, and played the same Comedy Clubs early on. We even sit on the board of Advisors for Vent Haven together. I have an 8x10 black and white glossy of Jeff  accepting my "Vent of the Year" plaque when I was unable to accept it in person years ago. We even live on the same street in the same California suburb. I wouldn't say we were as close as Benny and Burns but I never questioned that we were friends. 
Then several years ago I bummed a ride home on his plane from Louisville to LA after a conVENTion. After a long ride and a bottle of Kentucky Bourbon, I thought our relationship had taken a huge step forward. I saw his arena show and finally "got" what he was doing out there. I had been so busy trying to make a Broadway show work that I hadn't noticed what was going on in his career. It was quite amazing. 
I didn't get to enjoy that place very long. Within a week all hell broke loose and we found ourselves on opposite sides of a legal issue. 
It is not important now and most everyone else involved moved on from that disaster, but I did not. In fact, it never went away for me.  It is not a problem that consumed me 24/7 but it never really went away. When something would trigger the feelings I went immediately into a very dark place.  Those feelings came out in my blog several times, and got progressively more odious and personal in the form of attacks on Jeff.  If I could knit, I might have started a ski mask.  
Don't know who I thought I was to call Jeff out on the Internet.  To his credit he never responded in kind, can't say that I took the same high road. I really can't undo it... even though it doesn't exist on this blog anymore... it is still out there somewhere. If nowhere else, it still stinks up my own consciousness. Feels pretty stupid and small for a guy my age to have done... I should have known better than to break my own professional credo. "What would Jimmy Nelson do?"
I would love to blame it on Bipolar disorder, but it is actually a case of asshole-ism. It is my own fault and there is no one responsible for the noxious bile but me.   But like I said,  all I can do is correct it and try to make the act of my life better. Unfortunately to do that I have to own the damage I have done and accept total responsibility. There is no such thing as ignoramus insurance. I probably couldn't get it anyway because of  pre-existing ignorance.
So... no more stupid personal rants about Jeff Dunham or anyone else.  I have reached out to Jeff personally to apologise but doubt he will return my call. Who could blame him? He doesn't owe me a thing.  And what I owe him now is just safe passage through my thoughts and my blog without the insulting gauntlet. 
I was told as a writer you have to be honest.  I've tried my best to do that here. However, I forgot for a couple of years that honesty is not the same as childish name calling. 
Sorry Jeff... you didn't deserve it, from me....especially me.
Over and done,


Steve Axtell said...

So wonderful to read from a man big enough to admit wrong and make it right. You are one of my heroes Jay. The stage is now set for healing and restoration. Ax

P. Grecian said...

You never cease to impress me.

Steve Petra said...

Wow, at first it must have felt like you were rubbing salt into a self inflicted would, but in fact you were dressing that wound. I've suffered from the same pre-existing condition and can relate to the process.
I never read the anti-Jeff posts but have seen your show multiple times and continue to be inspired by you professionally, and personally.

Jeff Dunham said...

Thank you for this blog entry. I've made it a policy at this point to never respond to negative Internet postings or commentaries about myself, but a positive one such as this deserves attention and thanks, mainly because I know how difficult it must have been for you to write. I've admired and respected you both as performer and person since first meeting you in 1974, and I have appreciated your acquaintance, advice, and friendship throughout all these decades. I'm happy that this can now seemingly continue.
On another and more important note, I was saddened to hear of the passing of your father. The couple of times I met him many years ago, he was nothing but kind to me and obviously very proud of you, even before Soap. The best way I can describe his countenance when talking about you was 'beaming'. I know he must feel the same even now.
Thanks again for your latest blog entry. And by the way: That assassin dummy you were considering killing me with: Would it have been of the explosive type, or fitted with some sort of projectile weaponry?
Just curious.
See you on the road,
Jeff Dunham

Jay Johnson said...


Ps... Thanks for your thoughts on Dad. I miss him very much.

Ken Dumm said...

Jay, we've never met, but I've admired your career thought out the years. After reading this blog entry, I respect you even more as a person. Thank you for sharing this, as it inspires me even more to always do and think the right way.

P. Grecian said...

And there's Dunham weighing in. How absolutely perfect is this? Two legends in the same thread...and both impressing me. Seriously, I've got the goofiest smile just now.

Roomie said...

We are all just human beings with flaws, but to admit those is something else are our HERO!!!!!!
Carry on,
ps...we like the projectile idea as well....

Tonda said...

Jay, you have always been my hero but I am just enormously proud of you for this realization and the courage it took to write and post it. I remain your first, forever, and most devoted fan for eternity. I love you.

Steve Axtell said...

What a cool reply Jeff. Very big of both of you.

Dave Carr said...

From watching you perform and abserving your personallity and even talking to you.....I Knew you had it in you. You are a good person and I could see that. You are a better person now, for realizing your mistake and letting people know before ANY Person would tell you. That takes Strength
and a Good heart. I Knew you had a
good heart when I got to meet you and talk to you. And now.. so does
Sincerely, Dave Carr

John Ivy said...

This is an incredibly rare type of blog exchange, and I'm cross-posting it!!

Tiffany Cox said...


(and that goes to both Jay and Jeff)

p.s. I, too, love the projectile idea. :)

Anonymous said...

Im so glad my 2 Favorite vents in the World have made nice. but I also think you have the makings for quite possibly the Best Crazed Ventriloquist Murder Movie ever made. or Broadway play. what a great project for you both to work on.
-Daray Pringle

Bob Baker said...

Jay and Jeff:

You have both shown yourselves to be mensches.
Our national leaders could learn a thing or two from you.

Best to you both,

Bob baker

Mike Brose said...

Very heart warming to see this exchange. I tip my hat to both Jay and Jeff. Mike Brose

Terry L. Tidwell said...

Absolutely inspiring attitudes from both men involved...I salute both of you gentlemen for your work, passion, sharing, and most importantly--Honesty.

Terry L. Tidwell

P.S. Jeff, you might wanna make sure Achmed doesn't see the drawing of the puppet-assasin, he has enough wild ideas as it is....I'd hide it from Walter too, come to think of it.

Anonymous said...

Jay, I've admired you since first seeing you on "Sha-Na-Na" in the 1970's! SO sorry to hear about your dad. I sat with your folks during your lecture on vent at the 1990 conVENTion, & they both could NOT have been nicer! {just like their son}. All the best to you now, & in the future. Bill Smith

Val Hilliker Comedy Ventriloquist said...

Wow Jay, Love your humility in this post and Jeff's forgiving response.
Loved the way you both found a way of bringing humor to the situation, I believe that is what makes you both great vents.

Neale Bacon said...

Confirms my opinion that these are two class acts. A lot of us could stand to learn from this.

Bob Folkers said...

I am almost speechless. Life is hard and, more often than not, stupidity grabs each of us a time or two in our lives. The sign of a good person is the one who will try their best to make it right. Most people do not have the class or guts to admit when they are wrong or have reacted in a mean way. I couldn't be more proud of Jay AND Jeff for his response. I have always believed Jay to be a great guy and human being. For him to admit when he was wrong, and in public, just reinforces it. Jeff has always taken the high road and for him to be so gracious is a sign of a great human being. I am so proud of both of you.

Bob Folkers

Lee Cornell said...

Kudos to both you and Jeff. This just adds to the respect I've had for both of you over the decades, both as talents and as people.

Anonymous said...

I thought the comments of Jay's blog and Jeff's answer and the above comments were all, moving.

Bill DeMar

Alan Semok said...

Such a wonderful and heartfelt entry Jay. I think you know how much I value the friendship I have with both of you, as well as the respect and admiration I feel for you both.
I am so happy...and relieved... to see fences mended.
Life, after all, is too short.

Wanlu said...

Very nice... Jay and Jeff inspire a lot of us specially the newbie vents like me.

May God bless you both...


Russ Lewis Russo said...

in playful worded battles, you both did honor to the code, lifted our spirits, on, and now off-stage. "A clown is a warrior against gloom and doom." -Red Skelton.

Stephen Knowles said...

I am awed and humbled by both of you. It is a big man who can admit when he's wrong and do so with grace and it is a big man who can accept an apology with equal grace. You both just did something great for not only yourselves but our art as well.

As always you have both given the rest of us a high bar to reach.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes we meet people (do entertainment agents come to mind?) whose motto is "Hey, my conscience is clear, I've never used it!" It's really great to see how your conscience has led you to do the right thing, no matter how difficult it might have been. I'm really proud of you.

WANLU said...

From now on, I'll handle matters pertaining to ventriloquism by the code "What would Jimmy Nelson do?"

...probably just add "What would Jay and Jeff do?"

Wanlu :)

Stevo Schuling said...

Jay, Stevo here
Condolences, I lost my Father two years ago and miss him and know what it is like.
Your blog entry and Jeff´s answer:
I consider myself blessed to be able to say I have known you both for a number of years and to be in the same fringe group of excentrics who love ventriloquism. Characters? YES!
Oh- my best to MEDIA.

Nina Cooper said...

Wow! How heart-warming! It's such a pleasure to see two fellow-vent guys coming together after passing a few rocks in the road...This is wonderful...proud of you both! This is an example for all of us.....

Gary Lenon said...

Thanks to both Jay and Jeff for leading by example. Two good men and an inspiration to us all.

Anonymous said...

Jay......I remember how proud your father was of you when he would bring you out to Six Flags to see Argyle and the enormous support he gave to you. Most fathers would fight to change the mind of their son who declared that he wanted to be a ventriloquist or any other part of show business. I admired him for that at the time and hoped that it would all work out for you. It certainly did. From your blog post your father not only supported you, he built a son of excellent character.

John Hardman

Kevin Johnson said...

Thank you so much for posting this publicly. I can't count how many times people have asked if I know you, Jeff Dunham or Ronn Lucas personally. I usually say, "We know each other, but not close friends." To see you reconcile your friendship with Jeff is so amazing! I love to see the human aspect of what we do. I respect you both very much and appreciate your transparency.