So how did you discover your talent?
Jeff: I didn’t discover it.
I was a kid in the third grade... saw a dummy in the toy store. In the 60's and 70's there were a lot of those vinyl
ventriloquism dummies - just about every toy store had one. Everyone close to my age that I’ve talked to, especially
guys for some reason, tell me that they had one too but they said they never could do it. So many people come up to me and
say that. It was just something that I thought was cool. I started doing book reports with it - I developed the skill. I easily
got A’s on all my reports. It was just something that a little kid grasped on to - so I stuck with it.
How did you come up with your characters Jose, Walter, and Peanut?
Every character I’ve had in my act - none of them have a similar creation story. I actually thought up Peanut and designed
him in my head. I described him to a woman that was making soft puppets and she drew up some sketches. And the character came
to be just because he popped into my head. Walter on the other hand... I figured he would be a good three minutes of the show.
I created him thinking that nobody would enjoy a grumpy old character like that. Little did I know - he is an "every
man"... everybody has that guy in him. Either they’re married to him or he’s their father... but people for
some reason love him. So that character just stuck. Jose the Jalapeno... That’s the weirdest story. When I was in college
I was doing a radio campaign on the radio station and I was doing all the voices of this pizza. Every ingredient on the pizza
spoke. And one of them was Jose Jalapeno. He ended up having all the funny lines. So I thought about making a dummy in the
act. So I thought why not a Jalapeno on a stick.
Which one is your favorite?
I don’t have a favorite. Whatever audiences respond to is what I like at the time. My new character "Sweet Daddy
Dee" - he’s my manager. I’m just having fun with him because he’s new. And completely different from
anything I’ve ever tried before. He’s the very first thing you’ll see in the show. I have a lot of fun with
him. The vast majority of the people that are there - I think probably sixty percent of the people in the audience tonight
have seen me before. So it’s always fun to bring something new.
What was it
like being on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson?
Jeff: At that time - I thought it was great, but
I look back at it now and I think about how I barely got in there before he quit. At that time there were pretty much only
the three networks... and they said if you did Carson your career was pretty much made.
you ever put personalities of the people you know into your characters?
Jeff: Oh sure. Walter was my
friends father. That’s where I got the name as well.
Is a lot of your show
scripted or do you interact with the crowd a lot?
Jeff: It just depends. Depends on how I feel and how
the audience is. And if we have a two show night... if we have time to goof around. But if it’s the late show - then
yeah... I’ll have a little more fun. It’s really a lot of fun to mess with the crowd.
kind of things to you look for in the audience?
Jeff: The best way is to ask someone what they do for
a living. Everybody does something different. I always like it when it’s an unusual profession. If you get a lawyer
or a doctor... then just forget it.
What else do you do besides tour?
That’s it. I have a few hobbies, but this is pretty much it. Couple hobbies here and there but this is my passion.
What do your kids think of your career?
Jeff: They grew up with
it - they don’t see anything unusual about it. They love coming to the show. At the end of the show I let them run up
on the stage and help me end it. I don’t think any of them are going to be in show business.
often do you create a new puppet?
Jeff: I try to come up with something every year or two. There’s
a whole bunch of characters that have come and gone. But I keep the three main guys. A couple years ago I had a Osama Bin
Laden puppet. I had a white trash trailer park guy - there’s always something.