Review: Dennis Miller and Bill O’Reilly
REVIEW BY SJARIF GOLDSTEIN / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Bolder & Fresher Tour is a reminder of how much craft goes into standing in front of thousands of people and entertaining them.
A seasoned comedian like Dennis Miller makes it look effortless. But even the host of a live cable show such as Bill O’Reilly can appear out of his element at times.
That pretty much sums up the co-headlined conservative show that wheeled into the Blaisdell Concert Hall on Saturday afternoon.
Yes, you read that right: “afternoon.” Perhaps because it allowed its performers to stick with the time zones they are used to, or perhaps as a concession to the hours their senior-leaning fan base might keep, Miller and O’Reilly put on a rare Saturday matinee.
One result of that was a large number of arrivals with the show already in progress. Miller went on first and gave early hints at his comfort by being completely unfazed by the many latecomers finding their seats in his sight line for more than 10 minutes of his 35-minute set.
Disruptions or not, the veteran stand-up and television host hit the ground running with jokes about Hawaii’s humidity and how the native language has so many K’s. (“The last time I saw so many K’s, Nolan Ryan was still pitching.”)
He segued into a couple of jokes ripped straight from the day’s headlines, noting the NFL had averted a “major disaster” when openly gay player Michael Sam was drafted seven spots before the last player taken, an ignominy that has come to earn its honorees the nickname “Mr. Irrelevant.”
Miller’s set was surprisingly devoid of politics for the first 25 minutes or so, as he stuck to his trademark out-of-nowhere references and his increasingly curmudgeonly persona.
Among his targets were the growing popularity of tattoos and piercings, California (“going to hell in a handbasket, and we don’t even make the handbasket anymore”) and the greying of rock ‘n’ roll (“Have you seen the Rolling Stones lately? Moss has been gathered.”)
Other high points were bits on ads for erectile dysfunction drugs (he started with, “Have you ever seen guys that happy about broken Johnsons?” and took it in some interesting directions) and his Catholic upbringing (“Now when I go to confession, I say, ‘You first.’”)
He got to President Obama — “At this point the only thing I dig about the guy is that he’s black” — and Obamacare — “It barely works in Canada and Canadians are NICE” — for his closer.
Best of all, Miller was willing to target himself, poking fun at his own tendency to make arcane references. Not every joke was hilarious, but every one was met with roaring laughter from the adoring crowd.
O’REILLY’S SET was different, relying more on storytelling and politics. The crowd was interested but not quite as responsive.
He had interesting stories to share about his relationship with Obama and why he felt Mitt Romney didn’t want to win the 2012 election, but did this devoted crowd need 10 minutes on Benghazi when he had nothing to add that he hasn’t said on his Fox News show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” over and over? Or two fat jokes about Joy Behar, who left “The View” last year?
O’Reilly did contribute a blow-by-blow of the 2012 GOP presidential field and why each candidate failed that showed a willingness to skewer the right. But as engaging as O’Reilly can be, his set was uneven and ran long (unlike Miller, the pro, who tapped out right at the end of his assigned 35 minutes). When Miller joined him onstage after the intermission, the show got a needed boost.
Miller shared a funny story about spending time with President Bush (the younger) that included one priceless line: “Everybody digs a good fart joke.” It ended with him sheepishly telling the president he had to leave his company to go to Oprah’s 50th birthday party.
The two had some nice chemistry during their time on stage together, with Miller seeming to bring the best out of O’Reilly, who got off his best line of the afternoon during that free-form segment, joking that left-leaning Hawaii’s GOP headquarters “is a treehouse.”
Some of the more refreshing parts of the program were when the pair showed where they separate from the standard GOP line, with O’Reilly speaking out in favor of raising the minimum wage (“$10 is not too much”) and Miller for gay marriage (“about 8 billion and 45th on my list of things to worry about, right above global warming.”)
They also lamented that wounded soldiers have not received acceptable help when coming back from the wars Bush entered in Iraq and Afghanistan, admitting the Iraq conflict was not a success.
All told, the show’s target audience was O’Reilly’s fan base, and it hit its target. But it was Miller who appealed to more than just the like-minded in the audience.