If you drive up U.S. 75 long enough, you enter the most recently developed reaches of Collin County, home of the almost-arena, the Allen Event Center. Because it can seat more than 8,000, it's usually used for indoor football, soccer and hockey. But on Saturday night ex-Saturday Night Live stars Kevin Nealon, Dana Carvey and Dennis Miller rolled into town, so it became the world's weirdest comedy club.
Admittedly, I was a little confused by the size of the crowd. I was too young to see the three comics in their primes. I know Nealon most as the laconic man-child from Showtime's Weeds.,Carvey from his groundbreaking ABC show and Miller, well I know him as the failed Monday Night Football host and star of the terrible Bordello of Blood and That Guy Saying Weird Shit on Fox News.
It was a huge crowd, which we assumed was for Carvey who was, at one point, one of Hollywood's biggest talents. But no: They were there for Miller, and shit was about to get really weird in Allen.
Kevin Nealon took to the stage first, and I expected much more. Nealon mainly riffed on the show's location (tired), dealing with aging (yawn) and how his new status as a parent had changed him (please stop doing this). Nealon frequently checked his watch to see where he was on time, and most of the crowd did the same.
After introducing Carvey, the two did a little bit of Hans and Franz, complete with calling out various audience members for "being little girly mans." It was the "Hey! Remember this sketch!" shtick expected from an event like this. Then Carvey took the stage for himself, and that's when the night got dark.
Comedians riff on their locations -- it's good for a cheap pop from the audience, and you're able to mine the minute details of the community for easy material. Allen, with its wealth, exurb status and willingness to build a high school football stadium that cost SIXTY MILLION DOLLARS, all but sets itself up to be ripped into.
That stadium was Carvey's prime target, as he easily slipped into a drawl and started expounding on the ridiculousness of spending SIXTY MILLION DOLLARS on a stadium where a bunch of 15-year-olds play. And this is when I realized I was not at just any old comedy show. Instead of laughing at the excess displayed by the Allen ISD, the crowd would cheer the stadium's every mention. It was like they didn't realize it was being made fun of. Then, it got weirder.
Carvey's fake Southern segued into an utterly brilliant Ross Perot impression. Carvey deftly used it to jump around the idea that Perot's destruction was himself, which is pretty true. From there entered the political impression grab bag.
Bush Sr. got the crowd in a groove. They cheered even louder when the younger Bush made an appearance. But an odd air filled the room when Carvey did an impression of President Obama. Every conservative voice he did was met with wild cheers; his liberal impressions met middling applause. When he touched on the current president, the laughter has a hint of anger to it.
The audience didn't see the satire in Carvey comparing Obama's reasoned approach to Bush W.'s gung-ho attack style. This crowd laughed at the wrong thing: assuming the joke was on the foolishness of mediation, and not the former president's "We'll put a boot in your ass" attitude.
Carvey seemed to recognize this and quickly moved to his "Grumpy Old Man" character, which led to a bit on not relating to his own kids. In the end, the whole ordeal started to feel like an exercise in Cosbian comedy.
Carvey quickly finished up and Dennis Miller rolled out to headline. For those of you who don't know, sometime in the past decade or so, Miller morphed from being the hyper-literate comic who would routinely drop over-educated references into Monday Night Football games into the hyper-conservative version of Bill Maher. It's as insufferable as it sounds.
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Miller has turned appearances on various Fox News programs like Bill O'Reilly into a three-hour radio show on the Dial Global/Westwood One networks. On Friday, Miller instructed small business owners to fire any employees who were Obama supporters. In the same segment, he agreed that Senator Ted Cruz is a statesman. Are Miller's opinions genuine? Are they just tactics for reinvigorating his stagnant career? Who cares: You just paid for political advice from the star of Bordello of Blood.
Miller started his set by trying to humorously discredit the idea of global warming. His point? "It's always been hot." I'm sure you can guess how the crowd responded.
From then, he joked about what's wrong with the economy, then health care, then Obama. The crowd loved it, but my discomfort grew. When Miller started in on illegal immigrants and how "Pancho" is taking over, I was done. I stood up, locked eyes with Miller, contemplated yelling, "I loved you in Joe Dirt!" decided better, and walked out. Whatever bullshit he was tossing out about immigrants caused the Allen Event Center to fill with laughter. I headed toward an exit feeling like I'd just spent 24 hours in a Midwestern strip club.
It's disappointing to see a comic who was once considered A Great reduced to this: an overtly contrary, Thanksgiving-dinner-derailing, crazed uncle figure. It's worse that it found such a huge audience in Allen.