For years, it's been this little lie played out between performers and audiences: At the "end" of the show, the act says good night and thanks for coming, and the fans stand and deliver their cheers, Bics and all, howling for more. Finally, the act comes back and delivers the rest of the show it was planning to all along.
The interplay depends on both sides pretending not to know what the other is up to, and it usually works. But last night at the FleetBoston Pavilion, the process broke down because Dennis Miller didn't like the weather.
After about 15 seconds of beseechment, he rushed back out to finish up, explaining, "Sorry, I couldn't wait for the long theatrics, it's a thousand degrees up here." He then bolted through five more minutes of material before speeding off to his digs at the Four Seasons Hotel.
That Miller would put personal comfort ahead of the illusion that he's up there working his heart out to earn our 42 bucks apiece (less in the cheap seats) was no surprise; he has made a career out of having no illusions, lording the fact over everyone that he is on the inside of every joke.
And, certainly, it's working for him. He has parlayed his smarmy "Saturday Night Live" schtick into almost a cottage industry - he has a successful HBO series, he's preparing for a second season on "Monday Night Football," and in the fall, a book of his sports-related rants will be published.
One of his stated aims last night, one of a half-dozen dates he's doing this month, was "to break in my Bush stuff." His take is comic standard issue, that Bush isn't very bright ("Give Bush this: He's smart enough to know he's dumb.")
He further lauded Bush's "big genius" for lowering expectations, a ploy that's succeeding splendidly on Miller: "It's just nice to have a president with neither the intelligence nor the predilection to lie to me." In fact, Miller said, he's not sure he wants a president anymore, preferring someone akin to Homer Simpson: "Come in, have a doughnut, don't burn the place down."
Having broken in the Bush stuff, Miller broke out the old material, laid bare both by the moldly elements therein - John DeLorean, Lorena Bobbitt, the Menendez brothers, and Tonya Harding's bodyguard - and by the delivery, which evoked an old plow horse recognizing the turn back home toward the barn.
Miller invoked the quartet to make his case for tougher laws and tougher justice: "We have too many hung juries and not enough hung defendants. . . . We have some incredibly evil [people] on this planet and occasionally you have to thin the herd," he cried, eliciting one of the evening's strongest ovations.
Although it was a stance mildly at odds politically with his last two topical stops - in favor of both abortion rights and homosexual indifference - it did jibe with his declaration that he just doesn't care: "I'm 47. I give up. I think it's broken beyond repair. . . . We're like the last guy standing on the roof in Saigon."
Strong Boston comic Tony Vee did 30 minutes of material as a warm-up on this hot night, though he said he'd been advised to leave the political stuff to Miller. About the only place they intersected was about their children: Both professed to love them very much.