If any comedian has earned the sobriquet ”the King of Pop References,” it’s Dennis Miller. And that’s just how he’s introduced on Dennis Miller Live from Washington, D.C., a March ’93 gig from George Washington University, originally taped for HBO. Fluidly shot by music video vet Jim Yukich against backdrops of the American flag, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Capitol Building, the former SNL ”Weekend Update” anchor and host of his own doomed yet terrific chat show lets loose with a shockingly dense spew that practically cries out for the rewind button. He’s a know-it-all Beltway BMOC with a pop-culture drooler’s brain.
Futzing too often with his blazer and distractingly riffling through his dark mane, Miller may not be the most brilliant stand-up performer, but he’s certainly the smartest — judging from the silence that greets some of his more obscure citings, perhaps even too smart for the room. When he announces, ”I go through eyewear like Moe Green” (Alex Rocco’s Godfather role) and characterizes The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich as ”quite the literary Dagwood,” his routine approaches a hip surrealism currently rivaled only by the Beastie Boys’ lyrics. But when he conjures ”Vic Buono” and ”Jimmy Franciscus” in a riff on the Planet of the Apes films, his ephemera retention comes off as smugly insular.
Political humor often fails to provoke past its expiration date, and in Miller’s savage take on Streisand’s boycott of Colorado and his defense of Admiral James Stockdale, his act shows its age. Not that that’s bad; it’s refreshing to reflect on how things have turned out since Miller’s two-year-old soapboxing. Deftly skewering political correctness while namechecking both artist M.C. Escher and hairdresser José Eber — now that’s a royally strange talent. A-