Dennis Miller's Xenophobic Standup Is Seriously Offensive

Dennis Miller made himself chuckle onstage last night at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Florida, with the line, "Arabs will go to the moon when the Israelis set up camp there."

Hardy fucking har? Out of context, it doesn't make much sense, but the parts are what are important here. It took about three minutes of anti-Arab diarrhea gushing from the hateful maw of the former Saturday Night Live Weekend Update anchor and recent commentator on The O'Reilly Factor before I decided I didn't need the abuse and left the show. As an American of Arab descent, I was, to put it delicately, pretty fucking grossed out.

I knew it or something like it was coming, but I couldn't sit through his hate speech considering the current conflicts in the Middle East. As the crowd cheered with glee at the dehumanizing stereotypes, I kept thinking about the NPR story I heard the day before about a father in Gaza assuaging his children's horror -- kids made physically ill from fear -- by saying the bombs dropping around them are fireworks.

The set actually started out hopeful. It was pretty funny and punchy. But toward the end, the atmosphere in the room went from potentially listenable to seriously hostile.

Things got shaky as Miller segued from a decent Terri Schiavo joke to one about how he gives no shits about gays getting married or global warming. I mean, global warming? What a load of horse crap, amirite? From there, he talked extensively about Cialis (i.e., dicks) and launched a rallying cry against Obamacare as the crowd squealed with delight, because fuck the uninsured, I guess.

Why not piggyback mammograms onto x-ray body scanners at the airport, Miller wondered out loud. He eloquently moved on next to mock Nancy Pelosi's face. And from that truly disconcerting and misogynistic transition, he totally flushed the night down the toilet by making fun of James Carville's looks, not even his politics.

Finally, he got the whole room honking by praising racial profiling and dismissing the civil rights of Arabs, because in Miller's simplistic world, we are basically all "terrorists."

I really tried to swallow his flagrant bigotry as he lauded the benefits of ethnic screening and pooh-poohed the personal freedom of some over others, as the crowd -- which seemed to be frothing at the mouth for A-rab blood -- hooted and hawed. But seeing as how bombs have this week alone killed 170 and injured about 1,000 in Gaza, displacing thousands more Palestinians, I couldn't hear anything over the churning of my stomach (read about it here).

I love comedy. I truly believe that you can joke about anything. And by anything, I mean, any-single-awful-thing. Just say something funny and I'll laugh. I couldn't breathe when Joan Rivers performed on that same stage handling delicate subjects tastelessly like a pro. I really almost choked on my own saliva-induced cackling.

Miller, on the other hand, spewed pure manure. He's waiting till we Americans (presumably not Arab-Americans...) start "using common sense again" in relation to airport security. They need to spend more time screening folks that look like me and leaving folks like him alone. So funny, dude! Or, as his tour mate, Dana Carvey, would have once said: "Not!"

Miller seemed pleased with his concept of self, one in which he's so lily white that he'd never be allowed inside a mosque. He seems to think all Arabs are hulking, swarthy, hirsute murderers. Perhaps he needs to check the internet to know that we all don't look the same. In fact, many of us look like him (a listicle of Muslims who look like Dennis Miller, anyone?).

Miller knows comedy too. Most of his jokes rode the line between really amusing and "is that funny?" On Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, he pointed out, if you're a 19-year-old girl asked to give the president a blow job, never turn down that opportunity. He said he'd even blow a president so he could describe himself as "a bit of a patriot" to his future grandkids.

When Miller said he was most angry at Muslims for taking away Cat Stevens, for instance, OK, a chuckle. But as the joke devolved, I felt like I was in a room full of hungry sharks, sniffing around for violence. What if they sensed the Lebanese blood pulsing in my veins or noticed that I was sitting next to a dude who looks a little like a youthful Saddam Hussein? Would they devour us? Would we have to engage in a choreographed Sharks versus Jets chase scene?

BTW, what the hell is Dana Carvey doing on tour with this monster?

I expected Carvey to just do one long string of impressions. He essentially did but in the context of some pretty good jokes. He addressed all the politicians he imitated without judgment or vitriol. The audience cheered for Reagan and booed Obama. The churning of hatred started there, but Carvey didn't seem to indulge it.

He did a bit about a depressed Chinese guy, saying, "In my village of 40 million..." and we laughed at the numbers. He translated himself from fake Chinese into English: "All we make is underwear. That is all we make." It was an innocent joke, a comment on overpopulation, nothing politically incendiary. He grabbed a guitar and sang songs off a potential Neil Young Christmas album. If only the night had ended there, with a good old-fashioned laugh at Neil Young's expense.

As someone who started suckling on the SNL teat very young, I felt like these comedians were my teachers or babysitters. It stings to have my people spoken of as inherently criminal by a guy who I had an elementary-school crush on (yes, it's true; Dennis Miller and then Norm MacDonald, who replaced him, and always Mike Myers). It's not like I'm just feeling the burn of rejection based on my mother's bloodline -- although, a little. What really hurts should be obvious. And for the same reasons I frown upon it, the audience laughed at it.

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Liz has her master’s degree in religion from Florida State University. She has since written for publications and outlets such as Miami New Times, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Ocean Drive, the Huffington Post, NBC Miami, Time Out Miami, Insomniac, the Daily Dot, and the Atlantic. Liz spent three years as New Times Broward-Palm Beach’s music editor, was the weekend news editor at Inverse, and is currently the managing editor at Tom Tom Magazine.
Contact: Liz Tracy