Monday, July 22, 2002 | 8:16 a.m.
Dennis Miller is a taxing comedian. To be a fan is to conform, tolerate and even labor. His act demands that we do our homework, pay attention and keep up.
The teeming-with-tourists, sold-out audience Saturday night at the Danny Gans Theatre at The Mirage seemed to hold the pace quite well, which was no small accomplishment considering Miller's often disjointed (and seemingly disinterested) delivery and his kaleidoscope of arcane references.
"I have never lived in Las Vegas, but years ago I had relatives who did live here and worked in the sequin mines," he said in the show's opening moments. "Much like the Persian rug makers, the Las Vegas sequin artists like to deliberately include a flaw in the pattern. They, too, believe that perfection is solely the realm of the creator."
Miller then paused, leered and said, "I thought I'd dig an esoteric hole right up front."
Miller can be famously counted on to stray afield on any topic, often not bothering to stitch his biting, metaphor-laced commentary together in any sort of coherent fashion. One moment he's relating his most recent visit to the confessional: "I walked in and said, 'You first.' "
The next, he's lauding Yoda's precision with the light saber in "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones": "It was a lame movie, but Yoda did come out as the boss ... He was like the only guy with a lighter in a crack house."
(Miller is the rare comic who would assume "Star Wars" fans have any working knowledge of crack-house ambience.)
Miller is hardly a bells-and-whistles performer, the antithesis of Gallagher or Carrot Top, whose idea of props is a few bottles of water and a two-sided laminated cheat sheet. On Saturday he stood statuesque in a charcoal-colored suit and white shirt and hardly budged. To borrow a boxing term, he could have done the show in a phone booth.
Miller came prepped with about an hour's worth of fresh material and spent 15 minutes on a greatest-hits medley at the end. A few topics Miller bit into:
"I like Bush, but I don't think he has a stranglehold on everything. I'm pretty sure he thinks that Croatia is the show that's on after 'Moesha.' They asked him if he thought the tax cut was retroactive and he got that panicked look in his eye and said, 'I don't know. I'll have to ask our scientists about that.' "
Miller left a stale taste, however, for anyone familiar with his stand-up act over the last several years. Included in the closing minutes were out-of-date references to John DeLorean, Lorena Bobbit, the Menendez brothers and other bits Miller used on his "Live From Washington, D.C." video release in 1993.
Miller joked about his Michael Jackson Home Facial Reconstruction Kit, recycling the line, "Mikey, time to stop tinkering with that noggin." And minus a "Monday Night Football" gig or talk show on HBO, it's time to start tinkerin' with that material.