Windsor Star

Dennis Miller returns with comedy rants

- ALEX STRACHAN Postmedia News

FINE TUNING

What’s up, Hiroshi? Fair and balanced: That’s HBO.

Left-leaning standup comedian and political pundit Bill Maher called it a season last Friday, and tonight it’s right-leaning standup comedian and political pundit Dennis Miller who jumps into the prime-time spotlight, with his standup special, The Big Speech.

One political shock jock leaves, another enters. Ain’t TV grand?

As faithful listeners of Miller’s radio show know, the former Saturday Night Live Weekend Update anchor lies somewhere to the right of Don Cherry on most political issues, but he hasn’t lost his razor-sharp wit over the years.

The Big Speech is Miller’s first TV standup special in four years, and a lot has happened in that time — and not just in U.S. politics.

Thankfully, as Miller proved in his early comedy albums — including, but not limited to, his classic Off-White Album — his comic rants are directed against a wide range of targets, from bratty kids and cranky flight attendants to classic 1970s TV shows and the Kardashian clan.

Miller’s delivery is peppered with obscure pop-culture references, but his standup act is slick and polished, and more self-discipline­d than his long, often rambling radio commentari­es. Miller periodical­ly appears on the Las Vegas casino circuit, where his standup material features a mix of old and new material, including, but not limited to, politics.

His HBO show is shrouded in secrecy — The Big Speech makes its Canadian debut tonight at the same time it will air in the U.S. — but there are unlikely to be any surprises; he’s unlikely to vanish into a Vegas magician’s booth and re-emerge as the new incarnatio­n of Lewis Black. With Miller, what you see is what you get.

There’s some TV history behind his standup special, though, and at least one curious trivia note. The Big Speech marks Miller’s return to the TV network he called home for nine years with his talk and comedy series Dennis Miller Live, which wrapped in 2002 after more than 200 shows.

Miller’s Emmy win in 1996, for outstandin­g variety/music/comedy series, was HBO’s first Emmy in any series category in the pay-TV channel’s history. When you consider where HBO is today, that’s remarkable. (10 p.m., HBO Canada)

South Park ends its 14th season with a riff on the Food Network, Creme fraiche, in which Randy Marsh’s obsession with the all-food, all-the-time channel threatens to ruin his life and cost him his marriage — and not necessaril­y in that order. Canadian cultural icons Terrance and Phillip make a cameo appearance. (10:30 p.m., Comedy)

On a more sober note, CBC’s venerable newsmagazi­ne The Fifth Estate features an update on the 1999 murder of a young Montreal woman, Fatima Kama, in the U.K., and subsequent arrest and extraditio­n proceeding­s. The program initially aired in 2004; since then, new evidence has emerged, and an arrest made. (9 p.m., CBC)

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