Updated 

Heckling best left to Twitter


I guess there is one little area where Ron Futrell and I are in agreement. We both thought Bill Maher’s stand-up material was a little dated last weekend at the Palms.

From there? A big departure in our response. I sat quietly in my seat. Futrell acted like a nutcase, heckling Maher until he got himself thrown out of the show.

(I’m pretty sure he did it to aggrandize his career as a conservative pundit, but the specifics of his heckling concerned Maher’s Halliburton jokes being out of date.)

But I still have the Las Vegas Review-Journal as a forum, should the world need to know I felt Maher could stretch his range on a hot summer night and retire some of the vitriol that played better in the 2008 election season.

Futrell? Like anyone who does not work in old media, he now has Twitter and a blog.

Since Futrell was relieved of duty at KTNV-TV, Channel 13 in 2008, those are the forums where he remains unrepentant, playing the incident off with various explanations, including an attempt to defend Sarah Palin’s son from jokes about Down syndrome.

The episode points out that two trends in society are on a collision path.

One is our “everyone’s famous now” culture of Twitter, blogs and reality TV. I have noticed an increase in “talking back” at stand-up comedians (not counting the “crowd work” of comedians who actually welcome that), and wondered if there is a correlation.

If you want to try to engage or provoke Maher, you can actually heckle him on Twitter. Most of us respect that line between cyberspace and real space, but it is getting thinner.

That other trend? Mass shootings in public places. One of them a theater.

I did not know it was Futrell when, midway through the show, he moved into one of The Pearl’s bar stool seats on a concourse near both the stage and an exit door, pretty much right behind me (I was in the top row of conventional seating).

All I knew was a guy who hadn’t been there before showed up talking in a loud, agitated voice and seemed to be there specifically to confront Maher.

I did know it was one day after the latest shooting rampage in Santa Monica, Calif. And though I was pretty sure this person was more akin to protesters who get themselves kicked out of campaign rallies or congressional hearings, a dark thought nonetheless took seed.

“Guess what? If he turns out to be a shooter, you’re elected to the first-response team.”

Logic mostly suppressed this notion. What are the odds, right? But it was still an uncomfortable stretch between the time Futrell got his first warning from Pearl security — after Maher bit back on the Halliburton heckling (Review-Journal columnist Norm Clarke had the details last week) — and the point where they finally gave him the boot.

Sometimes I wonder why the MGM Grand Garden, Colosseum at Caesars Palace and House of Blues at Mandalay Bay make audiences pass through metal detectors and other venues don’t. Surely it’s not the show content. Celine Dion is far more loved than Bill Maher.

But last week’s headlines about government spying — privacy versus public safety — ripple into this area of how much we are willing to be inconvenienced when attending public events in Las Vegas.

Unashamed, Futrell told Clarke last week, “I have found out one thing: The left doesn’t like to be confronted.”

Really? The next time Futrell goes to see Dennis Miller (where I assume he will be happier with the content) I would like to think the right will also agree that it’s just not a great time to start yelling “Fire!” (or “Halliburton!”) in a crowded theater, and be fine with the ability to enjoy Miller’s act without creepy interruption.

If not? If more Twitter superstars decide shows are an interactive sport?

Get ready to show up early, because there will be more metal detectors at more venues.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.