Why I heckled Bill Maher

Ron Futrell Journalist
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I’ve seen many leftist comedians perform over the years. Usually they are fun and enjoyable, and they can even be entertaining. I enjoy listening to all sides. It was in this spirit that I joined friends to see Bill Maher perform at the Las Vegas Palms Casino Resort on Saturday night. I went in with low expectations. But I didn’t realize how low Maher would go.

I have a special-needs son named Troy. He’s 27. Every day, I drop him off at Las Vegas’s Opportunity Village, a workplace for adults with special needs. Helping people with special needs is something I’m passionate about.

As you may recall, Sarah Palin has a special-needs son, too. During his performance, Maher chose to make a joke about Palin’s five-year-old son, Trig, who he described as a “retard.” The audience of supposedly compassionate liberals roared with laughter. The crowd’s reaction was even more disturbing than the joke itself.

I was sitting in the back of the room with my friends (who paid for my ticket) when Maher made his Trig Palin joke. I decided to move in closer to the stage, though I was still sitting a ways back. At that point, Maher made a joke about Halliburton. Still disgusted, I blurted out, “It’s 2013, Bill. You might want to update your material.” It was as much a comment on his use of the “r” word as it was on his use of old material. Maher heard me and responded. I also got some flak from some of the other audience members. Then the security guards asked me to leave. I gladly did. (On Tuesday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on the incident here.)

I don’t expect comedians to be politically correct in their humor. Maher can say whatever he wants. But that doesn’t mean I have to sit there and take it.

Incidentally, I don’t think Maher minded my comments. Most comedians like some of that stuff when they’re performing live. As a sports reporter who has done “live shots” in hostile territory, I know what it’s like to be subjected to much worse.

But I still can’t help wondering whether the casino’s management is comfortable with special-needs children being used as targets for humor in their shows. Perhaps they are. So be it. They should be made to answer. If Palms management is comfortable with jokes like these, I will gladly never return to their property.

But I’ll never stop standing up for people with special needs.

Ron Futrell is a Las Vegas-based journalist who has spent more than 30 years in local TV news in a variety of markets. As a sports reporter he has interviewed virtually every major sports star, as a news reporter he has interviewed everybody from Mitt Romney to George Soros. Ron shares a unique perspective on covering the media because of his extensive experience working inside it.

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Ron Futrell