During his early days as a stand-up comic or as the shaggy-haired “Weekend Update” anchor on “Saturday Night Live” back in the ’80s, Dennis Miller probably couldn’t imagine that, in the new millennium, he would shift his politics more to the right — at least on fiscal policy and national defense, if not as much on social issues — and change his career by becoming a daily syndicated talk-radio host mixing pop culture and politics.
For example, the lineup on “The Dennis Miller Show” for Thursday, Nov. 18, features Australian actors Simon Baker (“The Mentalist”) and Russell Crowe (‘The Next Three Days”), NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich., who’s also a musician and frequent “RedEye W/Greg Gutfeld” guest) and comedian Colin Quinn.
But on Friday, Nov. 19, at 10 p.m. ET, Miller returns to his stand-up roots with “Dennis Miller: The Big Speech,” a one-hour special airing on HBO and taped on Nov. 6 and 7 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in Irvine, Calif.
When asked earlier this week how it went, Miller tells Zap2it, “Pretty good. I’ll let the people decide. As they say in baseball parlance, I think I got into second standing up.
“I started out as a pretty nondenominational comedian talking about all issues. Indeed, there’s a lot of that here. But after you do ‘Weekend Update’ — and I’m sure Seth Meyers is finding out about this now — you’re expected to talk about current events.
“So I talked about the world around us and some of its intricacies.”
Politically speaking, the biggest current event is the repercussions of the Nov. 2 midterm elections and the rightward lurch of much of the country, as the GOP regained control of the House of Representatives, along with having success in several gubernatorial races and state legislatures.
“The election was feeling,” says Miller, “like I sat there like Michael Corleone during the baptism ceremony [in ‘The Godfather’] and watched all the people I didn’t agree with, the Tattaglias and the Moe Greens of the world, brought back to heel.”
However, some states — most notably California and New York — chose to keep the reins in Democratic hands.
“Let’s see,” says Miller, a resident of Santa Barbara., Calif., “my feeling is that everybody else in America got a G.I. Joe for Christmas,and I got a beige sweater with a chocolate-brown dickey. The great state of California is not what it used to be.
“I would think if Horace Greeley was alive today and living back East, he might tell his neighbors to stay put, as this has turned into the Island of Misfit Toys. We are, once again, stuck with the golum and the sea hag, but what are you going to do but wish them well?”
Miller’s apparently not an especially big fan of California’s former and future governor, Jerry Brown.
“Jerry cracks me up,” he says. “Let’s put it this way, I think there are men who have gotten more rich off of politics than Jerry, I’ll give him that, so I don’t think he’s one of those guys.
“But I do think that once you’re into your seventh decade, and you keep hammering me over the head with your existentialism, you just want to say to the guy, ‘You know, pal, you haven’t really tried that many existential things. You’ve been on the [government] teat since you were in your 20s. It might be time, Grasshopper, to go out into the hinterland and seek some mysticism instead of saving my life.’
“Indeed, one of my prereqs for letting someone save my life is to have them match their own socks for more than three days in a row.”
Now that he spends five days a week on the radio, Miller thinks that has had an effect on his comedy.
“When I used to do comedy,” he says, “it’s always like a Marlboro Man job, in that, I mean, you’re alone. You are on the road alone, and I don’t think you interact all that much. I was never out after gigs. I’d go back to my room, so you are sort of off on your own.
“Three hours a day talking to people on the radio, man, I’m back in the herd, hearing what people say. And guess what, the hoi polloi that they refer to, the everyday heroes, they make a lot of sense to me.
“I’m one of those people who think that America’s greatness is built in these small towns where McDonald’s biannual reboot of the McRib Sandwich is greeted with a Lindbergh parade.”
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