Skip to comments.Dennis Miller interview
Posted on 09/13/2003 6:16:56 AM PDT by Roscoe Karns
Hes a Hollywood celebrity. And hes smart. Hes one of the countrys favorite comedians. And hes a conservative. Wipe that smirk off your face and meet a patriotic entertainer.
Last winter, while many Hollywood divas were protesting the war with Iraq, there was one incisive voice of dissent: that of increasingly conservative, former liberal Dennis Miller.
For almost 20 years, Miller has challenged audiences with his decidedly intellectual brand of comedy. Not since Mort Sahl in the 1950s has a comedian used politics, literature, and popular culture so astutely in his humorous commentary.
Dennis Miller first rose to national prominence in 1985 via Saturday Night Live. He then began his own TV talk show, and later, the Emmy Award-winning HBO series Dennis Miller Live, which lasted for nine years. He hit best-seller lists with published collections of his impassioned observational monologues, under the titles The Rant Zone, I Rant Therefore I Am, and Ranting Again. He spent two years providing commentary for Monday Night Football, and is now featured on Hannity and Colmes on the Fox News Channel.
As this issue was going to press, the campaign in California to recall governor Gray Davis was in full swing. Millers take on the situation: Everybody in charge in this state is a Democrat. Its no longer the Andreas Fault, its Gray Daviss fault.
TAE associate editor John Meroney and writer Patricia Beauchamp visited with Miller backstage just before an appearance on NBCs The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
TAE: Hillary Clinton has just sold hundreds of thousands of copies of her book Living History. What do you think of her success as an author?
MILLER: Shes boring to me. And as for this Draft Hillary movementI dont think its ever going to happen. She doesnt make a move without consulting her old man, and as soon as she mentions the word draft to him, hes going to say, Stay away from it.
TAE: How would Americans respond to Senator Clinton as a Presidential candidate?
MILLER: Forty percent of voters would probably support her. Id like to think theres 60 percent who wouldnt. Most people know that the Clintons are just career politicians, but its amazing to me that some people really believe in them. Bill and Hillarys marriage couldnt have been any more about convenience than if theyd installed a Slim Jim rack and Slurpee machine at the base of their bed.
TAE: Do you dislike Senator Clintons political ideology, too?
MILLER: I have an across-the-board disapproval of her. In 1998, when Bill was first accused of having an affair with Monica Lewinsky, Hillary went on NBCs Today show and attributed the allegations to a vast right-wing conspiracy. That seemed extremely stupid to me. Name the people. She can spend 30 years of her life apologizing for her husbands indiscretions if she wants to, but at the same time she shouldnt champion herself as the ideal woman. In 1992, Hillary told the press, I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas. That statement really bugged me. Shes in essence as cookie as one can get because of the kind of treatment shes accepted from her husband. I think most women would have said, Quit screwing around on me or Im out of here.
TAE: What do you think of the Clintons reinventing themselves as New Yorkers?
MILLER: I view Hillary as an inverted carpetbagger. Im convinced that Bill Clinton put her up there because he knew New York was a community property state, vis-à-vis divorce settlements.
TAE: Is it safe to say you were not impressed with how she handled 9/11?
MILLER: Well, Rudy Giuliani, who is often portrayed as an unfeeling, Hitler-like guy by the liberals, attended scores of memorial services for the victims. He exhibited great sympathy for people. Hillary, on the other hand, didnt go to a single one until it became an issue and then I think she probably hit a couple just to get her record square. She didnt belong in New York in the first place.
TAE: For bleeding heart liberals, the Clintons dont seem to be very empathetic when it counts.
MILLER: The Clintons feel everyones painunless they caused it. Lets ask Webster Hubbell if the Clintons feel his pain. He was in the blast site of the Whitewater scandal, so he had to go.
TAE: England put a woman in its top post back in 1979, when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister. In the U.S. weve got women in the Senate, the House, and in high-ranking offices. Theres Condoleezza Rice, whos national security advisor. Do you think America is ready for a woman President?
MILLER: Yes. I think Condoleezza Rice would make a great President. I hope she runs against Hillary. That would be my dream ticket in 2008: Hillary Clinton versus Condi Rice; an imagined track record versus a real track record.
TAE: What are your thoughts on the current state of Democratic candidates running for President?
MILLER: I havent seen a starting nine like this since the 62 Mets. They lost 120 games. Im praying they nominate Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont. As they say in the world of tennis, thats a walkover. Al Sharpton doesnt have a chance. Somewhere between the R and the P in the name Sharpton you should get the name Tawana Brawley out. And you should have to say it that quickly just to remind everybody about the divisiveness of that situation. Dick Gephardt seems like a decent man, but he suffers from a Dukakis-ian lack of charisma. Most politicians are transparent; hes translucent.
TAE: What about North Carolinas Senator John Edwards?
MILLER: There are enough litigious people in this country. I dont need the Commander in Chief serving papers on our enemies: You will be deposed, Mr. Hussein!
TAE: Many Democrats were pleased with Senator Joe Liebermans performance as Al Gores running mate. What do you make of him as a Presidential candidate?
MILLER: Joe Lieberman has taken more great stands on issues than any man in the history of this country! He should realize that occasionally a great man lowers the other foot. If youre going to threaten to walk down the reflecting pool and give a piece of your mind as a President, then youll have to do it every 20 years or so.
TAE: Democrats have a fondness for Massachusetts politicians. What about Senator John Kerry?
MILLER: Ive met John Kerry and I dont think he wants the Presidency. If he did, he wouldnt have said that what we need now is not just a regime change in Iraq, but in the United States, too. Thats a stupid play for a smart man. It reminded me of Gary Hart back in 1987 when he told the press to follow him and then got caught with Donna Rice. I think Kerrys statement was a subconscious way of pleading, Get me out of here! When youre running for President and its the culmination of all your supposed dreams, its tough to get yourself out of it. And youre thinking, This is what Ive always wanted, isnt it? And then some deep unconscious alarm goes off. It says, No, no! Wife has $500 million! Have place on Nantucket! Get out now! Golf! No, no! So you blow it up yourself.
TAE: Florida was a pivotal state in the last election, and now Senator Bob Graham is running. Do you think hell get any traction?
MILLER: Bob Graham might be the smartest of them all, but its just not going to happen for him. Two words why its not going to happen: Bob Graham. I dont care if youre from the South. At some point, you have to be somebody from the South and he just doesnt cut that sort of swath.
TAE: Despite continued controversy, Rev. Franklin Graham refuses to back down from his argument that Islam is a very evil and wicked religion. Do you agree with him?
MILLER: Graham puts himself in danger saying that about Islam because they have religious edicts called fatwas. Ayatollah Khomeini put one on Salman Rushdie after the publication of The Satanic Verses, calling for his murder. Besides, making across-the-board religious judgments about people just seems presumptuous and ill-informed.
TAE: Why do you think the U.S. has been targeted by terrorists?
MILLER: Were in Saudi Arabia and Osama bin Laden is repulsed by that. He believes weve sullied the most sacred spots in the Islamic world. He said that, and hes evidently a forceful enough speaker in those conclaves that he can turn young boys into monsters who go on suicide missions.
TAE: In April, actor Tim Robbins spoke to the National Press Club and described the various ways he feels hes been punished for speaking out against the war. He went on to say, If you oppose this administration, there can and will be ramifications. Robbins and other prominent actors criticized for their anti-war views have even raised the specter of a new Hollywood blacklist.
MILLER: Thats folly. I dont see how thats manifested itself in Tims life. He might have something to show us in five years if an actor of his great ability doesnt get work, but I dont believe thats going to happen. You can say whatever you want in this country, but Tim is in a business where ones grasp on the publics acceptance is so tenuous that any of us can be whacked in a moment. If I do poorly on two Tonight Shows in a row, Im out the door. There are people who dont have careers because audiences dont like the way they lookso of course the public might not like you for what you stand for. It doesnt take much for somebody to click off and say, Im not going to spend the eight bucks tonight. To go to a movie, a person has to get up, put his clothes on, get in the car, drive to a crappy mall, and wait in linehes looking for reasons not to go! All the average person needs is, I dont like what that movie star believes. That guy is going to start watching movies at home instead of getting up and going to yours. My guess is that Tim Robbins will continue to work.
TAE: In spring of this year, Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines told a London audience, Were ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas. This comment sparked a furorpeople publicly destroyed their CDs and sales of the groups album dropped. In response to the backlash, the Dixie Chicks turned it into a free speech issue, appearing in the nude on the cover of Entertainment Weekly with words such as Proud American, Saddams Angels, and Free Speech painted on their bodies. Do you think the publics response to them is unfair?
MILLER: The Dixie Chicks got exactly what they deserved. In a time of war, to go on foreign soil and decry your President should probably cause a hue and cry. When it first happened, I thought, Im never going to buy another one of their albums. And then I thought, You know what, Ive never bought one of their albumsI dont like their music.
TAE: Do you ever base what you say on how you think the public will react?
MILLER: I considered public reaction more when I was younger. When I was on Saturday Night Live the network censor would come up to me and say, I dont like that joke. Its off, I didnt fight him. Im just that sort of a pragmatist. Im not willing to lose my job over a joke. Plus, I dont fancy myself an artist. Hollywood is not a sword from the stone moment for me. I feel like Im punching the clock at a job that Im reasonably adept at and trying to take care of my family. These days, though, I tend to say pretty much what I think.
TAE: You make your living in a very volatile profession. Do you have a philosophy that helps keep you grounded?
MILLER: Jay Leno and I have the same approach to this business. We feel lucky weve got it, we work our asses off, and we try to let people know that we dont take it that seriously. Show business is a freakish break. Its an amazing confluence of events that affords you a life for which you should hit your knees every night and thank God that youve been blessed to be given. One of my favorite quotations is by Dr. J Julius Irving: I live my life trying to never appear to be a small man. That was so beautifully and succinctly eloquent to me, especially coming from a man who stands 68I know how he meant it.
TAE: In 2000, you beat out Rush Limbaugh for a spot on ABCs Monday Night Football. What was that job like?
MILLER: Its the best sports broadcasting job in the world. I was impressed when I got it because Id never even been to a football game. Then here I was sitting in the booth on Monday Night Football. I did it for two years and was hired for a third, but when John Madden left Fox, I called Dan Fouts that day and said, I bet you we get whacked within 48 hours. It was 36. Look, theres a big dog in every field and when hes loose on the tundra and hes feeding, youd best not get in the way because youll catch a hoof. Ive been on Saturday Night Live and Monday Night Football. Now Im looking for something iconic to do on Wednesday.
TAE: What sportscasters do you most admire?
MILLER: I really admired Howard Cosell. Hes right up there with Lucille Ball and Johnny Carson as one of the greatest communicators Ive ever seen on television. I was fascinated by his cadence, his meter. He was almost able to serve the language better because there wasnt a physical element: Cosell wasnt a good-looking man. In my book, hes one of the top five broadcasters of all time.
TAE: Professional athletes seem to make headlines for crime and corruption as much as they do for home runs and touchdowns. Did your work on Monday Night Football give you an insight into why professional sports are plagued with such excesses?
MILLER: Any time you hand people who are in their early twenties $10 million, youre going to have some problems. By and large, I was impressed by how dedicated and charitable these guys were. We always read about the athlete with the gun who gets pulled over. But look, there are 50 players on a team, and there are 32 teamsabout 1,500 players. Take any group of 1,500 men in that age bracket and Ill bet you that over the course of a year one of them gets pulled over for speeding and has cocaine. Its just the nature of the beast. Ninety-nine percent of those football players are some of the greatest guys Ive ever met. A couple of them gave me a screw you. But, you know what, a couple of them should have said that. Id think I was a punk, too.
TAE: What news programs do you watch?
MILLER: I like Jon Stewart from The Daily Show. I think hes quite brilliant. Chris Matthews was a bit of a McGuffin because we all thought he disliked liberals but it turns out he just disliked Clinton. Chris got all our hopes up. He turned Clinton into an asshole every night and now hes trying to do the same to Bush. I like Bill OReilly and his carnival barker approach to news.
TAE: And the big threeDan Rather, Tom Brokaw, and Peter Jennings?
MILLER: I have to give it to Tom Brokaw at least he exhibits some human qualities. The other two guys are like Stepford anchors. Jennings seems to think hes out of an Ian Fleming novel. But my favorite newscaster is Brit Hume because hes so even-handed.
TAE: Shortly after 9/11, Bill Maher said, We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. Thats cowardly. In response, Sears and Fed Ex pulled their advertising from his program and later ABC cancelled his show. What do you think of the controversy over his comments?
MILLER: Its dangerous to try to look witty about something in the wake of the biggest tragedy in the history of this country. I couldnt put together a sentence for two weeks, much less something pithy. Its not a good idea to go on and right away try to make some wise remark when audiences arent in a wise mood. The whole country was devastated. Bill now has himself another show. Tell that to Tim Robbins. I dont believe in a blacklist.
TAE: You once considered being a journalist. How did you go from that to comedy?
MILLER: An editor once told me he was going to pay me by the column inch so I opted to move in a different direction. Curiously enough, I ended up being the Weekend Update anchor on Saturday Night Live, which is some bizarre alternative universe journalism job.
TAE: Do you have a routine that you go through when youre preparing your comedy?
MILLER: You mean besides passing a knotted cloth through my colon each morning at 8:30? I read the Drudge Report. Matt probably fancies himself as a latter day Walter Winchell, but hes not as mean as Winchell. I just like Drudges eclectic accumulation of tidbits. The bulletin board he puts up is fascinating. He filters the kinds of news Im interested in.
TAE: Many conservatives believe that Hollywood thinks heartland America is just flyover country. Are they correct?
MILLER: Im hardly a gregarious man but the friends I have in Hollywood are by and large some of the nicest people Ive ever met in my life. Its just that their attempts to be solicitous to the heartland sometimes are a little misguided and condescending. When I look at folks from the heartland I dont think, Boy, are they missing it. I view them as the ones who are smart enough to know that going to Hollywoods not really a cool way to lead your life. Theyre put together well enough so that they never had to go solicit the approval of strangers to fill their self-esteem void.
TAE: Many of your show business colleagues have sharply criticized President Bush, but you like him. Why?
MILLER: Hes much smarter than his enemies think he is. I think hes a genius. People whine about him getting into Yalethe way I see it, if your old man buys a building you should get into Yale! But I think he could have gotten into Yale on his own; hes a very smart man.
TAE: In your interview with Phil Donahue on MSNBC last winter, you said that one of the things you most admired about Bush was that he had stopped drinking at age 40.
MILLER: The fact that midway through his life, he realized he was drinking too much and screwing up and stopped itthats more impressive than what college he attended. What he did is a fine accomplishment, and I think its putting him in touch with his God.
TAE: Some of his critics say hes too vocal about his religious beliefs.
MILLER: In this messed up world, I like seeing my President pray. I dont think a person can get answers out of books anymore. This is an infinitely complex world and at some point one has to have faith in ones religion. I find it endearing that President Bush prays to God and that hes not an agnostic or an atheist. Im glad theres someone higher that he has to answer to.
TAE: How do you think the country would have been different had Al Gore been President on September 11, 2001?
MILLER: Gore doesnt have a real sense of self. He probably would have invaded Afghanistan but almost anyone would have done that. But go into Iraq? I doubt it. Hans Blix and the Scooby Doo van would still be driving around looking for weapons, like something in a Mack Sennett silent film. You could hear that music where Blix goes in the front door and the weapons come out the back. Thats what I used to imagine when I saw Blix.
TAE: Youve become more conservative over the years. How do you explain this shift?
MILLER: Im not as sure of my guesswork anymore. To be on the Left, you have to be amazingly certain about things youre guessing at, and I felt like a phony. I was looking for ideas, and all I was getting from liberals was, Wed like a little more of your money, and were kind of reticent to protect you from bad guys. Really? Thats all youre offering? I gotta go! I cant stay anymore. Also, when I kept hearing liberals equating Giuliani with Hitlerthats when I really left the reservation. Even before 9/11, Id travel to New York and say, Wow, this city certainly seems to be running better. Giuliani is the kind of leader I admire. When its five degrees below zero and you arrest somebody to get him inside and off the streetthats not something Hitler would do. It made me realize that I was with the wrong group if thats what Hitler looked like to them.
TAE: Where do you see the danger in that?
MILLER: I always wondered how Hitler happened. I even went so far as to read William L. Shirers The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I read all 1,200 pages and at the end of it I remember thinking, Yeah, but how does Hitler happen? Part of it has to do with the Left mislabeling people as Hitler. Its like Pierce Brosnan at the end of the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. He dressed everybody up in the same Bowler cap and overcoat, and then he walks right through the middle of them without being noticed. The Left is so busy saying John Ashcroft is Hitler, and President Bush is Hitler, and Rudy Giuliani is Hitler that the only guy they wouldnt call Hitler was the foreign guy with the mustache who was throwing people who disagreed with him into the wood-chipper.
TAE: When filmmaker Michael Moore won the Oscar for Best Feature Documentary for Bowling for Columbine, he took all of the other nominees on stage with him, and proceeded to make a statement about a fictitious Presidency and a fictitious war. Given your support of the President, this must have outraged you.
MILLER: The Oscars are pretty much the quint-essential American hood ornament, so if youre a real iconoclast, you dont show up at the ceremony. Eminem at least had the balls not to show at the Oscars because he disagreed with it. Michael Moore just seemed like a big sloppy angry guy to me. He thinks hes more of a patriot than we are because he questions our government. Thats boring. My yawn gets so big that they almost want to assign it a hurricane name. For Moore to go so far around the Cape of Good Hope that he finds that America is the problem is tedious. Were not perfect, but were not the problem. At the same time, I think we should fight to preserve a country where people such as Michael Moore get to miss the point as badly as he misses it.
TAE: In one of your rants, you argue that America is less tolerant today than ever before. Explain.
MILLER: Its the conundrum of the closed-minded, open society. Everyone seems to have an agenda, and everyone is such a complete unyielding pain in the ass about it that we have a shrieking cacophony of heartfelt sentiment. We have the fascism of absolute freedom. Somehow, everyone thinks that his core beliefs should translate to the law of the land. My feeling is that my core beliefs shouldnt go any further than the tips of my fingers, and maybe my children.
TAE: So youre not planning a vacation in France anytime soon.
MILLER: Absolutely not. The French have never had a backbone and thats fine because theyve got a pretty city. Ive heard French passports were provided to fleeing Iraqis in Syria. They better watch their asses, because thats going beyond being just a contentious ally. Its not quite to Basher Assad status yet, but they should not aid and abet our enemies or we should cut off all relations with them.
TAE: So should Americans boycott French products?
MILLER: Yes. Thats a no-brainer. People say, Are you gonna fight every country you disagree with? To which I respond, Yes. If theyre providing passports, Im going to ask for Pellegrino.
Published in Things Go Better With God October/November 2003
Hehehehehehehehe! I love that one!
So somebody else has noticed this, too. Dennis Miller reminds me a lot of Mort Sahl.
I believe that is one of the most honest and brilliant statements I have ever read about those whose character keeps them from wanting to become celebrity whores. That it came from someone in show business is astounding and proves Dennis Miller has substance.
HAHAHAHA Miller really nails them.
Nope, she didn`t attend ANY. Zero, nada, zilcho. But of course she`ll say she did yet she won`t mention any by name. THey had a funeral last week for a firefighter. Probably the last one. Guliani was there even though he`s no longer Mayor. Where was Hitlery? Nowhere to be found. But every year in the gay pride parade, you`ll see her marching front and center next to a guy wearing nothing but a thong and a bra. Shows what Hitlery respects more. On the other hand, she could just be showing support for her sexuality.
Chris Matthews was a bit of a McGuffin because we all thought he disliked liberals but it turns out he just disliked Clinton. Chris got all our hopes up. He turned Clinton into an asshole every night and now hes trying to do the same to Bush.
Bookmarking this one. FANTSASTIC!!!!!!!!