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xmag.com : August 2001: Dennis Miller

I'm waiting to speak with Dennis Miller, and after 20 minutes begin to question whether I'm worthy of his sardonic wit and rapacious humor. Reviled by some in the industry, Miller has nonetheless featured close to everyone in entertainment on his HBO offering, Dennis Miller Live, over the last seven years. Miller's also gearing up for his sophomore chair on Monday Night Football, where fat Nielsen numbers get to hear Miller's catchphrase, "That's just my opinion...I could be wrong." When I finally do speak to him, there he is, Dennis Miller--in Portland for his show on July 23rd--and the man is apologetic, reserved...almost self-deprecating. First I've ever heard a sincere apology from him, and it's aimed at me?! Caught off-guard to say the least.
 

D. Miller: I'm sorry, I have to apologize to you. I'm at my vacation home, and my wife asked me to put away the trampoline that was out on the lawn because we're heading home today, and the next thing I know, I'm out rolling this thing across the lawn, like Jill Clayburgh carrying that big picture that Alan Bates gave to her at the end of An Unmarried Woman, and the wind was buffeting it and I got completely wrapped up in a chore and then I came in and said, "Christ, I forgot to call," and for that I'm sorry.

 

(Well, maybe not completely sincere, but you gotta love him.)

 

DJ Anon: Wow, not just an apology, but a witty metaphor to go along with it! Now, are you originally from Philadelphia?

D. Miller: Well, you see, that appeared in a Playboy...I'm originally from Pittsburgh.

DJ Anon: Oh, shit! I've screwed up already.

D. Miller: I guess the writer had morphed together a Pennsylvania city with a "P" in it.

DJ Anon: I was finally reading that article in Playboy. Honest, I was. Moving on though, it's intriguing to me how you manage to bring in a cohesive political element to your show and work it in without pulling the punches and pushing your own agenda. Everyone's fair game to you, right?

D. Miller: When I took 6 months off from HBO, I didn't follow politics at all, because I find it exasperating and I don't think that anything gets done and I think that politics is shit. But, I think they make themselves readily available for me to poke fun at and I'm able to do that with certain constraints: I mean, I don't think that someone's 17- or 18-year-old daughter trying to get served is of interest to me, because I believe, "don't judge lest ye be judged." Everybody's kids are going to be 17 or 18 one day, and I think they're going to be trying to buy beer, and I don't go after them....But when Bush mispronounces words or does things that ecologically don't make much sense to me, I think that he's fair game. And you know what, I think that he knows that he's fair game. I think he couldn't care less.

DJ Anon: I was a big fan of The Dennis Miller Show when it aired on prime-time television for its 6-month run, or however long it was on, and I was watching it back in '92 when you had PiL (Public image Limited) on with Johnny Rotten, who was the lead singer, and when you didn't interview him after their set, he called you a "wanker." Did that cheese you off at all?

D. Miller: Ahh, John Lydon. I don't know, once a guy gets past 40, I can't do the "Johnny Rotten" thing; to me he's always been John Lydon. I think that's his schtick, you know, so that when I'm with him, it's the same as Norm Crosby mispronouncing words. So, if Johnny calls me a "wanker," I actually find it kind of funny...

DJ Anon: Or surprised for that matter.

D. Miller: I mean, Johnny Lydon, we're ships that go bump in the night. He came on, he sang a bad song. I was running a little late; I thought, "I don't know, this guy doesn't look like he has anything to say except to swear at me." So, I just kind of moved on. When he called me a "wanker," I just said, "thank you," you know? I like drawing the ire of guys that are easily angered. That kind of...pleases me...

DJ Anon: How do people typically react to that?

D. Miller: Well, I have a codified set of opinions and I like to express them in some sort of a different manner. I mean, it's my job, but I don't want anybody to think like I think. Every now and then someone will come up to me and say, "You know, I think you're a punk, or I think you're a smartass and I don't like what you do." It's their business and that's fine. I don't know them. I'd like to stop down and say, "my whole thing navigates around what you think of me," but I don't even know them.

DJ Anon: So, for example, you were never reproached by James Carville saying, "Hey man, I don't like how you said that I looked like a Muppet that had been washed on hot?"

D. Miller: I also said that the guy's got more nervous tics than a Belfast parking valet.

DJ Anon: You're killing me!

D. Miller: Well, he is a creep. You know what, I don't have anything against Clinton with these young women, but don't send this sick lapdog out to trash them. He (Carville) needs to get some respect for himself. And his wife's someone that I respect immensely, so it really is like a Tracy/Hepburn movie where two people who are, it seems, ideologically and ethically polarized, can fall in love. Carville disappoints me because he seems too smart to go out and do this crappy cleanup work, you know?

DJ Anon: Was there any temptation for you to stay on with Saturday Night Live?

D. Miller: No. I mean, imagine if you're an older guy and you look like the guy who graduates and then comes back to the mixer next year to hang out at the keg and get laid by an undergraduate? I don't want to be that guy. I had to move on. I mean, you'd look like a goofball after a while. It's a show for 16- to 18-year-olds by and large. I mean, that's who they're targeting, so to be on it again would be ludicrous. I remember the 2nd year that I hosted the MTV Music Awards, I looked down in the mosh pit and the kids were looking up at me like I was Wilford Brimley. I mean, I thought, "maybe it's time to move on."

DJ Anon: Dennis, do you have any plans to publish more of your rants (Dennis Miller: The Rants, 1996)?

D. Miller: Yeah, there will be a book out later in the year and I think those are good to read while you're taking a dump. I mean, each one is about four minutes long, so digestively it works out.

DJ Anon: Four minutes is the perfect dump time.

D. Miller: Hey, listen, I'm proud of the book! I think it fits in a bathroom! I'll be honest with you: I would call myself, in some ways, politically and socially naive. I think there's a pragmatism about these rants...just a sort of common-sense approach that's appetizing to some people. But, I think that if you peel back the skin of the onion and start probing the depths of my political knowledge, I'm a child.

DJ Anon: On the subject of rants, one of your more recent ones dealt with anxiety. Is there anything specifically in real life that you feel anxiety over?

D. Miller: I think that proximity to one's imminent demise. And not only that, but worrying about day-to-day things feed the neurosis, like, "does this have salmonella? What's this hair on the back of my ears? This plane's bumpy..."

 
This, coming from the man who recently said that he gets anxious when
Stone Phillips wears earth tones. Of course...that's just his opinion.
He could be wrong.

 

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