Dennis Miller (born November 3, 1953) is an American stand-up comedian, political/sports commentator, and television/radio personality. He rose to fame as a cast member of Saturday Night Live in the late 1980s, and subsequently hosted a string of his own talk shows on HBO, CNBC and in syndication. He currently hosts a daily, three-hour, self-titled talk radio program, nationally syndicated by Westwood One.
In recent years, Miller has become known for his conservative political opinions, emphasizing a hawkish stance on U.S. military action and campaigning for Republican presidential candidates. He is a regular political commentator on Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor in a segment called "Miller Time", and on the network's Hannity & Colmes in a segment called "Real Free Speech".
Before his career in entertainment, Miller worked as a janitor and an ice cream scooper. He also worked in the deli at Giant Eagle. One co-worker recalls when Patricia the deli manager asked Miller to 'cover everything with Saran,' so Miller literally covered everything with Saran Wrap - including the time clock, counters, etc. In the 1970s, while working as a stand-up comedian in Pittsburgh's fledgling comedy club circuit, he submitted a winning joke for Playboy's "joke of the year." The joke's topic was classified "group sex," and Miller's submission stated: "The difference between Group Therapy and Group Sex is that in Group Therapy everyone talks about their problem; with Group Sex, everyone sees your problem."
Miller began his fictional news reports with "Good evening, what can I tell you?" and closed with "That's the news, and I am outta here!" Fans of SNL became accustomed to his smirky delivery, high-pitched giggle, and frequently-primped hair — idiosyncrasies that would be spoofed by Dana Carvey, Tom Hanks, and Jimmy Fallon, all of whom have impersonated Miller on the show. When Miller left SNL in 1991, the anchor's chair was turned over to Kevin Nealon. Miller's presence on SNL was still felt however, since before leaving, he discovered later SNL cast members who were in the same mold as himself, including Chris Farley, Mike Myers, David Spade, and Adam Sandler.
In 1988, Miller released a standup comedy CD, The Off-White Album, based on an HBO special titled Mr. Miller Goes To Washington, which drew heavily from the observational and metaphor-driven style he was known for on Saturday Night Live, and showed glimpses of the politically-based humor that would influence his later work. A well-received HBO special, Dennis Miller: Black & White, aired shortly after the release of the CD.
Although Miller spent much of his time on SNL behind the Weekend Update desk, he was included in some sketches and did a few recurring characters and celebrity impersonations.
The Dennis Miller Show had a limited audience due to Tribune's contracting it for time slots in the wee hours of the morning. The show was canceled the same year it premiered due to poor ratings.
In 2003, Miller provided short-lived regular commentary for the FOX News show Hannity & Colmes before moving on to do a prime-time political show on CNBC in early 2004 called, simply, Dennis Miller. The hour-long show contained a daily news segment called "The Daily Rorschach", which was reminiscent of his Weekend Update segments. The show also featured a panel discussion dubbed "The Varsity", which offered a wide variety of political viewpoints on current topics. Frequent "Varsity" panelists included Gloria Allred, Willie Brown, David Horowitz, Mickey Kaus, Steven l. Katz, Lawrence O'Donnell, and Harry Shearer. CNBC cancelled the show in May 2005 due to declining viewership.
Miller hosted the MTV Video Music Awards in 1995 and 1996. He also was the host of HBO's 1996 series of election specials, Not Necessarily the Election.
He has appeared in various commercials, serving as a spokesman for M&M's candies, 10-10-220 long distance service, and the Internet service provider NetZero. About these activities he has remarked: “Everybody has to sell out at some point to make a living. I'm a family man. I sold out to make an M&M commercial. They offer incredible amounts of money, and I say, ‘What can I do to sell one more piece of candy for you? Do you want me to hug the M&M?’ ”
Miller's days as a sports commentator did not end when he left Monday Night Football. In 2007, Versus, the cable network best known for its coverage of the National Hockey League tapped Miller to host Sports Unfiltered, a sports commentary show that airs Tuesdays at 10 PM Eastern Time. It debuted on November 6, 2007. The show was cancelled after a month.
Miller engages in serious discussions of American culture, current events, politics, and their place in the global context. The show is infused with Miller's trademark sarcasm, which is often characterized by obscure pop culture references. For example, each hour of the show opens up with an arcane reference. The first hour's opening phrase is a combination of dialogue from the film Thank You for Smoking and a U.S. space program slogan coined by Alan Shepard: "What's up Hiroshi? Let's light this candle!" Miller's other opening phrases for his second and third hours respectively are "Come to me my babies, let me quell your pain," (Powers Boothe as Jim Jones in Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones) and "ABC -- Always be closing if you want the knife set" (from Glengarry Glen Ross).
Most shows feature three guests (one per hour), mostly from the world of politics and entertainment, as well as calls from listeners. Guests include fellow comedians and SNL alumni (such as Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz), pundits and authors such as Ann Coulter, Aaron Klein and Mark Steyn (while the show's guest list leans right of center, there are several liberals who have appeared on the show, such as Dennis Kucinich and Alan Dershowitz), Presidential candidates, several sports commentators, and some "regulars," Howard Fineman of Newsweek, singer Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits, Nikki Finke, and Representative David Dreier, a Republican congressman from California, among many others A segment on Fridays is set aside for "Dennis Ex Machina," his term for a segment without a guest, where he allows phone calls on any topic.
Miller periodically performs stand-up at the Orleans Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. In recent appearances he has done a mix of his old and new material, with some political jokes as well.
He has authored four books based on his standup comedy and television monologues: The Rants (1996), Ranting Again (1999), I Rant, Therefore I Am (2000), and The Rant Zone (2001).
Miller has appeared in several films, in both comedic and non-comedic roles. His movie credits include Madhouse, Disclosure, The Net, Never Talk to Strangers, Bordello of Blood and Murder at 1600. He plays the Howard Stern-like talk-radio host Zander Kelly in Joe Dirt (2001) and appears as himself in Thank You for Smoking (2006).
Miller is known for his laid-back style (for example, calling people "Babe" or referring to them as "cats") and acerbic, brooding sense of humor. His specialty is the "rant" — a stream-of-consciousness diatribe in which he rails against whatever happens to be bothering him at the moment. Such rants typically begin with "Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but..." and end with "...of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong."
Miller's monologues and standup routines often feature elaborate similes and metaphors involving allusions to obscure people, places, and things. Miller has alluded to his own reputation for obscurity by titling one of his television specials Citizen Arcane. On his passion for language he has remarked: "I've always loved the flirtatious tango of consonants and vowels, the sturdy dependability of nouns and capricious whimsy of verbs, the strutting pageantry of the adjective and the flitting evanescence of the adverb, all kept safe and orderly by those reliable little policemen, punctuation marks. Wow! Think I got my ass kicked in high school?
While Miller's humor is often cerebral and abstract, it can at times be extremely blunt and mechanical. Whereas his humor has become dependent upon way he emotes and whines while ranting rather than the actual jokes and observations. In 2003 he remarked on the Tonight Show, "I would call the French scumbags, but that, of course, would be a disservice to bags filled with scum".
He was voted number 21 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time.
Miller's reputation changed significantly in the years following the September 11, 2001 attacks, when he became one of the Hollywood celebrities backing George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. Miller has said that one of the defining moments, in addition to 9/11, for his move from the Democratic to the Republican Party was watching a 2004 primary debate between the nine Democrats then contending for their party's nomination. "I haven't seen a starting nine like that since the '62 Mets", he remarked.
Slate.com commentator Dennis Cass describes Miller as having changed from a "left-leaning, Dada-ist wisenheimer" to a "tell-it-like-it-is, right-wing blowhard". The perceived change did not surprise former Saturday Night Live colleague and Democratic Party US Senate candidate Al Franken, however: “People have said to me, ‘What happened to Dennis?’ Nothing happened to Dennis. He’s the same Dennis. He’s always had a conservative streak on certain issues”.
While not at all shy about expressing his conservative opinions on topics such as taxes and foreign policy, Miller is quick to point out that he is still quite liberal on many social issues, including full support for abortion and gay marriage. During a recent interview, Miller said "I'm basically a libertarian. I'm pro-gay marriage and pro-choice, but nobody wants to hear all that.... They determine who you are based on the war." While on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno that he did not believe in global warming and that even if it was happening he would not mind it because he does not like to be cold.
In a radio interview with Penn Jillette on September 22, 2006, Miller explained his libertarianism. Regarding Libertarianism, Miller said "...that's what I am, I'll be honest with you. I'm for gay marriage, I don't believe in abortion but I'm pro-choice 'cause it's none of my business. Pretty much anything goes with me if you're not infringing yourself on other people but, I'll tell ya, 9/11 changed me.... You gotta go around and explain it to people and they think you're a turncoat".
On February 21, 2007, while appearing as a guest on The O'Reilly Factor, and again on May 25, 2007, while appearing as a guest on The Tonight Show, Miller stated that he is supporting Rudy Giuliani for president in 2008. After Giuliani's departure from the race, he then expressed his support for John McCain.
The term "Dennis Miller conservative" has popped up in right wing circles describing a person who is mainly libertarian, but supports the established conservative line on terrorism and national security (i.e., a "republitarian" or "neolibertarian"). On the November 12, 2007 episode of Miller's show, country singer Trace Adkins mentioned he was also a "Dennis Miller conservative".