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Emmy-award-winning comedian Dennis Miller is the host of CNBC's "Dennis Miller" (M-F, 9-10 p.m. ET/PT), a topical interview talk show featuring reasoned discourse, opinion and humor. Miller also serves as executive producer of the program, which is produced by NBC Studios. It's been said that Miller is "one of the premiere comedy talents in America today..." While others are blunt assessing Miller's comedic stature, Dennis himself makes a virtue of understatement, but there is nothing low-key about his career. Miller is a five-time Emmy-award winner for his critically acclaimed half-hour live talk show "Dennis Miller Live," which recently ended its nine-year run after 215 episodes. He has also been cast in films, usually in dramatic roles, most notably in 1994's "Disclosure," 1995's "The Net" and 1996's "Murder at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue." In October 2001, HarperCollins published the forth edition of Miller's popular rants, "The Rant Zone," now in paperback. Miller's previous books, "I Rant Therefore I Am;" "Ranting Again" and "The Rants" have all been New York Times bestsellers. For two seasons, Miller called the plays alongside Al Michaels and NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts on ABC's "Monday Night Football." He was also the "Weekend Update" correspondent on "Saturday Night Live" for six years, before exiting the show in 1991. He has yet to appear in a show with the words, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday in the title. Miller recently wrote and starred in the Emmy-nominated cable comedy special, "The Raw Feed," his sixth such special. Additionally, Miller has appeared on many politically oriented television talk shows.
Over the years, Miller has become both a public and critical favorite. The New York Times said, "Mr. Miller is exquisitely attuned to contemporary foibles...his material can be scathing, his delivery low key...Mr. Miller reaches a bit farther than most comedians for the scorching comment...this smart aleck has an uncommonly sharp eye..." The Hollywood Reporter called his most-recent special "an hour of topical, scathing brilliance that helps cement Miller's status as the Lenny Bruce of the new millennium ... the most cerebral, astute and clever stand-up ever to put mouth to microphone."
Dennis Miller was born on November 3, 1953, in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. His brother is James Jimmy Miller (manages Jim Carrey). His spouse is Ali Epsley (10 April 1988 - present) and they have 2 children, Holden, born 1990 and Marlon, born 1993. In the 1970s Dennis Miller won an award from Playboy Magazine for submitting the joke of the year.
Dennis Miller's famous quotes:
"When it comes down to it, we're really just a big ant farm with beepers."
"America may be the best country in the world, but that's kind of like being the valedictorian of summer school."
"Two wrongs may not make a right, but a thousand wrongs make a writer."
You like the Red Skelton painting? Buy the Red Skelton painting. You like "Home Improvement"? Tape it and go over it like the Zapruder film. It's your life; live it on your terms.
These liberals are telling me that I should take it easy on the terrorists. They said that our founding fathers would have gone easier on them. They were, after all, for civil liberties. Let me ask you a question: Do you really think that our founding fathers would have put up with any of this shit? I mean, our founding fathers blew peoples' heads off because they put a tax on their morning beverage!
On filmmaker Michael Moore during a 2003 episode of The Tonight Show: "He's going to wake up every day for the rest of his life, and he's going to tell us how he hates everything about this country except his right to hate it. And then we say that we love it and he's going to tell us what naive sheep we are and that he's the true patriot because he hates it and he sees all the problems in it. Yeah, right, Mike. You know something, if my yawn got any bigger they'd have to assign it a hurricane name, okay? Michael Moore simultaneously represents everything I detest in a human being and everything I feel obligated to defend in an American. Quite simply, it is that stupid moron's right to be that utterly, completely wrong."
"The only way we were going to get the French to go into Iraq was to tell them we thought there were truffles in there."
Parenting is the easiest job to get - you just have to screw up once and it's yours.
I used to be sceptic, but not anymore, because now I am positive that I'm getting screwed.
"Thanks to the notion of dysfunction, every zipperhead in this country can tap himself with a Freudian wand and go from failed frog to misunderstood prince."
"I don't have credibility, I'm a comedian. I'm not Ed Murrow up on the roof in a London fog reporting on the blitz."
Dennis Miller: '9-11 changed me'
Comedian defends Bush, will open fire on others on new show
Dennis Miller has usually been happy to spray his acerbic wit across the political spectrum, but things will be different on his new CNBC talk program.
President Bush is in a mock-free zone.
"I like him," Miller explained. "I'm going to give him a pass. I take care of my friends."
Miller is a familiar figure from his years on "Saturday Night Live," HBO and "Monday Night Football," but he will be in a different role on his daily show that debuts 9 p.m. EST Monday.
This is the Miller who has appeared at fund-raisers for Bush, ridden with the president on Air Force One, sat in the gallery at last week's State of the Union speech and was even talked about as a Republican senatorial candidate in California.
His fans didn't necessarily know that Miller. Now they do.
"Nine-11 changed me," he said. "I'm shocked that it didn't change the whole country, frankly."
The transformation isn't a complete surprise to Al Franken, his former "Saturday Night Live" colleague and now a best-selling liberal author.
"People have said to me, 'What happened to Dennis?' " Franken said.
"Nothing happened to Dennis. He's the same Dennis. He's always had a conservative streak on certain issues."
Coming out in the open with it will change how he's perceived professionally, he said.
"It makes what you do different when you say, 'I don't have a dog in this fight,' " Franken said. "It's a big choice to make. I made it. I made the same choice on the opposite side."
'We knew exactly what his political beliefs were'
CNBC is comfortable with an unabashed Bush fan in the middle of its prime-time schedule in an election year. CNBC President Pamela Thomas-Graham said she expects John McEnroe, whose own talk show will immediately follow Miller's starting this spring, to have different views.
"When we hired Dennis, we knew exactly what his political beliefs were and his viewers will hear them," Thomas-Graham said. "The reason we hired him is we think he's witty, smart and interesting. He's part of a lineup. He's not the only person in the lineup."
The liberal media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting accused CNBC of a conflict of interest in hiring GOP consultant Mike Murphy, an adviser to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, as a producer for Miller's show.
Schwarzenegger is scheduled to be a guest on Miller's first show Monday. CNBC points out that Murphy is one of several staff members, and that Miller is looking forward to having guests with varied views.
Miller has two words for people concerned about his credentials as host of a quasi-news show: lighten up.
"I don't have credibility, I'm a comedian," he said. "I'm not Ed Murrow up on the roof in a London fog reporting on the blitz."
As a viewer, Miller believes one of the titans of objective network news -- ABC anchorman Peter Jennings -- couldn't appear more liberal.
"At least I come out upfront and tell people about my politics," Miller said. "He sits there and displays it through subtle poker (expressions) all year long -- the raised eyebrows, the arch tone of the voice. We get it that he's liberal. We get it that he doesn't like Bush. Just come out and say it!"
(Replied ABC News spokeswoman Cathie Levine: "Peter Jennings is an experienced journalist who respects the boundaries of fairness and accuracy in all his reporting.")
'We're Frank Sinatra'
Miller cautions against making too many assumptions about his politics. He's conservative on taxes and defense issues but more liberal on social policy, he said.
"If two gay guys want to get married, I couldn't care less," he said. "It's their business. If some foreigner wants to blow their wedding up, I want my government to eliminate him."
The United States right now is simultaneously the world's most loved, hated, feared and admired nation, he said.
"In short," he said, "we're Frank Sinatra."
He's been having fun putting the show together, posing with a chain saw in promos and promising to obliterate the line between news and entertainment. He's bought a bunch of Bill O'Reilly paraphernalia and promises to give it away to viewers.
The show will feature interviews, a rant on a selected topic, a "Weekend Update"-like comic newscast and a pundit panel he calls "The Varsity."
And a monkey.
You read that right. Miller wanted a simian presence, believing a monkey occasionally scampering across the studio floor will keep both guests and viewers on their toes, he said.
While his background makes laughs inevitable, he's not making a comedy show. It's not "The Daily Show."
"I don't want it to be a screaming shriekfest," he said. "I want it to be a pretty reasoned discourse. I don't care what Gary Coleman thinks about Afghanistan, which to me was the flaw of 'Politically Correct' towards the end."
Perhaps a cable show will make for an easier transition into electoral politics.
Miller, 50, said he was asked to consider a challenge to California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, but wasn't interested.
"Maybe when I get older I would think about it, just as a lark, view it as its own form a of TV show," he said. "I think it would be fun to get in there and turn out the whole process -- just refuse to play and don't budge. Get rid of me if you want, but I'm just going to do what I want."
Dennis Miller: Fade In
It's 4 a.m., and comedian Dennis Miller can't sleep. After a few fitful hours of tossing and turning, he sits upright in bed and switches on the lamp on the night table. There, standing in the room is … Dennis Miller. But it's a younger, hipper Dennis, the Saturday Night Live Dennis, with the Steven Tyler hair and the twinkle in the eye. He is holding a large manila folder, stuffed with papers.
As Miller confronts his younger self, we hear the following exchange.
DENNIS MILLER (2003): What the … what's going on? Who are you?
DENNIS MILLER (1988): Scrooge! When the clock strikes one, you will be visited by three spirits! (high-pitched cackle). Just pulling your chain, chicky babe! It's me, your younger self.
DENNIS MILLER (2003): Christ, you scared the shit out of me. I jumped like Don Knotts at the Chinese Lunar Festival.
DENNIS MILLER (1988): Nice, good to see I'm still down with the glib obscure reference shtick. (Looks around the room). Love the shag carpeting, by the way. This reminds me of Huggy Bear's crib in Starsky and Hutch -- it's nice to see I haven't lost my innate sense of style. The room seems to be devoid of any Oscar statuettes, however.
DENNIS MILLER (2003): Lighten up Tourqemada, I'm working on it. (Rubs eyes). Assuming you're real and not one of those transvestite tribute performers, what's it like back in '88?
DENNIS MILLER (1988): Well, Gorillas In the Mist just came out -- I'm trying to decide whether to go see that tomorrow night, or hit myself several times in the head with a circus mallet. Other than that, just the usual -- Billy Ocean, the Bangles, trickle-down economics. It's a yearlong party.
(Opens folder) But that's not why I'm here, Chachi. I've been going over your -- which is to say our -- records for the past 15 years. And I have several bones to pick with you.
DENNIS MILLER (2003): What do you mean? It's the haircut, isn't it? It was Hanks' barber -- I just tried him once.
DENNIS MILLER (1988): The first thing I have to say is, what the fuck have you done to my body? I understand a few years have gone by, but The Picture of Dorian Gray aged more gracefully. My hairline has fared worse than Duval's in Godfather II. And what are these creases; my face looks like an unmade bed. Even Keith Richards is wondering where it all went wrong. I used to make jokes about Joan Rivers' penchant for facelifts, but I have a lot more sympathy for her now that I see your mug. Melissa Rivers continues to baffle me, however. And have you ever heard of working out? Richard Thomas was more ripped during the first season of The Waltons.
DENNIS MILLER (2003): Hey, I wasn't the one threatening Hunter S. Thompson with the broken tequila bottle in a Bangkok nightclub at 3 in the morning, that was you. Or me, 15 years ago. Jesus this is confusing.
DENNIS MILLER (1988): That's all very interesting -- which is to say I wasn't listening at all -- but there's a larger issue here, kemosabe: namely, my career. What in the name of Ray Jay Johnson have you been doing for the past 15 years? I'm getting sympathy cards from the cast of Diff'rent Strokes.
DENNIS MILLER (2003): Admittedly, mistakes were made. But I'm working on it. Did you see me last night on Hardball?
DENNIS MILLER (1988): We'll get to that. Um, not to piss in the punch bowl here, but Monday Night Football? What the fuck were you thinking?
DENNIS MILLER (2003): It was a high-profile gig.
DENNIS MILLER (1988): What do you know about football? I seem to recall a certain touch football game at Saturday Night Live where I asked Kevin Nealon to "hold my inhaler while I try to catch the oblong object." Football? I thought Joe Montana was a town where you couldn't get cable.
DENNIS MILLER (2003): It was a slight miscalculation.
DENNIS MILLER (1988): The Bay of Pigs was a slight miscalculation; this was a career-ending gaffe. Your weekly intellectual jousts with Dan Fouts and Leslie Vissar did not exactly remind us of the Algonquin roundtable. You alienated two huge portions of the public in one swoop -- sports people, and our hip fan base. Congratulations; you now have the cache of a low-level Tom Arnold, only without a show.
DENNIS MILLER (2003): You bastard.
DENNIS MILLER (1988): Which brings us to your weekly HBO show. I just realized that it has something in common with the great variety talk shows of the past, in that they are all now cancelled. Perhaps in retrospect getting career advice from Joe Piscopo was not wise.
DENNIS MILLER (2003): It's all under control, younger me. I've reinvented myself. Fifteen years from now, you'll be very proud of yourself.
DENNIS MILLER (1988): I have to tell you, and I say this with the greatest warmth and affection: fuck you. (Flips through pages in folder). The Factor with Bill O'Reilly. Hardball with Chris Matthews. Scarborough Country … I'm not even sure what the fuck that is, but suddenly I feel like a pack of Cools.
DENNIS MILLER (2003): Let me explain …
DENNIS MILLER (1988): Firing Line … you're on cable more than hotel porn. And it says here that you've been spewing conservative rhetoric at a rate that would make Joe McCarthy choke on his noon hoagie. It says here that, on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, you said: "George Bush has allowed us to respect the presidency again." Is this my future? Is this the promise of all those hard years at a low-level state university? (Looks under bed) And am I still wearing white socks with loafers?!
DENNIS MILLER (2003): Look, I just think that as I get older, it's only natural to come around to a more conservative way of looking at things. I just don't want to live in a world where Bill Clinton is the good guy and Rudy Guliani is the bad guy. And I've come to love George W. After 9/11, I respect a guy who is going to go out and kick a little ass. I'm sorry, we were attacked. Fire and sand make glass, and when we're done with Iraq it should look like Superman's dad's apartment on Krypton.
DENNIS MILLER (1988): But as Stewart said -- you know, the guy who still has a show -- Iraq didn't attack us. It's as if, after Pearl Harbor, we went after Australia. Hey, they're easy to find, have a central government, and kangaroos won't put up much of a fight if you have enough tanks. Your simplistic, reactionary logic is more suited to a caller on the Dr. Laura Schlessinger Show than someone of my intelligence. Look, my appeal has always been my ability to turn to the camera, wink and say "Are you folks buying any of this shit?" Now you've made me the King of Assholia, to quote myself. What have you done to me? Jesus, your mind is growing in inverse proportion to your prostate. You drove your career off the side of the road like Corey Feldman on an all-night crank and sterno binge, you feel as if Hollywood has betrayed you because Bordello of Blood wasn't on "Ebert and Roeper's eagerly-awaited video release list," and now you're running to the Republican teat. It's not the first time anyone's ever crawled up Rupert Murdoch's ass in times of career difficulty, and it won't be the last, but it will be the first time a member of the president's fan club will have the following quote on his resume: "George W. Bush surrounds himself with smart people the way a hole surrounds itself with a donut."
DENNIS MILLER (2003): Oh yeah (hee hee), I remember that one. From a couple years back.
DENNIS MILLER (1988): Look, this grumpy old man routine may look good in the short term, but it doesn't have legs. If you don't believe me, take it from this guy. Come on in, Dave.
DAVID SPADE (1988): Hi.
DENNIS MILLER (1988): See? A moment of wry snarkiness, a lifetime of shameful regret.
DENNIS MILLER (2003): (Pulls covers up to neck, shudders). Make him go away!
DENNIS MILLER (1988): We were all scared when those planes swan-dived into the towers, OK? But what separates real Americans from the faux variety is that real Americans don't turn in their spines to the hatcheck lady in times of stress. People in this country today hear the word terrorist and immediately snap into action -- which means locking themselves in the loo, defecating on the Constitution and using the Bill of Rights to wipe their ass. We're made of better stuff than that, and all the shrieking Rush Limbaughs in the world are not worth one brave man who will stand up and say, "hey, the emperor is starkers, and besides that, he wants all of Yemen's oil." I wasn't around, but I'm pretty sure the guys at Valley Forge weren't eating sautéed rat three times a day so that a future president could attempt a three-point landing on an aircraft carrier moored three miles off the coast of Catalina Island. We have to respond to terrorism, but the problem is that we're running around like the lynch mob in The Ox-Bow Incident, and when Hank Fonda stands up and says we got the wrong guy, Jane Darwell whacks him on the head with a gun butt and the next thing you know you wake up behind barbed wire at Guantanamo. All I'm saying is that it's time to scrap the Merle Haggard diplomacy, OK? Oh, and the reason we haven't found any weapons of mass destruction is that they're all in a warehouse in Topeka waiting for the next right-wing militia asshat to work his hatred of the federal government to a sufficient boiling point due to the fact that the local TV station has once again cancelled Dukes of Hazzard. While we're running around the world like Barney Fife at a jaywalkers convention, it's good to know that our schools are shit, our economy is floundering, and they'll have universal health care in Kabul before we have it here. The only good thing to come out of this is that Ari Fleischer took the honorable way out before Bush made him put on the jaunty Iraqi Minister of Information beret and tell us the moon is made of Sonoma Dry Jack. Ah fuck it, where's my propeller beanie?
DENNIS MILLER (2003): (Sleeping soundly, snoring like The Three Stooges).
DENNIS MILLER (1988): The attention span of Gary Busey at The Los Angeles Times' Festival of Books. (Tucks him in). Good night, sweet prince. See you in 15.
(Climbs out window). Where the fuck did I park? Hey, Spade! Don't change my radio stations, you asshole!
Dennis Miller Seeks Laughs Over Approval
Dennis Miller doesn't want to change your opinion of him on his self-titled CNBC talk show. If that happens, fine, but all he really wants is to hear you laugh.
"Contentious is good for television," he says, "but I try to be funny. God, I listen to some of these comedians who are politically oriented, mostly to the left, and they don't want to be funny. I want to be funny. I'd rather be funny than wise."
If you laugh but still think the pro-George W. Bush Miller is a right-wing nut case, that's also fine.
"People can think whatever they want about me; that's their business," he says. "It matters not a whit to me. I just smile and keep moving through life.
"I think if you're in your 50s -- I'm 51 now -- and you're still trying to shoot your beliefs through the prism of strangers, you're an asshole. What are you going to do, call people up, ask friends in Hollywood what you should believe?"
"Dennis Miller," which airs weeknights for an hour, premiered in January and had a rocky start creatively, resulting in a quick hiatus for retooling by Miller and senior producer Eddie Feldmann. A studio audience came in, and chimp Mowgli was relegated largely to taped comedy bits. More correspondents and writers were added, and the quality of guests was improved.
While the audience for HBO's weekly "Real Time With Bill Maher" shows up for Friday-night tapings at CBS Television City ready to rumble, the audience for Miller's show -- which tapes afternoons at NBC in Burbank, Calif. -- seems friendlier and mellower.
At a recent taping, when Miller apologized to the crowd for being a bit off his game, an audience member yelled, "We got your back."
All this hard work resulted in the show being renewed through 2005.
"One of the biggest things is to have a real mixture of people," Feldmann says. "One of Dennis' strengths is he can talk to a comic, go to a topical guest, go to a political guest, do a chef segment, and also on The Varsity debate panel, talk with some real heavy hitters in the commentary department.
"It's almost like a comedy Newsweek each day."
Of course, having a politically oriented host -- especially an outspoken supporter of President Bush -- during an incredibly overheated election season didn't hurt.
"It was a good time [for us to be on]," says Feldmann, who also worked with Miller on his HBO show "Dennis Miller Live." "After the last election in 2000, it wasn't like you put the lobster in a cold pot of water and heated it up. You knew you were going into the boiling water from the beginning."
If Miller's views surprise you, Feldmann says, you just haven't been paying attention.
"On HBO," he says, "where we did that show for 10 years, it was always very topic-oriented. If you listen to what Dennis said, I don't think he's moved all that much. He has in some ways, and in some ways he's still the same. Certain things have moved him more to the right, and in other ways -- his support of gay marriage and other parts of his political mind-set, were always there."
Los Angeles-based National Review Online columnist Catherine Seipp, who's a recurring guest on The Varsity panel, says of Miller, "He's pretty liberal/libertarian [on] social issues (for abortion rights and sympathetic to gay marriage), but recognizes that believing Christians are actually human beings -- a pretty radical notion right now in Hollywood.
"And he's a hard-line war hawk when it comes to foreign policy, which is what we're most in complete agreement about."
"You have to stop treating people who believe in God like idiots," Miller says. "I'm not even that fervent a religious person -- I believe in God; I'm not a Christian -- but most Christians I bump into are nice. There are nutters out there. I think abortion's wrong, but I'm pro-choice, just because it doesn't seem that it's my business.
"I hardly consider myself a conservative. I'm libertarian on most things. I do believe in a preemptive war on terror. That seems to have put me in the doghouse with certain people. I view it as a red badge of courage. I don't think those people are thinking clearly."
Asked to analyze the results of the presidential race, Miller launches into a characteristic rant: "People were sick of the country spinning out into Weirdsville. When they watch the ACLU fight against Boy Scouts and for NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association), they go, 'OK, we've reached a point where it's gotten crazy. People were putting their foot down. You knew it was an inevitability.
"There are people out there who shut up most of their lives, stay out of the way, don't want to be bothered and just want to live. Then occasionally the inmates try to take over the asylum, and those people say, 'Honey, reactivate the voting card; I'm going to vote this year.'"
As for advice for the other side, Miller just wants more of the same. "It's kind of an anger-on, anger-off situation, in which over the next four years, Democrats are really in some bizarre ideological jujitsu situation in which if they continue to be more angry and more rancorous and more disaffected and more to the left, [the Republican vote] will go up to 70 million next time, because more and more people will come out.
"When I heard Michael Moore say that he's coming out with his next 'Fahrenheit 9/11' right before the next election, I thought, 'Great, it's over then.'"
And perhaps some urban folks just need to get out more.
"Sure they do," Miller says. "They need to get out into the heartland. You can only learn so much in Tina Brown's pied-a-terre."