Hardy Plumbing
June 28, 2006

DENNIS MILLER: Ranting As A Way Of Life

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I don't want to go off on a rant here, but Dennis Miller may be the most gifted comedian working today.

What sets Miller apart from his peers is his intelligence -- his obscure references and metaphors have become his trademark.

Miller brings his act to the Westhampton Performing Arts Center on July 15, and he won't be playing the glockenspiel. "What do you mean `what will I do?' I'm a comedian. I stand up there and tell jokes!"

He's been doing it, and doing it well, since 1985.

His break came when he was signed to do the Weekend Update segment on "Saturday Night Live."

"I auditioned at The Comedy Store in L.A., and I was invited back to New York to audition for Lorne Michaels. I walked into this Bob-Fosse type studio and Lorne was there. It was intense."

In essence, it was a make-or-break moment in his career. Miller said he wasn't particularly nervous. "You deal with it. There's another voice in your head that takes over. It says, "quit whining and do the best you can."

Miller thought he performed well, "But I saw an article in USA Today about the new cast and I wasn't in it."

Four months later, however, he was hired by Michaels. "I was doing Letterman and the word came, `Lorne wants to see you on the 17th floor.'"

Since then, he has been a fixture in television, with his own show and HBO specials, as well as hosting the Emmy awards and frequently filling guest spots on the talk shows. Miller has won five Emmys.

He has been in the news lately, and drawn some flak for his vocal support of the Bush administration.

"I want to kill the terrorists, and I like Bush in that role. The terrorists are in their caves watching television and they say, `Wow, Dick Cheney just shot his best friend . . . imagine what they're going to do to us!"

Miller said he is a liberal on most issues. "I've been on both sides, and the liberal side gets much pissier."

One commentator, taking a cue from Miller, said the comedian had changed from "a left-leaning Dada-ist wisenheimer to a tell-it-like-it-is right wing blowhard."

Miller seemed like an odd choice to man the Monday Night Football booth, but he was chosen over the likes of Rush Limbaugh in 2000 to join Al Michaels and Dan Fouts. It wasn't long before he was literally the talk of the country, his obscure references served as fodder for numerous talk shows and newspaper columnists.

"Christo didn't use that much fabric when he enveloped the Pont Neuf," Miller uttered while watching a rather large player get his ankle wrapped. Al Michaels laughed hysterically; Fouts scratched his head.

The gig lasted two years, though Miller had signed on for three. "When (John) Madden left Fox I said, `That's it, we're gonna get whacked.' We had a blast, though."

Miller said the traveling got to him during the gig.

"It was what it was. We were on the road four days. They had us studying game film. I'm like, `What is this, the Kennedy assassination?'"

Incidentally, Madden's ratings the next season were lower than Miller's.

Miller grew up in Pittsburgh -- thus explaining his knowledge of football -- and was a self-described nerd: "I made the kid Booger look like Remington Steele," he once said. He hosted a local TV show and did some comedy writing before hitting the comedy club circuit. He once appeared on "Star Search" and lost . . . to Sinbad.

Miller said Richard Pryor was the best comedian he had ever seen. Right now, "Brian Regan is the funniest comedian in the country." He said he admires Richard Belzer "who proved you don't have to be an ass-licker," and Jay Leno, "who has the best work ethic ever."

Miller has appeared in a couple of movies but has no interest making a career out of it. "I mean, who wants to go to Guatemala and sit in a trailer for 16 hours? If I wanted that lifestyle I would have become the Unibomber!"

Nor does he intend to soften his political views.

"I'm sorry, those pictures from Abu Ghraib. At first they infuriated me. Then they cut our guys' heads off and they didn't seem like much. Now I trade them with my friends," he recently said.

For mature audiences only. Call 288-2350 for tickets.

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