Dennis Miller is touring with Mark Steyn on the "Adorable Deplorable” Tour, which includes a stop at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre on March 2. I had a chance to catch up with Miller before the show for an interview.
Originally from Pittsburgh, Miller started out in the entertainment business as a stand-up comic almost 40 years ago. Today the unique brand of humor and wit that is synonymous with the name Dennis Miller is world famous.
Rodeo: Recently you were back in your home state when you brought your "Adorable Deplorable" show to Reading. What was the best part of your trip to Reading and for those who haven't had the opportunity to see the show yet, what can they expect?
Dennis: The best part was I had never worked with Mark before. We're friends but we had never been on stage together, and we dove tailed nicely. It was a good give and take, and I think the crowd really enjoyed it. The show... I would tell people who possibly want to come that it's not preachy, it's not sour, it's not about politics as much as it's a funny look at the world we live in. They should know when they come there, it's not going to be a dissertation on things, it's going to be a laugh your butt off thing.
Rodeo: You've worked in many mediums stand-up, television, film, and podcasting. When did you first realize you were funny and wanted to pursue a career in comedy?
Dennis: When I was young I remember seeing a stand-up comedian in a bar in Pittsburgh and remember thinking there's a quirky job I might try. It was right when I was out of college, maybe a couple years after that.
Rodeo: You hosted "Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update" for a few years from the late 1980s to early '90s. How did you land the gig and... how is "SNL" and politics different today than when you were on the show?
Dennis: Back then our job was to make fun of whoever was in power, and at that time it was Reagan. Today, I don't watch the show as much but it does seem to me that they lean a little more to the left than when I was on there. I got the job just by auditioning in Los Angeles at The Comedy Store and Al Franken believe it or not, the man who went on to become the senator, was the producer that year and he asked me to come perform in front of Lorne (Michaels) in New York, maybe a month later and I did that. It was a pretty long process but that's how I got the gig.
Rodeo: When you were first starting out in the business what was the biggest obstacle you encountered, and what advice would you give a young person who is inspired by your success and dreams of growing up to become a comedian?
Dennis: The big thing was the fear of getting on stage. I was writing jokes and selling them to people and then I would see them do well with the joke; and then I remember thinking I have to force myself to get through this fear to become the conduit for my material. What I would advise young people is while it might appear frightening from the outside to step in front of people it is not obviously anywhere near life and death situation. And I would go up there in the full knowledge that even if you do poorly at any given time... if you keep doing poorly you'll get better at it, and not to worry about the moment as much but see the longer view.
Rodeo: You have won awards for writing from The Writers Guild of America. To you what is the most important ingredient to writing a joke that everyone will laugh at?
Dennis: An unexpected turn. You have to take an odd left somewhere in the joke to evoke a reaction.
Rodeo: You have acted in several films. One that I found interesting is 1995s "The Net". Although the Internet is part of the film's plot, what appears in "The Net" isn't quite the cyberworld we have today. While you were filming "The Net" did you realize the significance of what the Internet would go on to become just a few years after the film's release?
Dennis: You know, quite frankly, I didn't. It seemed like a fun part and I admired Sandra (Bullock) and she turned out to be a great mate and was very funny, and a good hang, great to act with. As I look back I think it might have been the first big Hollywood feature that involved the Internet. I feel proud that I was there at the beginning of films based on the Internet and I feel proud that I got to work with Sandra Bullock who was a delight.
Rodeo: You are the author of several books that have been on the New York Times List of Best Sellers. From titles like “The Rants” to “The Rant Zone,” what motivates you to write and do you approach the topics for your books in the same way as your stand-up comedy or podcast?
Dennis: “The Rants” books were simply an accumulation of rants that I did on my HBO show. I had an HBO show for 215 episodes, and we would accumulate the rants and put them in book form, and then I would augment them with another 5 or 10 that I wrote specifically for the book. So when you say is it the same approach, very same approach.
Rodeo: You hosted the MTV "Video Music Awards". What is your opinion on the importance of music education and arts in the public school?
Dennis: I do think that arts education for kids is a noble subsidizing. The MTV Awards I did two years in a row. I remember that they once had me hooked up with the Soviet space station to give them an MTV award, and the translator's microphone wouldn't work. My big memory of the MTV Awards is being on TV live talking to Russian guys who only spoke Russian, giving them an MTV award while they were on the space station, not understanding what they're saying, and looking down into the first row and Eddie Van Halen just laughing so hard at me that I was in that predicament, but I had fun.
To find out more about Dennis Miller, including what makes him laugh, what he would be doing for a living if he wasn't doing comedy and his favorite go to snack food, go to the link to hear the entire interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2GPaqAQuqw&feature=youtu.be.
Rodeo would like to say thanks to the following people for being super, awesome, and cool: Dennis Miller, Jeff Abraham, Jacob Farrara, Trey Wojciechowski, and Justin Collins.
Kid reviewer Rodeo Marie Hanson, 12, Fleetwood, contributes entertainment columns to Berks-Mont Newspapers.