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Dennis Miller
Dennis Miller.jpg
Dennis Miller speaking at JavaOne, 2005.
Born November 3, 1953 (1953-11-03) (age 56)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Medium Stand-up, Television, Film, Books, Radio
Nationality Scottish American
Genres Satire/Political satire/News satire, Observational comedy, Wit/Word play, Black comedy, Surreal humor
Subject(s) American politics, American culture, current events, pop culture, libertarianism, American conservatism
Influences Jay Leno,[1] Richard Belzer[2], Dean Martin,[3]
Spouse Carolyn (Ali) Espley (April 10, 1988 - present) (2 children)
Notable works and roles Weekend Update anchor on Saturday Night Live
Host of Dennis Miller Live
Color commentator on Monday Night Football
Host of The Dennis Miller Show
Website www.dennismillerradio.com
Emmy Awards
Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing in a Variety or Music Program
1994, 1995, 1996, 1998 Dennis Miller Live
Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series
1996 Dennis Miller Live
American Comedy Awards
Funniest Male Performer in a TV Special
1996 Dennis Miller: State of the Union Undressed

Dennis Miller (November 3, 1953) is a 5-time Emmy winning American stand-up comedian, political commentator, actor, sports commentator, and television and radio personality. He is known for his critical assessments laced with pop culture references. He rose to fame as a cast member of Saturday Night Live in 1985, 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 right-wing political opinions, emphasizing a hawkish stance on U.S. military action and supporting 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 previously appeared on the network's Hannity & Colmes in a segment called "Real Free Speech."

Contents

Personal life

Miller was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and grew up in Castle Shannon, a suburb of Pittsburgh, where he graduated from Keystone Oaks High School in 1971.[4] His parents separated and Miller was raised by his mother, Norma, a dietitian.[5][6] Miller is of Scottish descent.[2] At Point Park University, he majored in journalism because he thought it would be easy: "I remember seeing All the President's Men and thinking Redford looked cool in his crinkled tie." He was a member of Sigma Tau Gamma Fraternity.[7] About his social status during this period, Miller writes: "When I went to college, I lived on campus, and the guys I hung out with made me do some things I'm not proud of, although they made the characters in Revenge of the Nerds look like the Rat Pack in 1962. I myself made that kid Booger look like Remington Steele" (I Rant, Therefore I Am). Miller graduated from Point Park University in 1976.[8]

In 1979 Miller won $500 as a runner-up in Playboy magazine's first annual humor competition with the following joke[9]:

The only difference between group sex and group therapy is that in group therapy you hear about everyone's problems and in group sex you see them.

Miller married Carolyn "Ali" Espley,[10] a former model from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on April 10, 1988. Espley is known as the girl in Kajagoogoo's "Too Shy" music video. The pair live in Santa Barbara, California, with their two sons, Holden (born 1990) and Marlon (born 1993). His younger brother Jimmy Miller has been a manager for comedians such as Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, Judd Apatow, and Sacha Baron Cohen.

Television career

In the early 1980s, Miller hosted The Trolley Show, a Saturday afternoon newsmagazine for teenagers, on Pittsburgh's KDKA-TV.[11] He also produced humorous essays for the syndicated Evening Magazine television program. Miller then began performing stand-up in New York comedy clubs such as Catch A Rising Star and The Comic Strip, as well as in Los Angeles at The Comedy Store. He appeared on Star Search, where he lost out to fellow comedian Sinbad after the two tied with judges' scores, but Sinbad won with a higher studio audience approval rating.

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Saturday Night Live

Miller's big break came in 1985, when he was discovered by Lorne Michaels at the Comedy Store. He landed a spot on Saturday Night Live, where he succeeded Christopher Guest as the Weekend Update anchor. The spot was supposed to go to comic Jon Lovitz, but Lovitz was scheduled for other parts on the show and needed the Update segment to do costume changes; so Miller was drafted to read the news.[12] 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.

In 1988, Miller released a stand-up comedy CD, The Off-White Album, based on an HBO special titled Mr. Miller Goes To Washington,[13] 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 and White,[14] 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.[15]

Recurring characters

  • Koko, one of the pixies in the recurring sketch, Miss Connie's Fable Nook
  • Steve, one of The Stand-Ups (others include Jon Lovitz as Bob, Damon Wayans as Keith, and Tom Hanks as Paul)

Celebrity impersonations

The Dennis Miller Show

In 1992, following his departure from Saturday Night Live, Miller launched a late night TV talk show, The Dennis Miller Show, syndicated by Tribune Entertainment. The Dennis Miller Show was among the first "alternative" talk shows, featuring cutting-edge bands and other groundbreaking guests not seen on other late-night programs of the time. For example, Toad the Wet Sprocket made their national television debut on the show, and Henry Rollins stopped by more than once to chat with Miller and perform spoken word.[16] Andy Summers, formerly of the band The Police, led the house band, and Nick Bakay was the announcer. The show staff boasted a standard mix of past and future performers, writers, and producers of note including Nick Bakay, Todd Baker, Mark Brazill (That '70s Show), Eddie Feldmann, David Kohan & Max Mutchnick (creators of Will & Grace), Norm Macdonald, Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show), John Riggi, Kevin Rooney, Herbert Sargent (Saturday Night Live), Drake Sather, and Dave Thomas (Second City TV).

Dennis Miller Live

Beginning in 1994, Miller hosted Dennis Miller Live, a half-hour talk show on HBO. The show's theme song was the iconic Tears for Fears hit "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", and also used the song "Civilized" by Rollins Band. The show had a small set, no band, sparse lighting. It comprised mainly Miller, speaking to the largely unseen studio audience, on a darkened stage. He hosted one guest per show, either live in the studio or occasionally on air via satellite, whom Miller would quiz on the topic of the day. The show also had a call-in segment. The number was originally given as 1-800-LACTOSE. Later, he referred to it only by its numeric equivalent (1-800-522-8673). Within the time available, Miller typically could accommodate only two or three calls. He gradually eliminated call-ins entirely in the last few years of the show. Miller and his writing staff won five Emmy Awards while hosting the show, which aired 215 episodes during its nine-year run. HBO cancelled the show in 2002.

Monday Night Football

In 2000, Miller beat out Rush Limbaugh and Tony Kornheiser (among others) for a job as color commentator on ABC's Monday Night Football.[17] His commentary was sprinkled with attempts at esoteric references.[18] A common Miller-ism was after a Hail Mary pass fell incomplete, he would say "Hail Mary is denied -- separation of church and state." After two seasons with little success, Miller and former San Diego Chargers' quarterback Dan Fouts (who worked alongside play-by-play man Al Michaels) were replaced by the veteran football commentator John Madden. In 2010, TV Guide Network listed Miller's stint at #12 on their list of 25 Biggest TV Blunders.[19]

CNBC show

Dennis Miller
Format Talk show
Starring Dennis Miller
Country of origin  United States
No. of episodes 220
Production
Running time 60 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel CNBC
Original run January 26, 2004 – May 13, 2005

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 Ed Schultz, Gloria Allred, Willie Brown, David Horowitz, Mickey Kaus, Steven l. Katz, Lawrence O'Donnell, Phil Hendrie, and Harry Shearer. CNBC cancelled the show in May 2005 due to declining viewership.[20]

Guest appearances and commercials

Miller has appeared as a guest or guest star on various shows, including Boston Public, The Daily Show, Hannity & Colmes, NewsRadio, The O'Reilly Factor, The Norm Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, SportsCenter, and late-night talk shows such as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with David Letterman.[21]

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?’ "[22]

Miller was the guest host of Monday Night Raw on December 14th, 2009.[23]

Return to Fox News

On September 21, 2006, Miller returned to Fox News, giving a two and a half minute commentary on illegal immigration during his "Real Free Speech" segment on Hannity & Colmes.[24] He appeared on the Fox News comedy show The Half Hour News Hour on 13 of its 17 aired episodes. Currently, he has a weekly segment on The O'Reilly Factor called "Miller Time."

Game shows

Miller co-hosted the game show Grand Slam, which aired on GSN in 2007.[25]

For one month, Miller hosted Amne$ia for NBC, but, again, the show was cancelled due to poor ratings.

Sports Unfiltered on Versus

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,[26] a sports commentary show that airs Tuesdays at 10 pm Eastern Time. It debuted on November 6, 2007. Yet again, the show was cancelled due to poor ratings—this time after one month.

Radio career

The Dennis Miller Show

In January 2007, Miller signed a deal with Westwood One to launch a three-hour talk radio program.[27] The program debuted on March 26, 2007, and is now live from 10am to 1pm Eastern Time, with re-feeds from 1pm to 4pm Eastern Time and 4pm to 7pm Eastern Time.[28] The show's website[29] provides a live stream of the broadcast. The site also makes archives of all shows available in MP3 format. The live feed is free, but a subscription to the Dennis Miller Zone (DMZ) is required in order to access archived broadcasts. The show airs on 250+ stations, many of which (especially in the major markets) are owned by Salem Communications,[30] airing on tape delay on some of those stations between 6-9 pm ET and 9 pm-12 am ET. Salem stations also air a "best of" Miller show on Saturdays. His on-air sidekick is "Salman" (David S. Weiss), who also wrote for Dennis Miller Live. His producer "Christian" previously appeared on-camera as dozens of different characters during the "Daily Rorschach" segment on his CNBC television show.

Miller attempts to engage in serious discussions about American culture, current events, politics, and their place in the global context. The show is infused with Miller's 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:[31] "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[32]) 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,[33] among many others. Dennis Miller generally takes calls every hour, and in addition to comments about culture and politics, Miller encourages humorous callers and often comments on their comedic delivery. 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.

According to Talkers Magazine estimates, as of February 2010, Miller's show has an estimated 1,500,000 weekly listeners, on par with The Thom Hartmann Show, Imus in the Morning and Mancow's Morning Madhouse. Talkers ranks him 34th of the country's top radio talk show hosts.[34] Miller and Westwood One renewed their agreement in September 2009, for an undisclosed multiple number of years.[35]

Other endeavors

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 stand-up 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, What Happens in Vegas 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 guest hosted the Slammy Awards episode of WWE Raw on December 14, 2009, and made a personal petition to Vince McMahon while they co-presented an award to have Bret Hart be considered to be one of the Guest Hosts. Vince stated due to controversy like the Montreal Screwjob that he would probably not want to participate. Dennis got the crowd going and Vince left the stage in visible disgust.

Comedic style

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 monologue 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?"[36]

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."[37]

He was voted number 21 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time.[38]

Political views

Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, Miller was generally perceived as a cynic on the left, ever eager to bash conservative Republicans. This perception did not change much even when Miller told USA Today in 1995: "I might be profane and opinionated, but underneath all that are some pretty conservative feelings. On most issues, between Clinton and Newt Gingrich, I'd choose Newt in a second, even though he is a bit too exclusionary." [39] Miller also declared himself a "conservative libertarian" in a 1996 Playboy interview.[39]

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.[39]

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."[40] The perceived change did not surprise former Saturday Night Live colleague and Democratic Party Senator 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."[41]

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.[41] 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 he said 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.[42]

In a radio interview with Penn Jillette on September 22, 2006, Miller explained his libertarianism, and said "...[a libertarian is] 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 initially supported Rudy Giuliani for president in 2008. After Giuliani's departure from the race, he then expressed his support for John McCain.

Media

HBO specials

  • Mr. Miller Goes to Washington (1988)
  • The 13th Annual Young Comedians Special (1989) (host)
  • Black and White (1990)
  • Live from Washington, D.C.: They Shoot HBO Specials, Don't They? (1993)
  • State of the Union Undressed (1995)
  • Citizen Arcane (1996)
  • The Millennium Special: 1,000 Years, 100 Laughs, 10 Really Good Ones (1999)
  • The Raw Feed (2003)
  • All In (2006)

Audio

  • The Off-White Album (Warner Bros. Records, 1988)
  • The Rants (Random House Audio, 1996)
  • Ranting Again (Random House Audio, 1998)
  • Rants Redux (Random House Audio, 1999)
  • I Rant, Therefore I Am (Random House Audio, 2000)
  • The Rant Zone: An All-Out Blitz Against Soul-Sucking Jobs, Twisted Child Stars, Holistic Loons, and People Who Eat Their Dogs! (HarperAudio, 2001)
  • Still Ranting After All These Years (HarperAudio, 2004)

Print

  • The Rants (Doubleday, 1996) ISBN 0-385-47804-6
  • Ranting Again (Doubleday, 1999) ISBN 0-385-48852-1
  • I Rant, Therefore I Am (Doubleday, 2000) ISBN 0-385-49535-8
  • The Rant Zone: An All-Out Blitz Against Soul-Sucking Jobs, Twisted Child Stars, Holistic Loons, and People Who Eat Their Dogs! (HarperCollins, 2001) ISBN 0-06-621066-6

Footnotes

  1. ^ Dennis Miller: Why I 'Ascended' to the Right
  2. ^ a b Miller, Dennis. (1994-04-20). Live from Washington, D.C. - They Shoot HBO Specials, Don't They?. [TV]. HBO. 
  3. ^ YouTube: Last Late Late Show - Part 4
  4. ^ People: Peter Wood on Dennis Miller on NRO Weekend
  5. ^ 1ST PERSON: Meet Dennis Miller.(By Chuck Myers) - Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service - HighBeam Research
  6. ^ Dennis Miller: Monday Night Live
  7. ^ Welcome to Sigma Tau Gamma, Gamma Omega Chapter
  8. ^ http://www.post-gazette.com/sports_headlines/20000730miller4.asp
  9. ^ "Funny Money", Playboy 26 (6), June 1979, ISSN 0032-1478 
  10. ^ Reliable sources spell her name variously as "Espley" or "Epsley". In the closing credits of Mr. Miller Goes to Washington, she is listed as "Ali Espley."
  11. ^ Dennis Miller : Comedian Profile
  12. ^ "Penn Jillette Radio Show. Special Guest: Dennis Miller". Penn Radio. 2006-09-22.
  13. ^ Mr. Miller Goes to Washington Starring Dennis Miller (1988) at the Internet Movie Database
  14. ^ Dennis Miller: Black and White (1990) at the Internet Movie Database
  15. ^ Dennis Miller, SNL Archives
  16. ^ "The Dennis Miller Show" (1992)
  17. ^ Dennis Miller Takes "Monday Night" Pigskin, E! Online Jun 22, 2000
  18. ^ Website (called "Dennis Miller Annotated" that lists and explains all of Miller's Monday Night quips
  19. ^ "Breaking News - TV Guide Network's "25 Biggest TV Blunders" Special Delivers 3.3 Million Viewers". thefutoncritic.com. 2010-03-02. http://www.thefutoncritic.com/news.aspx?id=20100302tvguide01. Retrieved 2010-03-10. 
  20. ^ CNBC cancels 'Dennis Miller' - May. 12, 2005
  21. ^ Dennis Miller (I)
  22. ^ USA WEEKEND Magazine
  23. ^ http://corporate.wwe.com/news/2009/2009-11-06.jsp
  24. ^ FOXNews.com - Funnyman Dennis Miller Returns to FNC! - Sean Hannity | Alan Colmes | Hannity & Colmes
  25. ^ GSN Taps Dennis Miller To Host Grand Slam - 6/5/2007 12:56:00 AM - Broadcasting & Cable
  26. ^ Versus - Series
  27. ^ http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/070110/nyw040.html?.v=79
  28. ^ The Dennis Miller Show
  29. ^ The Official Home of Dennis Miller On The Web
  30. ^ Dennis Miller Readies to Host Radio Show
  31. ^ Dennis Miller Radio Show, June 28, 2007. http://www.dennismillerradio.com/
  32. ^ Dennis Miller Radio Show, Hour 2, December 18, 2007. http://www.dennismillerradio.com/
  33. ^ "Dennis Miller Radio: Friends of the Show". The Dennis Miller Show. http://www.dennismillerradio.com/pg/jsp/general/friends.jsp. Retrieved 14 March 2010. 
  34. ^ The Top Talk Radio Audiences. Talkers Magazine. March 2009.
  35. ^ WESTWOOD ONE RENEWS MULTI-YEAR AGREEMENT WITH DENNIS MILLER. Westwood One press release. 15 September 2009.
  36. ^ The Rant Zone, pp. 81-2) http://www.nationalreview.com/weekend/people/people-wood020202.shtml
  37. ^ Dennis Miller Rant - Tonight Show With Jay Leno
  38. ^ "Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time".
  39. ^ a b c Duncan Currie on Dennis Miller on National Review Online
  40. ^ * Cass, Dennis (6 February 2004). "Blinded by the Right: Dennis Miller's new talk show is all about his political conversion". Slate. http://www.slate.com/id/2095127. Retrieved March 1, 2006. 
  41. ^ a b CNN.com - Dennis Miller: '9-11 changed me' - Jan. 26, 2004
  42. ^ http://www.pennlive.com/entertainment/patriotnews/index.ssf?/base/entertainment/116187813997730.xml&coll=1

References

External links

Media offices
Preceded by
Christopher Guest
Weekend Update
1985–1991
Succeeded by
Kevin Nealon
Preceded by
First host
MTV Movie Awards host
1992
Succeeded by
Eddie Murphy
Preceded by
Roseanne Barr
MTV Video Music Awards host
1995-1996
Succeeded by
Chris Rock

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