His distinctive voice – remembered for spewing rancid daggers at the nation's powerful – came across the telephone upbeat and friendly. "Hi, this is Dennis Miller.“
The conversation was intended to publicize his upcoming one-man show at Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort on Thursday. But the 15-minute call ended more a two-way exchange on politics, newsmakers and feminists.
A five-time Emmy-award winner for his critically acclaimed half-hour talk show "Dennis Miller Live,“ which had a nine-year run on HBO, a film actor and author of "I Rant Therefore I Am;“ "Ranting Again;“ "The Rants“ and "The Rant Zone,“ surprisingly didn't rant. He didn't monopolize the interview, or try.
"Well, what do you think?“ he queried, expecting to hear a response as equally honest and blunt as he gave.
Opinionated? Indeed. Funny? Absolutely.
Sounding more an edgy social pundit than standup comedienne, most of Miller's onstage social criticism comes out of the day's headlines in real time. He laughed at the suggestion he scripts a dialogue in advance, although some things are consistent, he says, like "a lot of weird courtroom drama,“ most notably the Michael Jackson saga.
Considered by some as the best, Miller was Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update“ funnyman for six years, until 1991. Of the many who followed, he says he's a “huge Tina Fey fan,“ co-anchor of the current WU. "Tina's great and one of the best. She has the right slash and burn mentality.“
Miller fans of that era may not recognize or accept the flag-waving Miller and Bush supporter that emerged after 9/11. At age 51, he brushes off the personal attacks. "I can't wake up and care about what people think about me.“
His stand is firm. Of the Iraq invasion and capture of Saddam Hussein, "It was a good move and it's panning out. Will liberals be liberal enough to admit that it worked? Guess what? 9/11 changed me. What's the option? To leave the cesspool breeding over there? Jon Stewart ("The Daily Show“ on Comedy Central) said one night, kWhat if Bush was right?'“
Miller wants credit for saying what he believes out loud, unlike some people whose actions go in reverse of their initial judgments. He withstands criticism, but doesn't feel banished from the Hollywood scene.
"It isn't McCarthyism V maybe Andrew McCarthyism (the once popular TV actor who faded away). You never know when you're over in Hollywood. You can get a great table at your last meal.“
Whether weapons of mass destruction existed or not, the war allowed Iraqis to vote freely. Eight hundred thousand Syrians marched to have an election of their own. Saudi women desire voting privileges after seeing women in Iraq cast votes.
All this leads Miller to suggest President Bush could turn out to be "the biggest feminist,“ and not Bill Clinton, whom liberals revere. "How did he treat women?“
On the selection of a pope, Miller hopes to see a successor to Pope John Paul in his 50s who'd excommunicate priests "if we hear of anyone diddling with young boys.“
Miller was "sickened“ at having Cardinal Bernard Law celebrate Mass to mourn Pope John Paul's death at St. Peter Basilica. "We're talking about sexual predators and this is the guy who was moving them around,“ from parish to parish, Miller said of the former Boston archbishop who resigned amid the Catholic Church's worst child sex scandal.
So what does this man, dubbed by the Hollywood Reporter as the most "cerebral, astute and clever stand-up ever to put mouth to microphone,“ read to stay current? Miller dissed The New York Times and Washington Post.
"I don't read the Times. There's more accurate information in the Auto Trader. I like a good pie-chart, so I read USA Today,“ he said.
He expounded on how long ex-Times writer Jayson Blair had fabricated national front-page stories.
Married and father of three, Miller majored in journalism in college. That is, until he was told his pay would be "by the column inch“ and asked for the fictional "check.“
"You're going to take a ruler and figure out my paycheck? Bye-bye.“
A press release on Miller looked to have trademark symbols next to a few comedic phrases. Laughing, he says he doesn't know how to work a VCR much less bother to trademark phrases.
"I don't find my droppings all that important. I really take a proletarian approach to show business. I go in, do the job and leave. I wait until the next gig. I'm not a Renaissance Man, just a worker in a hive looking for the next lily pad. Hopefully I'll be fired from five more jobs over the rest of my life.“