Even a brief phone conversation with comedian Dennis Miller can leave the person on the other end feeling like he’s just been through the wash, rinse and spin cycles of a Maytag and then thrown into the dryer afterward for good measure.
With his rapid-fire delivery, loquacious answers to questions and wicked wordplay, Mr. Miller is a whirling dervish of discussion.
For instance, ask him about his political views and you won’t necessarily get a clear-cut answer.
“I’m a pragmatist. I’m socially liberal and fiscally conservative,” he said Tuesday afternoon, mere seconds after finishing the daily syndicated radio show he hosts from his Southern California home.
“I think we should be able to keep half of the money we make and I like our guys to kill their guys before their guys kill our guys first.
“But I have no problem with things like gay marriage. If two people with similar genitals fall in love and want to get married, I’m more than OK with that.”
Mr. Miller, the former “Saturday Night Live” newsman, actor, frequent Fox News contributor, author and Emmy-winning television host, brings his acerbic take on politics, pop culture and anything else that pops into his brain, along with his trademark rants, to Dover Downs Hotel and Casino’s Rollins Center Friday, Jan. 17.
A limited number of tickets are still available.
While his views seem to be a mixed bag, there is one topic that Mr. Miller is crystal clear on — Delaware’s own Joe Biden.
During a 2012 visit with Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show,” Mr. Miller referred to the vice president as “a moron.”
His position doesn’t seem to have changed much in a year.
“When he starts talking about going to diners in the morning that have been closed for 17 years, he loses me,” Mr. Miller said in a reference to Vice President Biden’s famous gaffe during his 2008 debate with Sarah Palin about frequenting Katie’s Restaurant in Wilmington, a venue that had closed years before.
“He might be a nice guy but I also think he’s full of it. There’s a lot of backslapping that goes on with him that turns me off. He’s not my cup of tea, to say the least.”
For those who may be surprised to hear Mr. Miller’s conservative stripes coming out after six years of perceived liberal leanings on SNL’s “Weekend Update” in the mid- to late 1980s, he says don’t be.
“I was recently watching an old HBO ‘Young Comedians Special’ (in 1989) where I introduced David Spade and I was called ‘conservative’ on that show. So I really don’t think I’ve changed too much over the years.”
Mr. Miller’s daily radio talk show, a mix of current events, sports, comedy and music, airs on more than 250 stations with an estimated quarter-million listeners.
It is excerpted locally Saturday nights at 10 on Dover’s WDOV (1410-AM) and Wilmington’s WILM (1450-AM).
He also appears on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor,” delivering his take on the news with the weekly “Miller Time” segment.
But after 35 years at the microphone, Mr. Miller still considers himself first and foremost a standup comic.
“I dig radio and I love being on with O’Reilly but Jerry Seinfeld once told me that his sitcom was just a departure from his real job of being a standup comedian,” he said.
“I think the hardest thing you can do in the entertainment world is be a standup and I like things that are hard. I did movies for years where you can (mess) up 13 times and get it right on the 14th time and they’re good with that. With standup, it’s one shot and if you (mess) up, you fail.
“I just saw a documentary on our soldiers and what a hard life they have and you think ‘Why are they drawn to it?’ I’m certainly not trying to equate what I do with what a Navy SEAL does but it’s on that infinitesimal level of show biz.”
The material that Mr. Miller will bring to Dover next month is a warmup for his next standup special entitled “America 180°” on Epix.
The switch in networks brings to a close a long association with HBO.
“I did eight specials for HBO and we did 215 episodes of ‘Dennis Miller Live’ and won five Emmys. I have nothing but good things to say about HBO. They championed my brand as well as anyone could. But I found a nice suitor in Epix who is looking to extend themselves more into comedy and I was flattered to be asked,” he said.
Dover audiences shouldn’t expect to see all of the material contained in the special he will tape in April, though.
“We’ll roll out a big chunk of it, probably half. But we don’t want to do all the same stuff with the big-money ticket crowd at Dover Downs,” he said.
The topical humor that Mr. Miller does today is a far cry from the type of material he did in his early days when he hit the road at age 25.
“I got that on ‘SNL’ and I was marked for life,” he joked.
“I wasn’t a topical comedian at all before then. But then when I would go on the road, I thought I better play to that audience rather than the monkey tricks I was doing.”
After getting the job on “Saturday Night Live” in 1985, Mr. Miller was supposed to be a featured player with Jon Lovitz originally charged with manning the “Weekend Update” desk. But after being used in so many sketches, Mr. Lovitz needed that time to change costumes — so Mr. Miller eventually got the job.
All of this comedy stuff wasn’t even Mr. Miller’s intention, as he graduated from Point Park College in his native Pittsburgh in 1976 with a journalism degree.
But after one assignment, he was done.
“I was covering a high school football game and the editor said he was going to pay me by the column half-inch,” Mr. Miller recalled.
“Unless you’re in porn, that’s not what you want to hear. So I knew I had to do something else with my life.”
Tickets for the 9 p.m. Dover Downs show are $35-$75 and may be purchased through VIP Services at 800-711-5882 or www.doverdowns.com.
Comedy at Valerie’s
Calling all aspiring Dennis Millers, Valerie’s Bar and Grill, 2271 S. State St. in Dover, is featuring a comedy open mic night on Mondays from 7 to 9 p.m.
Participants will be considered to perform in a monthly Wednesday night comedy finalists night.
For more information, call Valerie’s at 302-697-1233 or Ed Haas at 302-535-9278.
Jacobs books laughs
Staying with the comedy theme, popular author and columnist for Delaware Beach Life and “Letters from CAMP Rehoboth,” Fay Jacobs will read some of the funniest chapters from her new book “Time Fries! — Aging Gracelessly in Rehoboth Beach” on Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. at Proud Books on Baltimore Avenue in Rehoboth Beach.
Ms. Jacobs has been doing readings from Provincetown, Mass., to New Orleans, La., and Saturday will be the only local opportunity until spring to hear the author read from her new book.
This time, award-winning humorist Jacobs takes on the fight not to act her age, not to go quietly into Medicare, and not to miss any adventures along the way.
“Time Fries!” has a retail price of $17. The new book, plus Ms. Jacobs’ earlier books are available locally at Browseabout Books, Proud Bookstore, and online at Amazon.com among others. They are also available at www.aandmbooks.com. The e-books are available for Kindle, with Nook and iBook following shortly.
For updated local entertainment news throughout the week, visit the Best Bets blog.