Over his decade-plus career, Dennis Miller has tried to make the rant his own. Full of vitriol for targets big and small, the stand-up comedian has played a news anchor in his early days on Saturday Night Live—he pretty much made Weekend Update his own—won an Emmy for his talk show, and made a puzzling diversion as a commentator for Monday Night Football, lacing his appreciation for the games with references so dense and obscure that several Web sites sprang up to gloss his jokes.
But for some, Miller’s most drastic career move was evolving his humor slowly towards the right, with jokes about turning Iraq into glass, and scabrous comments about the French (not the rarest of targets, of course). Just last week, Miller raised the ire of Elton John, who denounced him at a charity gig from behind his piano.
Miller makes no apologies. And in this interview to publicize his appearance Saturday at the Margorie Luke Theatre—-raising funds for the Fallen Heroes Last Wish Foundation, which aims to help the families and children for those killed in Iraq—-Miller speaks of the need for preemptive war, 19th century thermometers, and Dairy Queens.
TM: Since your days on Saturday Night Live you’ve made a switch to being a conservative–
DM: No, I’m liberal on most things, it’s just two things that have changed. I really did change after 9-11. I guess a lot of people said they did, but didn’t. I do believe in preemptively taking care of this country. When you turn on the TV and you see them attacking you on your homeland that seems to be a legitimate reason to change some beliefs about the safety of the world.
TM: Now, the charity that you’re doing this benefit for, the Fallen Heroes—
DM: Yeah, they’re kids. Anybody who falls in battle protecting our asses, their kid deserves to go to college on us.
TM: A lot of that protection that the charity money goes to—isn’t the government supposed to pay for those things? How does that work out?
DM: I don’t know, I’m just showing up and doing a show. I don’t know the inner workings of that. You can call the government. I’m sure they’ll have information for you. I would be speaking out of my ass if I started talking about what the government gives. I don’t know what their benefit packages are for fallen soldiers. I know I’m showing up on the 25th to do a show, and the proceeds go to this fund.
TM: You say you changed after 9-11, do you feel the audience has changed?
DM: Well, most of my audience is pissed. It’s reflected in the statistics you usually see. Around two-thirds of the people want to defend the country and think the country’s great and that we’re not the problem. And one out of every three will look at you and say “No, we’re the problem, we’re the bad guys,” And I don’t even hear those people anymore. I just look at them, smile, and keep moving, because they’re idiots.
TM: Do you see some of the more outrageous things that you say in your performances, as a kind of a Modest Proposal style of–
DM: No, no, I believe what I say. There’s a couple of things that have a Swiftian sense to them but there’s a core belief in everything.
TM: What about global warming? You have a whole–
DM: Well, it has gone up 1.8 degrees in the last hundred years. And I do find that stable. I’m sorry, but I just do. I mean, really, go to your thermostat today, it’s a little chilly out, a little overcast, change it from 71 to 72.8F. Maybe you’ll notice it a little, but not much. Doesn’t that seem amazingly stable?
TM: Well, I don’t know about that, I just look at the glaciers melting, and–
DM: And where’s that at?
TM: Oh, Alaska…Canada…
DM: I’m always amazed that I don’t wake up one morning and it’s like, wow, for some reason its 160F today. And then I’d be thinking, wow, we have some fucking weird problems. Plus I don’t trust gauges from 100 years ago. I’ll be honest with ya, when people say it’s gone up 1.8 degrees over 100 years I always think, hmm, 100 years ago…1903… did they have it that together so it could that accurate? Maybe it was 1.8 degrees higher 100 years ago, and they just weren’t measuring it right. I mean, really, do you think they really knew what the temperature was 100 years ago? So, like I said, global warming: maybe a small problem, not big on my list.
TM: So you’re not going to be building an ark or anything.
DM: Well, I don’t know, what can you do? Do you lose your life or do you get up every day? All I know is that when I was a kid, people used to litter. It was filthy. And you know what? People don’t litter any more. So when we talk about how we’re pillaging the planet, I always think, you know, we made some nice changes, emissions are less than they used to be, and we don’t litter. So I think we’ve been good for the planet in this generation. I know a lot of people disagree and think we’re the worst people for the planet, but we can’t get up every day and operate under that premise.
TM: You fully support President Bush. You call him a great leader. So how do you think it’s going now in Iraq?
DM: The end game is unpredictable. But I don’t put that unpredictability on us, I put that on our enemies. I mean, yes, you’re dealing with crazy people. But overall, I think we’re making headway in Iraq and I’m glad the administration decided to go on this public relations thing and get their side of it out. Because, I think, quite frankly, much of the media paints it as bleak as they can. The media always paints things bleak, that’s how you sell papers.
TM: Mmm, well, I mean–
DM: Listen, you and I could disagree politically but you’re asking me what I think. I’m just telling you, yes, I believe it’s the loss of one of our soldiers is heartbreaking, but that’s what happens in war and we are in a war on terror and this is part of the war on terror. I don’t view this as a light thing. I mean, yes, it’s devastating to lose a boy or girl who goes over there to protect us, but that is the unfortunate and extremely high cost of war. And we are at war.
Dennis Miller will perform October 25, 8 p.m. at the Marjorie Luke Theatre. Tickets: $75-$150. Call 805-565-9359 or www.ticketmaestro.org.