Dennis Miller (born November 3, 1953) is an American stand-up comedian, talk show host, political commentator, sports commentator, actor, television personality, and radio personality.
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. From 2007 to 2015, Miller hosted a daily, three-hour, self-titled talk radio program, nationally syndicated by Westwood One. He is known for his critical assessments of current events, laced with pop culture references and delivered in an idiosyncratic verbal style.
He is listed as 21st on Comedy Central's 100 greatest stand up comedians of all time, and was ranked as the best host of SNL's Weekend Update by Vulture.com.
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. His parents separated and Miller was raised by his mother, Norma, a dietitian. Miller is of Scottish descent. His two earliest childhood comedy heroes were Jonathan Winters and Tim Conway. During college, he was a member of Sigma Tau Gamma Fraternity. 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 with a degree in journalism.
In 1979 Miller won $500 as a runner-up in Playboy's first annual humor competition with the following joke:
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.
In the early 1980s, Miller hosted Punch Line, a Saturday afternoon newsmagazine for teenagers, on Pittsburgh's KDKA-TV. 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.
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. Miller began his fictional news reports with "Good evening, and what can I tell you?" and closed with "Guess what, folks? 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, derived from an HBO special titled Mr. Miller Goes to Washington, which drew heavily from the observational and metaphor-driven style he was known for on Saturday Night Live, and showed glimpses of the political humor that would influence his later work. A well-received HBO special, Dennis Miller: Black and White, 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.
- 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)
- Gary Hart
- George Harrison
- Nathaniel Crosby
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 continued in the tradition of "alternative" talk shows, which started with the Late Night with David Letterman show, which debuted on NBC in 1982. Nick Bakay was the announcer, and Andy Summers, formerly of the band The Police, led the house band.
Guests included Toad the Wet Sprocket, who made their national television debut on the show, Henry Rollins who appeared repeatedly to chat with Miller and perform spoken word, and comedian Bill Hicks.
The show's staff boasted a mix of past and future performers, writers, and producers of note including Mark Brazill (That '70s Show), Eddie Feldmann, David Kohan and Max Mutchnick (creators of Will & Grace), Norm Macdonald, Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show), John Riggi, Kevin Rooney, Herb Sargent (Saturday Night Live), Drake Sather, and Dave Thomas (Second City TV).
The show was canceled after seven months, with the Tribune Entertainment CEO saying the show lacked "the ratings growth necessary to continue."
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 Tears for Fears hit "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", and also utilized a snippet of the song "Civilized" by the Rollins Band. The show was taped at CBS Television City on the same stage that The Price Is Right is taped. It utilized a small set and sparse lighting, and there was no band. It comprised mainly Miller, speaking to the largely unseen studio audience, on a darkened stage.
Miller hosted one guest per show, with whom he would discuss the topic of the day. Early on, guests were all interviewed live via satellite, but soon most appeared live in the studio. There was also 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 seasons of the show.
Miller and his writing staff won five Emmy Awards during the show's run, which aired 215 episodes over nine years. HBO canceled 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. His commentary was sprinkled with esoteric references. A common Miller-ism was after a Hail Mary pass fell incomplete, he would say "Hail Mary is denied â" separation of church and state." He also once referred to the "Greatest Show on Turf", the St. Louis Rams receiving corps, as the "Murderer's Row of Haste". After two seasons, 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.
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. He also had a chimpanzee, as a nod to the early days of the Today show and their mascot J. Fred Muggs. 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 Katz, Lawrence O'Donnell, Phil Hendrie, and Harry Shearer. CNBC canceled the show in May 2005 due to declining viewership.
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, "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" and late-night talk shows such as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with David Letterman, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and WWE Raw.
Miller hosted the MTV Video Music Awards in 1995 and 1996. He was also the host of HBO's 1996 series of election specials, Not Necessarily the Election.
He has appeared in various television 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, âWhat can I do to sell one more piece of candy for you? Do you want me to hug the M&M?â" Miller also did a short B2B commercial for Blockbuster/IBM partnership company, New Leaf Entertainment. On February 27, 2012, Miller guest starred on Hawaii 5-0 in the episode "Lekio", along with guest star James Caan.
Return to Fox News Channel
On September 21, 2006, Miller returned to Fox News Channel with a two-and-a-half-minute commentary on illegal immigration during his "Real Free Speech" segment on Hannity & Colmes. He appeared on 13 of the 17 aired episodes of the comedy show The Half Hour News Hour. Currently, he has a weekly segment called "Miller Time" on The O'Reilly Factor. Miller has also appeared on Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld under the pseudonym "Mansquito", a name Miller has pledged to use on future appearances on the network.
Miller co-hosted the game show Grand Slam, which aired on GSN in 2007.
For one month, Miller hosted Amne$ia for NBC. The show was a replacement program commissioned during the 2007â"08 Writers Guild of America strike and was canceled once the strike was resolved and scripted programming returned to the network.
Sports Unfiltered on Versus
Miller's days as a sports commentator did not end when he left Monday Night Football. In 2007, Versus, now NBCSN, tapped Miller to host Sports Unfiltered.
The Dennis Miller Show
In January 2007, Miller signed a deal with Westwood One (later acquired by Dial Global, rebranded Westwood One) to launch The Dennis Miller Show, a weekday three-hour talk radio program. The program debuted on March 26, 2007, and ran through February 27, 2015. The show's website provided a live stream of the broadcast. The site also made archives of all shows available in MP3 format. The live feed was free, but a subscription to the Dennis Miller Zone (DMZ) was required in order to access archived broadcasts. The show aired on 250+ stations, many of which (especially in the major markets at the time of the show's launch) are owned by Salem Communications, airing on tape delay on some of those stations between 6â"9 pm ET and 9 pm-12 am ET. Salem stations also aired a "best of" Miller show on Saturdays. His on-air sidekick "Salman" (David S. Weiss) also wrote for Dennis Miller Live. His producer Christian Bladt previously appeared on-camera as dozens of different characters during the "Daily Rorschach" segment on his CNBC television show.
Miller's program included serious discussions about American culture, current events, politics, and their place in the global context. The show was infused with Miller's sarcasm, which is often characterized by obscure pop culture references. For example, each hour of the show once opened with an arcane reference. The first hour's opening phrase was a combination of dialogue from the film Thank You for Smoking and a U.S. space program slogan coined by Alan Shepard: "What's up, Hiroshi? Let's light this candle!" Miller's other opening phrases for his second and third hours respectively were "Come to me my babies, let me quell your pain", (Powers Boothe as Jim Jones in Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones) and "ABC â" Always be closing if you want the knife set" (from Glengarry Glen Ross).
Most shows featured 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" like columnists and conservatives such as Debra Saunders, Charles Krauthammer, Victor Davis Hanson, John Bolton, Bill Kristol, and Jerome Corsi along with entertainers such as singer Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits and actor Orson Bean. Miller generally took calls every hour, and in addition to comments about culture and politics, Miller encouraged humorous callers and often comments on their comedic delivery. A segment on Fridays was set aside for "Dennis Ex Machina", his term for a segment without a guest, where he allowed phone calls on any topic.
According to Talkers Magazine, as of spring 2011, Miller's show has an estimated 2,250,000 weekly listeners. Miller and Dial Global signed an agreement in early 2012 to continue his show for three years. Miller ended the radio show after his current contract expired on March 27, 2015.
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.
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 rantâ"a stream-of-consciousness 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 married Carolyn "Ali" Espley, a former model from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on April 10, 1988. Espley is best known as the girl in Kajagoogoo's "Too Shy" music video. The couple 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.
Although in his early years of fame he was perceived to be a staunch liberal and an outspoken critic of Republicans, in recent years, Miller has become known for his conservative political opinions.
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." During the Presidential election of 2012, Miller appeared on Fox News Channel and said that under Barack Obama, the US is on the road to the "European model."
During the late 1980s and continuing through the 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." Miller also declared himself a "conservative libertarian" in a 1996 Playboy interview.
Miller's ideology changed significantly in the years following the September 11, 2001 attacks, when he became one of the few 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.
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." The perceived change did not surprise former Saturday Night Live colleague and Democratic Party Senator Al Franken, however: "People have said to me, âWhat happened to Dennis?â Nothing happened to Dennis. He's the same Dennis. He's always had a conservative streak on certain issues."
While not at all shy about expressing his conservative views 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 abortion and gay marriage. During an 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." During an interview on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, he said that he did not believe in global warming.
In a radio interview with Penn Jillette on September 22, 2006, Miller explained his libertarianism, saying, "...[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 redirected his support to John McCain.
Miller endorsed Herman Cain in the 2012 Republican primary, but later dropped his support, saying of Cain, "He can't win!" He later campaigned for Mitt Romney in the general election.
On his podcast "The PO'D Cast" with Adam Carolla and Dennis Miller. Miller stated that one of the factors was watching Democrats mock and ridicule former VP candidate James Stockdale. He quips how that Stockdale who "tapped out Morse Code prayers with American POWs so they wouldn't kill themselves, is getting hammered because he isn't good on TV."
- Madhouse (1990) â" Wes
- Disclosure (1994) â" Mark Lewyn
- The Net (1995) â" Dr. Alan Champion
- Never Talk to Strangers (1995) â" Cliff Raddison
- Bordello of Blood (1996) â" Rafe Guttman (Miller often refers to this film as his "magnum opus.")
- Murder at 1600 (1997) â" Detective Stengel
- Joe Dirt (2001) â" Zander Kelly
- Thank You for Smoking (2005) â" himself
- What Happens in Vegas (2008) â" Judge Whopper
- The Campaign (2012) â" himself
- Joe Dirt 2 (2015) â" Zander Kelly
- Space Ghost Coast to Coast (2003) â" himself
- House of Cards (2013) â" himself
- Mr. Miller Goes to Washington (1988)
- The 13th Annual Young Comedians Special (1989) (host)
- The Earth Day Special (1990)
- Black & 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)
- Dennis Miller: All In (2006)
- The Big Speech (2010)
- America 180 (2014)
- 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)
- 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
- Official website for Dennis Miller and his radio show
- Dennis Miller at the Internet Movie Database
- Dennis Miller FAQ version 3.9
- Annotated Dennis Miller Archive (Detailed explanations of some of Miller's Monday Night Football quips)
- Real Detroit Weekly Interview
- Dennis Miller (TV Series 2004â"2005) at the Internet Movie Database
- Dennis Miller at TV.com