Exclusive Q&A: Comedian and Radio Talk Show Host Dennis Miller
Comedian Dennis Miller and Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, who are appearing around the country on their "Bolder & Fresher Tour," will take the stage at the Blaisdell Concert Hall on Saturday, May 10th. Miller, master of rants and pop references, spoke with Honolulu Magazine from his home in Santa Barbara.
Photo: Courtesy Dennis Miller
What's the format of your show? Do you debate?
I do 35 minutes up front as a comedian, talking about current events. Then O'Reilly does 35 minutes where he talks about current events, but obviously more through the prism of his being the host of The O'Reilly Factor. Then we take a 15-minute break, and then we take questions from the audience.
Is there a warm-up act?
It's just you guys with microphones?
It's a meaty two hours.
We debate on some things. It depends on if we disagree. I think Obama is horribly inept at his job, and sometimes I think Bill thinks more highly of the job he's doing than I do.
Have you been to Hawaii before?
Sure, vacationing. I've probably been to Hawaii 10 times in my life.
Michelle Obama has said, "You can't really understand Barack until you understand Hawaii." What's your impression of Hawaii?
When I go to Hawaii, I go quite frankly to escape things like politicians. I'm not going to sully my thoughts on Hawaii with thoughts of any politician, especially one who I think is reasonably inept. People always think I must have a deep and abiding loathing for Barack Obama. I don't. It doesn't run that deep. He's just an inept civil servant. He's the guy at the toll booth who keeps giving out the wrong change.
So you're not going on the Obama home tour, where they drive by all of the president's different childhood homes?
No. I don't think I would.
My impression of Bill O'Reilly is that he sometimes says things that are more extreme than he actually believes. Do you think he says stuff sometimes simply to be provocative?
To the extent that I know him, which is probably more than most, but not as much as anybody, Bill's just close to the vest. I think he believes in traditional values. I think he likes the president more than I do, but I don't choose to talk to him about that. There are some things I find him surprisingly liberal on, and other things I find him surprisingly conservative on. I can't say I know him completely, because he's a pretty guarded cat. But I think he's got a good heart.
You appear regularly on the Fox News Channel these days, but back in the 1980s you seemed a lot more left-leaning. Did your politics change, or did people misread you all along?
The left doesn't really pay attention. You're either in lockstep with them, or your not. When you're on Saturday Night Live [Miller anchored the “Weekend Update” sketch from 1985 to 1991] you make fun of whoever the president is. Reagan was the president, and I thought he provided ample opportunity to make fun of. When you have the “Weekend Update” job, I don’t think your first move should be to go into Lorne Michaels' office and say, ideologically, I’m not going to make fun of certain people. You make fun of everybody.
Do you miss Reagan as comic fodder?
I miss him as far as the country running better. I'm a self determinist. I'm an objectivist. I wish people busted their ass, and I realize now, and I'm more than willing to concede, that due to the democratic process, I live in a country where people don't bust their ass as much.
Do you have any suspicions that Barack Obama wasn't really born in Hawaii?
Um, I don't know. I never thought about it. You said he's born in Hawaii, right? I'll take him at face value.
Got any good global warming jokes?
I don't believe in it. They always predicate these things by saying the temperature of the planet is 1.8 degrees hotter than it was a century ago, and I always advance the theory that I don't trust temperature figures from the year 1906. We were still shitting outside in the woods, but I'm supposed to believe they had a stranglehold on the Fahrenheit of the Earth's magma? I'm sure that was accurate—"Ezekiel, put that candlewick down the possum hole! Let's lay down a baseline for future generations!" And, of course, Gore has made too much money off it. I always mistrust prophets who make profits.
Do you read a lot of news every day?
No. I read as much as I need to tell jokes about it.
That's so surprising! I've always imagined you as a voracious consumer of news!
I think if you give it a cursory glance on a day-to-day basis, you can pretty much make sense of the world. If I was spending four to five hours a day reading the intricacies of this world, I would feel like I was reading the ibids on a Bazooka Joe comic strip. I get it—what the world's about right now—and it doesn't take that much in-depth study.
What are you reading now?
I'm reading Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. I'm 23 percent in, and I'm reminded of how brilliant it is to lose yourself in a novel.
Anything you want to add, Dennis?
No. I'm good. I'm good. I'm going to go read. I feel properly chastised. What should I read? You have a collection of pie charts from USA Today for me?
I think you should read Honolulu Magazine. We've got a brand-new politics blog you might like.
All right, my friend. Good luck with it.