LOS ANGELES ‚ÄĒ Dennis Miller is embarking on a journey of reinvention, one starting with a quick U-turn from his new standup special.
‚ÄúFake News-Real Jokes,‚ÄĚ out Tuesday on Amazon, Google, iTunes and other streaming platforms and as an album, will be followed by a self-described ‚Äúmental exercise‚ÄĚ to see what it‚Äôs like to ease away from political humor and try something on the lighter side.
Miller cites the example of Orson Bean, 90, the droll actor-comedian who was a game-show and late-night staple in the Johnny Carson ‚ÄúTonight‚ÄĚ era, and whom Miller calls a friend.
The simple goal is ‚Äújust be funny and not talk about the issues as much,‚ÄĚ said Miller, who turns 65 on Saturday.
That might be easier said than done for a man who made his name as a smart-aleck ‚ÄúWeekend Update‚ÄĚ anchor on ‚ÄúSaturday Night Live‚ÄĚ from 1985-91 and later gained favor with conservatives sharing his post-Sept. 11 perspective in his act and in ‚ÄúThe O‚ÄôReilly Factor‚ÄĚ appearances. He now hosts a podcast and has a syndicated radio feature.
Miller, who describes himself as ‚Äúsocially liberal, fiscally conservative,‚ÄĚ mused that Hollywood might be eyeing a makeover of its own after the midterm elections. The five-time Emmy winner also discussed his work M.O. in an interview with The Associated Press and showed he couldn‚Äôt resist tweaking an activist-actress. Remarks were edited for clarity and brevity.
Associated Press: It‚Äôs been several years since your last standup special was released. Why is this the right time for a new one?
Miller: Well, this is my ninth, and I‚Äôd like to do 10 in my life, I think that‚Äôd be good. Nobody‚Äôs going to touch George (Carlin, who did 14). But if I did 10 I‚Äôd be close to second and that would mean something to me. Specials are hard to do ‚ÄĒ once you‚Äôve done one, you‚Äôre fried.
AP: What is it about the process of honing a routine that takes it out of you?
Miller: I don‚Äôt get to hone as much as I used to because ‚Äúused to‚ÄĚ would be on the road 100 days a year when you were young, or in comedy clubs because you live in L.A. I don‚Äôt live near L.A. and I don‚Äôt go out that much anymore. So I have to listen to it at home, read it at home and then try to find myself a comedy club or small venue where I can go up around five times over the course of a weekend. Then I try to put a half-dozen dates together in theaters.
AP: I‚Äôve heard you try out jokes on Twitter.
Miller: I put a joke up once, that for Trump to receive a welcome in California right now he‚Äôd have to come in illegally, and it got 50,000 likes. Well, that‚Äôs not akin to laughter, obviously, once 50,000 people do that like thing you think I‚Äôve got a good joke there.
AP: Are you frustrated when you finish a special and there‚Äôs an event that might be a tempting target, such as Brett Kavanaugh‚Äôs Supreme Court confirmation hearings?
Miller: Too much of the country is so fractious right now that I‚Äôm not as interested in it as some people are. And certainly in the postmortems, it doesn‚Äôt sound like joke central to me. It‚Äôs almost like social media is a speed trap waiting for people to have some sort of wisdom about an event that‚Äôs highly polarizing. And then at least half the country jumps on the other half, and that seems tedious to me. I would say I was surprised to see that Alyssa Milano was back on TV.
AP: You said we live in a time when people on the left keep a ‚Äúpretty tight watch‚ÄĚ on what‚Äôs being said. Does that view make you more cautious in writing your material?
Miller: I did a special and I‚Äôm proud of it. I thought it was funny, and I dabbled in the real world. But I think you better make two-thirds of the special just generically funny, funny for all, and then you can put your opinions out there. I‚Äôve been on ‚ÄėSaturday Night Live‚Äô and (audiences) know me as a current-events guy, so you have to say something. But there are certain jokes now I would excise from a show because you‚Äôd be in a complete fecal storm? Yeah, there are.
AP: There are few conservative voices heard in the entertainment industry. Why do you think that is?
Miller: I don‚Äôt know the reason, but I know the actuality. There‚Äôs a decent chance that Donald Trump is going to be the president for the next six years. Some people are going to say, ‚ÄėOh, that‚Äôs impossible.‚Äô OK, go ahead and say that, but I‚Äôm telling you there‚Äôs a chance. You might have to find a counterintuitive way to (approach) Donald Trump if he‚Äôs the president for the next, what, 2,200 days.
AP: What are the odds of that happening in Hollywood?
Miller: I think a lot of people on the left think there‚Äôs a blue wave coming on early November, and we‚Äôll see. And I think the day after that, people might start adjusting their business models if in fact there is not a big blue wave.