Since taking over “Saturday Night Live’s” “Weekend Update” in 1985, Dennis Miller has hosted his own shows, done color commentary for Monday Night Football and, from 2007 on, has hosted his own daily talk radio show.
The constant over that time, though, has been the stand-up specials; starting with “Mr. Miller Goes to Washington” in 1988, he’s recorded eight specials, creating a sort of sardonic guide to the last 25 years of politics and culture.
amNewYork caught up with Miller in advance of his ninth and latest stand-up hour, “America 180,” to talk about politics and “Weekend Update.”
Do you feel your stand-up changed when you started talking politics for three hours per day on the radio?
The stand-up changes the first time you do “Update.” You’re in “Update,” you’re in the topical business. ? Some people refer to that as politics, and a lot of it is, but I was lucky enough to establish a toehold as a “Weekend Update” anchor, so it tipped a long time ago. People knew me as a fake newscaster.
You work daily in conservative talk radio, but you’ve never seemed to take politics as seriously as other hosts or the callers do.
If anybody wants to die from a heart attack because of how pissed they are at Nancy Pelosi, they’ve missed the point. At least take weekends off, for god’s sake. If you’re so hung up on this that you can’t digest your food, that’s on you. Politicians of all ilks are drips, idiots and grifters. If you’re hung up on them all day, then you’re a camp follower for idiots and grifters.
What advice would you give for anyone who sits in the “Weekend Update” chair?
Do it well. I’m sorry to go back to old-school stuff — I’d like to say the whole “be yourself” or “don’t listen to anybody” thing, but just do well, because it’s a gladiator camp, and if you do four bad in a row, you’re whacked. That should keep you jazzed up. That’s what I remember: Every week I’d get to Friday around 4:30 in the afternoon and Herb Sargent and I would write it. He’d cut stories out of the paper with an X-Acto knife and hand them to me across the desk. And I’d tell him, “Herb, we better start this or I’m gonna be whacked.” And I’d riff jokes and he’d riff back at me and by 11:30 or midnight we’d have “Update.” But I never thought it was a sword-from-the-stone moment. It’d just reach 4:30 and I’d look at [Dana] Carvey and say, “I better go write this or they’re gonna fire me.”
On TV: “Dennis Miller: America 180” premieres June 13 at 8 p.m. on EPIX.