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Dennis Miller hopes you watch his new stand-up special. But if his Twitter feed is any indication, he knows a good number will do so just because of how much they hate him.
“It is odd, this function of social media that you learn that some people hate-follow you in an odd way. So some people might watch from that perspective,” Miller told TheWrap. “I can’t govern it once I’ve written it and said it. But I do know that if I put a tweet out, it seems like the first five people — you can see a couple of the comments under the tweet right away — are someone who hates your guts, like there’s a fire station and they’re right next to the pole waiting to get their boots on.”
Miller, the conservative comedian and former host of “Weekend Update,” of course gives those on the left plenty of reasons to hate his ninth special, “Fake News, Real Jokes!” His routine is a litany of right-wing talking points, from the perceived softening of the NFL to “gingerbread transgenders” at Christmas, not to mention plenty of thoughts on the Clintons and “tribe member Elizabeth Warren.”
It’s all delivered in his classically sardonic tone of voice and wrapped in layers of intellectual wordplay and encyclopedic references. He compares wearing sleep apnea apparatus to dangling from the chandelier from “Phantom of the Opera,” and even slips in a nod to the now 31-year-old sketches from Tim Conway, “Dorf on Golf” (as someone born in the ’90s, I admittedly had to Google that one).
But any outrage or backlash that Miller might receive for his material or his tweets is, to him, just par for the course.
“I think social media is like a worldwide small town speed trap, and it’s going to catch a lot of people, because there’s a cop behind the billboard, and you go three over and they need to pave the roads, and you look in your rear window, and you know you’re about to be written up,” Miller said.
One old friend of his in particular who Miller felt caught the brunt of this aspect of social media is Roseanne Barr, who was fired from her namesake show “Roseanne” by ABC after she was found having tweeted an offensive, racially-charged statement about former Barack Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett.
Miller hasn’t spoken with Barr since, but he sympathizes.
“I’ve had the minor triage where I’ve been lit up for internet scrapes, but I haven’t had what Roseanne has had happen. It is such a long, strange trip, I could see why people lose heat tiles off their nose cones on re-entry,” Miller said. “Who knows what the next permutation is. Are people just done forever now?”
Miller has recently seen his old “Saturday Night Live” boss Lorne Michaels, and the two “laugh our ass off” whenever they do meet. Though he says he no longer regularly watches “SNL,” he didn’t take the bait that Chevy Chase recently did in a Washington Post interview and slam the show.
“I’m not trying to be this or that. Chevy lit the show up, and it made me laugh. Chevy is always Chevy. He’s always just like that. That’s why I like him. He plays rough, but I do admire him,” Miller said. “All I know is Lorne has made the biggest late night hit outside of Carson in the history of television, so whatever he’s doing, he just keeps moving along.”
Miller is a sometimes guest host on Turner Classic Movies, and he likened the social media vicious cycle to the end of Elia Kazan’s “A Face in the Crowd,” in which Andy Griffith’s character is revealed to be spiteful and condescending toward his fans after he thinks his microphone is turned off, rapidly leading to his fans calling the TV station and turning on him.
In that regard, Miller offered some advice to any aspiring comedian thinking about talking up their conservative politics on stage.
“Stay out of it. You’ve got to get a position,” Miller said. “You’ve got to get a toe hold. There are enough reasons to shut you down in Hollywood just by the nature of the being. Hollywood has always been tough. If you know that 99 percent of the people hiring are of a liberal bent and you’re going to do ill-liberal stuff in front of them, it’s a suicide rap.”
Miller recognized that as a former host of “Weekend Update,” he has a certain level of privilege and a platform that others would not. But he also acknowledged that times have changed for comics, quoting a line often attributed to Andy Warhol that someday, everyone would have his or her 15 minutes of fame.
“What I don’t think he knew and what I think we know now is that those 15 minutes of fame would have all the intended vitriol attached to it, but long term,” Miller said. “You can literally micro-encapsulate your career, something you put up is noticed, given affirmation, people who hear about it go over and don’t like and tear it down, like Norman Maine in ‘A Star Is Born,’ or whoever Bradley [Cooper] is playing now, all in one day.”
Miller’s ninth stand-up special “Fake News, Real Jokes” is available via the Comedy Dynamics Network on Nov. 6.