Setting up a phone interview with Dennis Miller feels like haggling over the dealer doc fee at a car lot.
"How long do you need him?" his publicist asks via email.
How about 25 minutes? That seems like a modest length of time to prod our brains into a semi-interesting verbal exchange, simultaneously providing free publicity for Miller's July 27 stand-up comedy show at CenturyLink Arena.
"Too long. Can you knock it off in 10-15 minutes?"
(Then. Why. Did. You. Ask. Me. In. The. First. Place?)
OK, 20 minutes.
"Talked to him. He really wants to keep it to 15. ..."
Are you serious? To quote Miller, 59, back when he was on HBO: I'm outta here!
Sigh. Then I pause and grudgingly relent. Fine, let's do it.
Then Miller doesn't call at all.
When we finally do connect, more than an hour after the agreed upon time, Miller is way too gracious to lambaste.
"Um, first: I apologize. I'm trying to get my son into student housing at his new college in Orange County," he explains. "And that ran a little longer, and then I just blanked, to be honest."
Q: I was going to start out with a very brief, patented Miller rant about, "Can't you spare an extra 5 minutes for the good folks of Idaho?"
A: Well, as you can see, like I said, I'm trying to fit it in here because I'm running around all day. We don't live down here where the college is. I was trying to serve all masters and get him registered, and get his classes picked, and get him into the dorm and still do this. I have a home in (Sun Valley) Idaho, so it's nothing against Idaho citizens. Dad duties have called.
Q: You're used to talking current events on your syndicated radio show (9 to 11 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 99.1 FM). How much do you tweak your stand-up act to keep it up to the last second when you're going out on the road?
A: Well, I find that the events of the day are so sort of divisive right now. ... If I'm doing an hour and 15 minutes, I would say I do 45 minutes that's just flat-out go-for-the-jugular funny to absolutely anybody, because I'm not in the business of getting up there and opining and alienating certain people who just want to laugh. So I tweak the last 30. I'd say out of those 30, keeping it up to the date, you might have 10 minutes on the events of the day and 20 that are on the events of the week or the month.
Q: You've had a crazy-interesting career: The stand-up, "Saturday Night Live," your HBO show, the Fox News stuff, syndicated radio. What has been the most fun part of your career?
A: Well, you've gotta throw (Monday Night) Football in there, too - that's another eclectic thing. Yeah, I enjoy the eclectic nature of my career. Now the price you pay for that is you're periodically fired from a job. But I find showbiz pain - the highest rung of showbiz pain - to be far below the lowest rung of real-life pain.
Q: What's been the most gratifying part of that career?
A: Stand-up's hard! I dig stand-up. It's like Seinfeld says. Jerry insists that the sitcom was a day job and his real job's stand-up. Because stand-up's a mother------. You've got around 3 minutes there, where they'll look up and say, "Oh, that's that guy." And then you either croak it or you kill. And I like that edge.
Q: How much pressure did you feel during that two-year stint at Monday Night Football?
A: None! ... Listen, it's a tough gig because you're the third man in the booth. And there are a bunch of people who are predisposed to dislike you anyway just because they don't like a three-man booth. ... But I dug it for two years, I had fun. ... It was low impact on me. I think people thought it was a pressure cooker. But I just remember thinking, "I'm on Monday Night Football, enjoy it."
Q: Part of your replacement John Madden's magic, too, was - I don't want to compare it to comedy - but he was almost like the John Candy of football coaches or something.
A: Listen, he was the best who ever did the color position. The best. ... When they called me, I said, "Yeah, I understand." Because quite frankly, if I'm ever in L.A. on any given night, and I want to do stand-up comedy, and I go into The Improv and Madden's on stage, they'd better haul his fat ass off, too. That's the way the world works.
Q: What do you say to people who think you've somehow metamorphosed over the years, or become "Fox Newsified?" or something?
A: I have metamorphosed over the years. But I didn't read the note that you're supposed to figure out who you are at age 28 and ride it through your late 70s. I missed the memo.
Q: I think naturally as time goes by, maybe conservative values rise to the surface.
A: Yeah, well, I think it does. You understand that. They always say if you're young and you're a conservative, you're missing the point, and if you're old and you're a liberal, you're missing the point. I'm not even that liberal, for God's sakes. But people don't want to hear right now, they want you in lockstep or you're deemed to be an outlier.
But socially, I'm for gay marriage. Abortions? Yeah, I think late-term ones are wrong, but it's none of my business, people can choose what they want. So I think of myself as socially liberal. It's just, I'd like to keep one out of two bucks I make. That seems fair.
Q: After years of observing politics, do you think there's any chance that America will become less divisive in your lifetime?
A: No. Uh-uh. Not in my lifetime, for certain. ... I don't think it all goes to hell in 30 years, but I do think the only way America corrects is some sort of crash, either fiscally or socially.
Q: Was 9/11 not jarring enough?
A: No! I mean that's meant a lot to me, but I can see much of America's put that behind them at this point. Indeed, people always say, it seems like he changed after 9/11 - in my case at least - and I always go, "Uh, YEAH, that affected me." But for a lot of people, it seems like - I don't know. Does that not feel tucked in and put away?
Q: Why do you think it affected you so much more than most Americans?
A: I don't think it did. I just think it had a longer half-life. I think I just stayed dented. ...
I. Don't. Trust. Radical. Islamic. Fundamentalists. And some people do! And it seems like our president feels he can sit down and kind of talk to those people and get it together. I don't get that feeling. They seem crazy to me.
Q: I have one last question, and it's lighthearted. I've started to get gray hairs in my beard, and I'm not particularly thrilled about this turn of events ...
A: (Laughter) Formula No. 4! That's what I use.
Dennis Miller, 8 p.m. Saturday, CenturyLink Arena, $29.50-$65, centurylinkarenaboise.com
'THE OTHER STUDIO'
New music from Brett Dennen, Pet Shop Boys and Sara Bareilles, plus guest Curtis Stigers stops by. "The Other Studio" airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM.
IN SCENE JULY 26
- Carly Rae Jepsen headlines the Boise Music Festival.
- A review of Crooked Fence Barrelhouse restaurant in Garden City.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @IDS_Deeds
Michael Deeds is giving away five pairs of tickets to Miller's show July 27 at CenturyLink Arena. Details are on his blog.
Listen to Michael Deeds' full interview with Dennis Miller (17:28). Editor's note: This recording contains some profanity.