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Dennis Miller - Biography

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Photo of comedian Dennis Miller
Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images

Born:

November 3, 1953

Quick Dennis Miller Facts:

  • Dennis Miller hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • He started doing stand-up comedy in the late 1970s.
  • He joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 1985, where he hosted "Weekend Update" until 1992.
  • Miller hosted his own HBO talk show, Dennis Miller Live, from 1994 to 2002.
  • During his career, Miller taped eight HBO specials and released four books and one album.
  • After September 11, 2001, Miller shifted politically and became a more "conservative" comedian, contributing to FOX News and The O'Reilly Factor.
  • In 2007, he began hosting his own syndicated talk radio show broadcast to 200 stations nationwide.

Dennis Miller Overview:

Dennis Miller is a smartass in the best possible way. Known for his casual, cerebral comedy, Miller is the king of references; hardly a joke goes by without name-dropping everything from contemporary pop culture to obscure historical minutiae -- it can be be a challenge to keep up. Most of his comedy is political, though his politics have shifted over the years. With that shift, Miller has altered his delivery somewhat; whereas he used to be something of a comedic scalpel, Miller's later approach is more like a sledgehammer -- taken to name-calling and anger more than subversive sarcasm.

Early Days:

Dennis Miller was born and raised in suburban Pittsburgh, where he went to first high school, then Point Park University as a journalism major. He worked a few odd jobs after graduating before entering the burgeoning Pittsburgh stand-up scene in the late 1970s. It wouldn't be until 1985 that Miller would receive the break that would change his life.

Dennis Miller: Live From New York:

While performing a gig at the Comedy Store in 1985, Miller was scouted by Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels. He became a cast member on the show, primarily as the anchor for "Weekend Update." It was as the "Update" anchor that most of the country was introduced to Miller's super-casual, sarcastic and reference-laden style. Though he would appear in sketches from time to time, Miller's main priority at SNL was manning the "Update" desk.

In 1988, Miller taped his first HBO comedy special, called Mr. Miller Goes to Washington, which helped cement his status as one of the country's top political comedians. Later that year, he released his first (and only) stand-up album, The Off-White Album. Its success led to another HBO special, Dennis Miller: Black and White, in 1990.

Talk Shows:

In 1992, Miller left SNL to host his own syndicated talk show. However, due to poor time-slot placement, the show was canceled the same year.

Miller didn't stay down for long, though. By 1994, he had started his own half-hour talk show at HBO, called Dennis Miller Live. Miller would interview one guest a week, but spend most of the time slot discussing politics and current affairs. The end of each episode culminated in a "rant" -- a long monologue focused on a central topic and theme. Many of Miller's rants were collected in four books: The Rants (1996), Ranting Again (1999), I Rant Therefore I Am (2000) and The Rant Zone (2001). The HBO series ran for nine seasons before being canceled in 2002.

In 2000, Miller also began a short -- and some would say disastrous -- stint as a color commentator for ABC's Monday Night Football. He lasted only two seasons.

Changing Views:

Following the attacks of September 11th, Miller -- who was a self-described "libertarian," but whose political comedy always leaned left of center -- went through a major political change and became a conservative comic. By 2003, he began appearing on the FOX News shows Hannity and Colmes and The O'Reilly Factor, then got his own political talk show on CNBC. That show was canceled in 2005 due to poor ratings.

Cancellations:

Over the next few years, Miller appeared on a number of short-lived TV projects: The FOX News show Half-Hour News Hour in 2006 (one season); the games shows Grand Slam on G4 (one season) and Amne$iac on NBC (one month), both in 2007; the sports show Sports Unfiltered on Versus (one month).

Radio Host:

But, later in 2007, Miller's career was reborn when he signed a deal to host a syndicated radio talk show. The show, called simply The Dennis Miller Show, broadcasts on 200 stations nationwide.

The comedian's show features interviews with politicians and celebrities. Miller also still contributes to FOX News.

Additonal Dennis Miller Facts:

  • In 2010, HBO debuted Miller's ninth hour-long comedy special, The Big Speech.
  • Miller was voted number 21 in Comedy Central's poll of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time.
  • He has had supporting roles in films such as Disclosure, The Net and Murder at 1600. His first and only leading role was in the 1996 horror film Tales From the Crypt Presents Bordello of Blood.
  • Writers on Miller's short-lived syndicated 1992 talk show included Dave Thomas, Norm MacDonald and Bob Odenkirk.
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