Film & TV

Dennis Miller’s Anti-Anti-Trump Comedy

Dennis Miller (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)
Miller is at his hilarious best when he gets off ancient subjects like the hassles of flying commercial and charges through the political landscape from the opposite of the usual direction.

Other political comedians are of one mind about Donald Trump. Dennis Miller is of another. The president’s tweeting addiction? “I’m sorry but I find it hilarious,” Miller says. “I think since Trump doesn’t drink, lighting up a–holes on Twitter is his Cognac before bed.”

Stand-up comedians pride themselves on their independent minds, their supposed provocations and subversions. If everyone is “edgy” in the same way, though, isn’t the real free thinker the one who chooses to be different? Traffic is dense on the highway of comedy, but Miller is in a lane almost all by himself. Being your own man comes with a cost; Miller was once a mainstay of HBO, but not anymore. For breaking with orthodoxy, he gets treated as a comedy apostate. And this, in a church of apostasy. To put it in Miller-ese: The senior leadership of the Cool Kids Club ran away from him like he was a fast zombie with radioactive Ebola.

In Dennis Miller: Fake News, Real Jokes, which has just popped up without fanfare on Amazon Prime Video, Miller applies his trademark polysyllabic freestyle to the Great Awokening, the baroque period of political correctness. Consider the apoplexy that greeted North Carolina’s move to preserve the status quo for gender segregation in public bathrooms. North Carolinians “are all of the sudden Pol Pot, Torquemada, the worst people who ever lived,” Miller says. “It’s so funny to me; the progressives don’t even sense the irony of the fact that they all wanna go to Havana, Cuba, but none of ’em will connect through Charlotte, North Carolina.”

The case of Caitlyn Jenner is another area that makes progressives check themselves into the pop-culture psych ward. Miller says he’s happy for her “but can I get like a weekend to process this sort of stuff? ‘Who’s that, the decathlon champion Bruce Jenner, he’s on the cover of Vanity Fair in a camisole?’” It’s the way Caitlyn’s story causes progressives to bend over backwards until their spines snap that Miller finds hilarious. He cites an interview he read with Jessica Lange in which the interviewer compared her appearance to Caitlyn’s: “‘You’re so absolutely beautiful, you remind me of . . . Caitlyn Jenner.’ And Jessica Lange on the phone has to say, ‘I’m so flattered!’ And you know she’s thinking, ‘What are you, f—ing kidding me? I’m JESSICA LANGE! Did you see King Kong for God’s sakes?’”

Miller departs from the general trend by largely avoiding extended bits that go on for minutes. For a large portion of the show he sticks to an old-school format of roaming over dozens of unconnected subjects, devoting a couple of one-liners to each, then moving on to the next field. This part of the show is uneven, but Miller is at his hilarious best when he gets off ancient subjects like the hassles of flying commercial and charges through the political landscape from the opposite of the usual direction.

Of Bernie Sanders he says, “Every time I hear Bernie speak he’s asking me to share something with him. All right, here goes: You’re a s***head.” (Cue thunderous applause.) Miller continues with an observation that the youth “love Bernie and they hate Trump. They’re marching against Trump 24/7. It’s their first full-time job.” Their methods seem a bit self-contradictory: “Tricky out there, a lot of violent pacifists.” Miller muses about getting a job as “a safe-space lifeguard. I jump in when the kids are drowning in their own bulls***.”

There must be about 63 million Americans nodding along with Miller’s take on 2016. “They could have passed out a big sheet of paper that had two boxes on it, one that said ‘Hillary’ and one that said ‘not Hillary,’ and I was gonna put my X in the ‘not-Hillary box,’ okay?” He has a laugh at how Mrs. Clinton’s victory party turned out at the Javits Center that November night: “It was like a snowflake Jonestown.” The media’s real-time collapse of confidence provided much accompanying amusement. “Is there anything more delicious than visionaries who didn’t see it coming? Over on CNN we got Wolf Blitzer, the hapless U-boat commander.”

Allowing that Trump is “far from perfect,” a “liar,” and “crass sometimes,” Miller nevertheless likes a lot of what Trump is doing, including “knocking down the whole Washington, D.C., Jenga tower of bulls***.” Most of the nonstop breathless scandalmongering in the media about the president strikes Miller as fatuous, leading to the classic Miller-ism, “CNN couldn’t be any more in the throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks business if they were Jackson Pollock testing a strand of pasta to see if it was al dente while working in a spin-art booth on a carnival midway.” All of this inspires Miller to come up with a line that ought to be added to the right-wing book of familiar quotations. “Liberalism is like a nude beach,” he says. “It sounds good until you get there.”

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