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Jewish World Review Sept. 22, 2003 / 25 Elul, 5763

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald
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Dennis Miller makes funny business of politics


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | You remember Dennis Miller?

The funny, smart, politically savvy comedian on "Saturday Night Live" and HBO's "Dennis Miller Live"? The failed "Monday Night Football" commentator with the overactive vocabulary gland?

Yeah, him. The vulgarian ranter who used to quip funny things like, "The radical right is so homophobic that they're blaming global warming on the AIDS quilt."

Well, in case you hadn't heard, Miller has taken a political turn. He's not just an ex-liberal who's become a flag-waving hawk on Iraq. He has become the Bush Adminstration's Official Stand-Up Comedian -- the conservative's Al Franken, if you will.

Miller is no Mort Sahl. But he's a lot smarter and funnier than Franken, Bill Maher and Janeane Garofalo, the other stand-ups who've have evolved/morphed/mutated into political insta-pundits.

Miller is shy -- make that uncooperative -- about giving interviews to his hometown papers. But if you want a good, long burst of his political banter, it's available in a Q&A in The American Enterprise.

Miller spent much of the 1990s hammering on Newt Gingrich and embarrassing Republican camp followers such as Jerry Falwell. He once joked that Gingrich's forthcoming book would "be available through the Mein Kampf of the Month Club."

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Yet Miller also frequently flashed conservative tendencies, saying he was for the death penalty, for stronger borders and against affirmative action. And he once called himself a "conservative libertarian," which explains why he has advocated un-Republican social things such as legalization of drugs and prostitution.

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In The American Enterprise, Miller demonstrates a solid knowledge of the political scene and blurts a few mildly vulgar words that American Enterprise's conservative editors wouldn't normally tolerate.

But he wasn't auditioning to become the nation's first Secretary of Funny when he said "Condoleeza Rice would make a great President" and that he thought President Bush was "a genius."

Miller's best line comes after he says how amazed he is that people actually believe anything Bill and Hillary Clinton ever say.

They are a pair of career politicians, he said, whose "marriage couldn't have been any more about convenience than if they installed a Slim Jim rack and Slurpee machine at the base of their bed."

Speaking of Lady Hillary, she surely must find nothing humorous about being the August/September cover girl on another conservative magazine, the American Spectator. In "The Once and Future President," Mark Davis warns that everything she does -- from writing her fictional best seller, "Living History," to her increasing clout in the U.S. Senate -- is part of a well-planned run for president in 2008.

A "Draft Hillary" movement still could happen in 2004. But funnyman Miller, for one, doesn't foresee it. "She doesn't make a move without consulting her old man," he says, "and as soon as she mentions the word 'draft' to him, he's going to say, "Stay away from it.'"

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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Bill Steigerwald