Entertainment

After decades of political comedy, Dennis Miller is taking a step back in his standup

Dennis Miller will perform his new standup act next Wednesday night at Winthrop Coliseum in Rock Hill, S.C.
Dennis Miller will perform his new standup act next Wednesday night at Winthrop Coliseum in Rock Hill, S.C.

Comedian Dennis Miller became a beloved voice of reason as the snarky host of “Saturday Night Live’s” “Weekend Update” during the Reagan years.

And aside from a stint as a color commentator for “Monday Night Football” in the early ’00s, Miller has never strayed too far from topical humor. Over the last decade and a half, Miller became known as a conservative comedian, both on his own radio and TV shows and as a frequent guest on Fox News.

But at 65, with his 2018 special “Fake News, Real Jokes” in his rear-view mirror, Miller is refiguring his standup sets — the next of which he’ll perform at Winthrop Coliseum in Rock Hill, S.C., on Wednesday night — with less-polarizing material.

He spoke to The Observer earlier this week about his trajectory into politics and what’s on his mind now.

Q. Rumor has it you’re backing off of some of the political stuff in your show these days.

A. Once you do “Weekend Update,” you’re marked as a topical comedian. I was on a rally for five or six years when Bill (O’Reilly) and I would go out and talk current events. I was glad to have that gig, and it was the No. 1 show for years.

Q. Do you feel like your political-leaning stuff alienated some fans?

A. You’re going to split the middle. Half (of the audience) likes you, and half hates you. We live in polarized times. I don’t think anyone is getting out alive. It’s Hatfields and McCoys. I want to fight less of these fights. I don’t think Nancy Pelosi’s a genius. Maybe I don’t see it the right way. I’ll still do some current events, but maybe shift the mix from 50/50 to 70/30. I’m 65 and have grown children. I’ll cover family stuff, watching your children become adults, social media, a little NFL for the sports fans. Obviously, some politics. I’ve just adjusted the mix.

Q. Do you feel like the public got this false perception of you?

A. I can tell you in this part of my life how little it matters to me. I speak my mind. I wouldn’t tell a young comedian to speak his mind out of the block. I don’t care if they’ve labeled me. A mature adults starts thinking, “It doesn’t matter to me what (people) think if someone is judging you without knowing you and being exploitive to the point of being profane.” But that’s only if you read your comments.

Q. How do you feel about social media’s role in it all?

A. It’s an inevitable thing. It’s like the printing press in 1452. The masses thought it was a good thing. The Trappist monks — who used to make their money off calligraphy — thought it was a bad thing. Social media is the tinted windows of the internet. ... It’s the anonymity of it. One thing (that would help) is do whatever you want, but you have to use your own name.

Q. Do you have a favorite predecessor from “Weekend Update?”

A. Just Norm (MacDonald) because he’s a friend.

Q. Do you ever watch?

A. No. I’m an older cat. Isn’t it a show that kids want for themselves? Kids bail out on it when they’re 34. It’s the zeitgeist during your era.

Q. What do you find funny now?

A. I find the encroaching socialism funny. Bernie Sanders talking about a socialistic approach. You’ll see him giving his message from his third house. Kids have to get how ludicrous it is. It’s easy to make a lot of money now as an older person if you convince younger people that they don’t need money to be truly rich. In an odd way, I find it cathartic that Trump’s outer voice is entirely the same as his inner voice. With Trump, I don’t think it gets crazier than what’s on the outside.

Dennis Miller

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Where: Winthrop Coliseum, 1162 Eden Terrace, Rock Hill, S.C.

Tickets: $38-$60.

Details: 803-323-2345; www.ticketreturn.com.

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