Comedian Dennis Miller, 64, has made a career out of speaking his mind.
He’s bringing his brand of comedy to the Rialto Square Theatre at 8 p.m. Friday. Miller spoke with The Herald-News’ Alex Ortiz for a Q&A session before he took the stage to talk about political correctness, social media and maybe taking up a new profession.
Ortiz: So what brings you to Joliet?
Miller: I’m going to shoot a special around midway through the year, and I have to ramp up and get the bugger ready. So these are the first two dates of the year. On Thursday, I’m in St. Charles, Illinois, and Friday in Joliet. I always find places near the Midwest, the heartland, Chicago in particular. It’ll give you a pretty accurate balance on how your material’s going at any given point.
Ortiz: Without giving too much away, what’s been on your mind these days? I’m sure a lot of political stuff.
Miller: Well, actually political stuff is not as ripe as it used to be. There will be some political (material) because I don’t want to disappoint people that come for your opinions. It’s so fractured right now. In an odd way, I think it will lead comedy back to just being funny. I know that’s not the case now.
It’s like the Hatfields and McCoys. It’s so stratified out there that I think you best find yourself back to generically funny if you want to please most of the crowd. People have such strong opinions. I’ll be talking about social media a lot. That’s the chunk I’m working on right now. I find it amazing that Twitter is this generation’s Apollo moon project. My feeling on Twitter is that never have lives less lived been more chronicled. I don’t think Lewis and Clark took notes as assiduous as the Kardashians do at brunch.
Ortiz: Is there anything in the political news these days that’s of interest to you?
Miller: Well, certainly the president’s a polarizing figure. There are days when I look at Trump and he’ll say something that makes me shake my head. There are other days that he’ll say something that makes me shake my head up and down as opposed to sideways. I will say this about Donald Trump, I do think unlike most politicians, his outer voice, for all its warts, is an accurate depiction of his inner voice. Whereas most politicians, Hillary Clinton indeed, I don’t think their outer voice and inner voice have ever even met for a cup of coffee.
Ortiz: I know you like to talk about political correctness. I’m curious in this current era, has anything developed for you on that front?
Miller: Yeah, something came out of this political correctness. I got a job at the local college out here as a safe space lifeguard, and I jump in when the kids are drowning in their own (expletive).
Ortiz: Well, has the current administration maybe brought to light any more of that?
Miller: No. I believe that anyone who’s kept their antenna up could see that political correctness is not a thing of the last year. I think it’s a thing of the last 15 to 20 years it’s been growing. I pin it mostly on the education system. We have raised a generation of emotional hemophiliacs. The grievance is the new coin of the realm.
Ortiz: When’s the last time you performed on a college campus?
Miller: I would say it was that school on the “Little House on the Prairie.”
Ortiz: What do you make of the polarization in our society as you travel around the country meeting different people?
Miller: I don’t demonize people on the left like they demonize people on the right. All I can tell you is that people like me aren’t as stupid as they think we are. I often see people on TV decrying people who have some conservative leanings. You have to understand socially, I’m very liberal. I don’t fit in there as easily as people would like me either.
Ortiz: Since you’ve been in the comedy game for so long, what is it like now to be a comedian having to reach people where they are now across different media?
Miller: I was analyzing that because I don’t know that I’ve kept up with all the cutting-edge things. One word resonates in my head for this new year and that, of course, would be puppetry.
I’m going to go back to puppetry.
I got to hire a social media consultant because I’m not very adept at it, so that’ll be something I’ll look for this year. I have on Facebook like 1.1 million followers, but I don’t have Instagram yet, so I have to learn that. As I said, I’m going to fallback on my age-old desire to be a puppeteer.