Wry Guy: Funny Dennis Miller eager for stage comedy audience interaction

2013-10-04T00:00:00Z 2013-10-04T12:37:05Z Wry Guy: Funny Dennis Miller eager for stage comedy audience interactionBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Comedian Dennis Miller loves touring and the energy and connection that comes with performing in front of a theater audience.

But even so, about 35 tour dates a year are plenty to keep him satisfied and his comedy timing right on mark.

"I love my dates I do by myself, but I also like when I'm out on the road with Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon," said Miller, talking by telephone Monday from his home in California.

"I want audiences to have a good time at my shows and leave with their side hurting because they were able to have a night away with nothing to think about but something that's funny."

Miller will be solo and in command of the stage, bringing his trademark wry wit to Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville for one show at 8 p.m. Saturday.

He shot to fame during his tenure with NBC's "Saturday Night Live" when he was discovered by Lorne Michaels in 1985 and remained with the record-running late night sketch comedy fest until he departed in 1992 for his own series "The Dennis Miller Show."

But Miller is quick to admit he was never much of a fan of appearing in comedy sketches. Instead, he was far more content with his identity as the sardonic, smirking faux newsman anchor for the Weekend Update segment.

"During my years with 'SNL,' I'd say I was probably only ever in about 15 sketches and that was the way I liked it," Miller said.

"Because of all of the blocking and time rehearsing, even if I had  a small part in a sketch, it took so much time. And I was usually cast to just play a bartender or something, so I would beg to not have to be in many. But there is one I'm glad I got to be in, when we did the lost ending for 'It's A Wonderful Life' and we all got to beat up on Lovitz."

The black and white sketch Miller refers to starred Carvey in the Jimmy Stewart role, with Jan Hooks as his wife Mary and Miller as younger brother Harry, while Phil Hartman played Uncle Bill and Jon Lovitz was mean Mr. Potter. The "lost ending" parody depicted the town folk forming into an angry mob, tossing Potter out of his wheelchair (it was discovered he really COULD walk) and kicking him after discovering he had taken the missing money that near cost beloved George Bailey his life.

While his online biographies that float the Internet have Miller crediting comics like Richard Belzer, Jay Leno, George Carlin and Don Rickles, along with Dean Martin, as his show biz influences, Miller is also quick to add Jonathan Winters, who died earlier this year at age 87, to that same list.

"I grew up watching Jonathan Winters," said 59-year-old Miller.

"So to be able to call him a friend years later, was a real thrill and honor for me. Not only did I get to know him, we'd always go out for breakfast together."

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