back to the Black Table


It's 4 a.m., and comedian Dennis Miller can't sleep. After a few fitful hours of tossing and turning, he sits upright in bed and switches on the lamp on the night table. There, standing in the room is … Dennis Miller. But it's a younger, hipper Dennis, the Saturday Night Live Dennis, with the Steven Tyler hair and the twinkle in the eye. He is holding a large manila folder, stuffed with papers.

As Miller confronts his younger self, we hear the following exchange.

DENNIS MILLER (2003): What the … what's going on? Who are you?

DENNIS MILLER (1988): Scrooge! When the clock strikes one, you will be visited by three spirits! (high-pitched cackle). Just pulling your chain, chicky babe! It's me, your younger self.

DENNIS MILLER (2003): Christ, you scared the shit out of me. I jumped like Don Knotts at the Chinese Lunar Festival.

DENNIS MILLER (1988): Nice, good to see I'm still down with the glib obscure reference shtick. (Looks around the room). Love the shag carpeting, by the way. This reminds me of Huggy Bear's crib in Starsky and Hutch -- it's nice to see I haven't lost my innate sense of style. The room seems to be devoid of any Oscar statuettes, however.

DENNIS MILLER (2003): Lighten up Tourqemada, I'm working on it. (Rubs eyes). Assuming you're real and not one of those transvestite tribute performers, what's it like back in '88?

DENNIS MILLER (1988): Well, Gorillas In the Mist just came out -- I'm trying to decide whether to go see that tomorrow night, or hit myself several times in the head with a circus mallet. Other than that, just the usual -- Billy Ocean, the Bangles, trickle-down economics. It's a yearlong party.

(Opens folder) But that's not why I'm here, Chachi. I've been going over your -- which is to say our -- records for the past 15 years. And I have several bones to pick with you.

DENNIS MILLER (2003): What do you mean? It's the haircut, isn't it? It was Hanks' barber -- I just tried him once.

DENNIS MILLER (1988): The first thing I have to say is, what the fuck have you done to my body? I understand a few years have gone by, but The Picture of Dorian Gray aged more gracefully. My hairline has fared worse than Duval's in Godfather II. And what are these creases; my face looks like an unmade bed. Even Keith Richards is wondering where it all went wrong. I used to make jokes about Joan Rivers' penchant for facelifts, but I have a lot more sympathy for her now that I see your mug. Melissa Rivers continues to baffle me, however. And have you ever heard of working out? Richard Thomas was more ripped during the first season of The Waltons.

DENNIS MILLER (2003): Hey, I wasn't the one threatening Hunter S. Thompson with the broken tequila bottle in a Bangkok nightclub at 3 in the morning, that was you. Or me, 15 years ago. Jesus this is confusing.

DENNIS MILLER (1988): That's all very interesting -- which is to say I wasn't listening at all -- but there's a larger issue here, kemosabe: namely, my career. What in the name of Ray Jay Johnson have you been doing for the past 15 years? I'm getting sympathy cards from the cast of Diff'rent Strokes.

DENNIS MILLER (2003): Admittedly, mistakes were made. But I'm working on it. Did you see me last night on Hardball?

DENNIS MILLER (1988): We'll get to that. Um, not to piss in the punch bowl here, but Monday Night Football? What the fuck were you thinking?

DENNIS MILLER (2003): It was a high-profile gig.

DENNIS MILLER (1988): What do you know about football? I seem to recall a certain touch football game at Saturday Night Live where I asked Kevin Nealon to "hold my inhaler while I try to catch the oblong object." Football? I thought Joe Montana was a town where you couldn't get cable.

DENNIS MILLER (2003): It was a slight miscalculation.

DENNIS MILLER (1988): The Bay of Pigs was a slight miscalculation; this was a career-ending gaffe. Your weekly intellectual jousts with Dan Fouts and Leslie Vissar did not exactly remind us of the Algonquin roundtable. You alienated two huge portions of the public in one swoop -- sports people, and our hip fan base. Congratulations; you now have the cache of a low-level Tom Arnold, only without a show.

DENNIS MILLER (2003): You bastard.

DENNIS MILLER (1988): Which brings us to your weekly HBO show. I just realized that it has something in common with the great variety talk shows of the past, in that they are all now cancelled. Perhaps in retrospect getting career advice from Joe Piscopo was not wise.

DENNIS MILLER (2003): It's all under control, younger me. I've reinvented myself. Fifteen years from now, you'll be very proud of yourself.

DENNIS MILLER (1988): I have to tell you, and I say this with the greatest warmth and affection: fuck you. (Flips through pages in folder). The Factor with Bill O'Reilly. Hardball with Chris Matthews. Scarborough Country … I'm not even sure what the fuck that is, but suddenly I feel like a pack of Cools.

DENNIS MILLER (2003): Let me explain …

DENNIS MILLER (1988): Firing Line … you're on cable more than hotel porn. And it says here that you've been spewing conservative rhetoric at a rate that would make Joe McCarthy choke on his noon hoagie. It says here that, on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, you said: "George Bush has allowed us to respect the presidency again." Is this my future? Is this the promise of all those hard years at a low-level state university? (Looks under bed) And am I still wearing white socks with loafers?!

DENNIS MILLER (2003): Look, I just think that as I get older, it's only natural to come around to a more conservative way of looking at things. I just don't want to live in a world where Bill Clinton is the good guy and Rudy Guliani is the bad guy. And I've come to love George W. After 9/11, I respect a guy who is going to go out and kick a little ass. I'm sorry, we were attacked. Fire and sand make glass, and when we're done with Iraq it should look like Superman's dad's apartment on Krypton.

DENNIS MILLER (1988): But as Stewart said -- you know, the guy who still has a show -- Iraq didn't attack us. It's as if, after Pearl Harbor, we went after Australia. Hey, they're easy to find, have a central government, and kangaroos won't put up much of a fight if you have enough tanks. Your simplistic, reactionary logic is more suited to a caller on the Dr. Laura Schlessinger Show than someone of my intelligence. Look, my appeal has always been my ability to turn to the camera, wink and say "Are you folks buying any of this shit?" Now you've made me the King of Assholia, to quote myself. What have you done to me? Jesus, your mind is growing in inverse proportion to your prostate. You drove your career off the side of the road like Corey Feldman on an all-night crank and sterno binge, you feel as if Hollywood has betrayed you because Bordello of Blood wasn't on "Ebert and Roeper's eagerly-awaited video release list," and now you're running to the Republican teat. It's not the first time anyone's ever crawled up Rupert Murdoch's ass in times of career difficulty, and it won't be the last, but it will be the first time a member of the president's fan club will have the following quote on his resume: "George W. Bush surrounds himself with smart people the way a hole surrounds itself with a donut."

DENNIS MILLER (2003): Oh yeah (hee hee), I remember that one. From a couple years back.

DENNIS MILLER (1988): Look, this grumpy old man routine may look good in the short term, but it doesn't have legs. If you don't believe me, take it from this guy. Come on in, Dave.

DAVID SPADE (1988): Hi.

DENNIS MILLER (1988): See? A moment of wry snarkiness, a lifetime of shameful regret.

DENNIS MILLER (2003): (Pulls covers up to neck, shudders). Make him go away!

DENNIS MILLER (1988): We were all scared when those planes swan-dived into the towers, OK? But what separates real Americans from the faux variety is that real Americans don't turn in their spines to the hatcheck lady in times of stress. People in this country today hear the word terrorist and immediately snap into action -- which means locking themselves in the loo, defecating on the Constitution and using the Bill of Rights to wipe their ass. We're made of better stuff than that, and all the shrieking Rush Limbaughs in the world are not worth one brave man who will stand up and say, "hey, the emperor is starkers, and besides that, he wants all of Yemen's oil." I wasn't around, but I'm pretty sure the guys at Valley Forge weren't eating sautéed rat three times a day so that a future president could attempt a three-point landing on an aircraft carrier moored three miles off the coast of Catalina Island. We have to respond to terrorism, but the problem is that we're running around like the lynch mob in The Ox-Bow Incident, and when Hank Fonda stands up and says we got the wrong guy, Jane Darwell whacks him on the head with a gun butt and the next thing you know you wake up behind barbed wire at Guantanamo. All I'm saying is that it's time to scrap the Merle Haggard diplomacy, OK? Oh, and the reason we haven't found any weapons of mass destruction is that they're all in a warehouse in Topeka waiting for the next right-wing militia asshat to work his hatred of the federal government to a sufficient boiling point due to the fact that the local TV station has once again cancelled Dukes of Hazzard. While we're running around the world like Barney Fife at a jaywalkers convention, it's good to know that our schools are shit, our economy is floundering, and they'll have universal health care in Kabul before we have it here. The only good thing to come out of this is that Ari Fleischer took the honorable way out before Bush made him put on the jaunty Iraqi Minister of Information beret and tell us the moon is made of Sonoma Dry Jack. Ah fuck it, where's my propeller beanie?

DENNIS MILLER (2003): (Sleeping soundly, snoring like The Three Stooges).

DENNIS MILLER (1988): The attention span of Gary Busey at The Los Angeles Times' Festival of Books. (Tucks him in). Good night, sweet prince. See you in 15.

(Climbs out window). Where the fuck did I park? Hey, Spade! Don't change my radio stations, you asshole!



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Rick Chandler is the former managing editor of, and is now a columnist for He owns many attractive ties.