My favorite talk radio program has just ended and I've been resisting going all Sylvia Plath about it: the Dennis Miller Radio Show is done. (How could I possibly start an article about Dennis without an arcane reference?)
As a life-long conservative and talk radio junkie, over the last 25 years I've listened to every single political broadcaster at one point or another. I distinctly remember, in the summer of 1988, the radio station I was listening announce a brand new program that was starting that day, by a fellow broadcasting out of New York named Rush Limbaugh. There's not been a week or two that have gone by without me catching at least a bit of Rush.
The same thing goes for the other big names in conservative talk radio: Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, Mark Levin, Michael Medved, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity. At some point during each week I catch bits or even download podcasts from all of them. I love them all.
But about 6 years ago or so I started listening to Dennis. And I was immediately hooked. I joined his DMZ subscription service and have only missed a handful of broadcasts ever since. Now that he's moved on, despite my attempts at direct intervention, as I reflect upon his show and why I'll miss it, 4 things come immediately to mind:
1) It wasn't just a political show. At least half of the topics and conversation from each show would have nothing to do with politics. Not only did Dennis regularly have guests from his Saturday Night Live and stand-up days, such as Kevin Nealon, Dana Carvey, Martin Short, and others (Norm!), he always had a wide variety of other guests as well. Television, movies, radio, literature, and other areas were always well-represented. The reality is that as much as I love politics and economics, they're a small part of actual life. And actual life can be incredibly interesting, as he and many of his guests clearly showed.
2) It was also a political show. I appreciated Dennis' take on politics, though I certainly didn't agree with his positions on everything. Frankly, my politics are probably more aligned with some of the other conservative hosts, but that was completely OK. I found myself preferring the way Dennis would approach politics much more than do the other hosts. Furthermore, Dennis' political guests were not only always top notch (Victor Davis Hansen, Deb Saunders, Thomas Sowell, Rich Lowry, Ann Coulter, to name a few), but his interviews and discussions were unequaled. I first heard of a bunch of rockstars because of his show too, like Andrew Breitbart and Larry O'Connor, to name just two.
3) The funny. Whether related to a political topic or not, Dennis and his show were hilarious. I firmly believe that humor makes the medicine of life go down. Frankly, if there isn't some sort of funny involved in something, it's almost impossible for me to maintain interest. His show delivered. Some times it was intentional, with a joke or a fake caller, and other times it was totally accidental, like the disastrous interviews with David Carradine or The Swami. Most of the time the funny just occurred organically throughout the broadcast.
4) The smart. Let's face it, whether you're familiar with Dennis from his comedy world, his stint on Monday Night Football, his weekly Bill O'Reilly segment, or anywhere else, you sometimes had no idea what he was talking about - because either the words, language or references were way over your head. In that sense, I found that when I actually understood a reference, that made me feel good about me, which is pretty much my highest daily priority anyway. Consider the Sylvia Plath reference above: when I first heard him use her name in a similar way, I was screaming at the radio: "I know what you're talking about! She was a hyper-depressive author who tried to kill herself numerous times and was ultimately successful!!!! That’s your point!!!" It was a huge victory and his super-intelligent discourse was definitely a highlight of each day.
And now it's over.
I had the fortunate privilege of being a guest on his show eleven times over the last 10 months and being such a huge fan for so long, it was also totally surreal. For all but one of those times, the show was either being guest-hosted by his gifted and hilarious producer Christian Bladt, or the aforementioned Larry O'Connor. When I was on with Dennis himself, I was as nervous as I'd ever been. It was so fun, and to use words Dennis has said many times, it was an honor to kiss the ring.
Thanks for the years of entertainment and fun, Dennis; Shalomaloha and we'll talk at you down the road.