By Drew Olson Special to Published Aug 31, 2006 at 5:20 AM

Dennis Miller has some fond memories of performing in Milwaukee.

“I love Milwaukee,” the 52-year-old comedian said in a phone interview last week. “I remember years ago, I played Summerfest. They had the stages wedged close together and I was in the middle of a punch line when -- over on the next stage -- Joan Jett and the Blackhearts cranked up 'I Love Rock ‘n' Roll.'

“That was pretty wild.”

Miller was reminded of another show he did -- an outdoor “back to school” gig on the UW-Milwaukee Union Mall back in the mid-1980s. He was sharing a bill with quirky comic Emo Phillips, who was in the middle of a setup when sirens began to blare down Kenwood Avenue.

Without missing a beat, Phillips said, “Someone must have bowled a 300 game.”

“Emo was classic,” Miller said. “You’d spend time with him and he’d have the dental floss going and just at the time you were about to say 'OK, knock it off with the floss,' he’d say something pithy and remind you how funny and charming a guy he is.”

Miller’s next performance here, slated for 8 p.m. Saturday at The Pabst Theater, should be a little quieter than the aforementioned visits.

Then again, maybe not.

Miller, who parlayed standup success into a gig on “Saturday Night Live” that morphed into acting roles, commercial endorsements and his own TV shows on HBO and CNBC and an analysts job at “Monday Night Football,” has been a staunch supporter of the war against Iraq at a time when public support for the Bush administration’s policies has been eroding in some circles.

Asked if he was tempted to temper his trademark rants or worried about alienating some of his audience -- a phenomenon experienced in some measure by the Dixie Chicks and Bruce Springsteen -- Miller’s answer was an unequivocal “No.”

“I have to stay true to myself,” he said. “I’m just flattered that people will come and see me. There are people who wouldn’t go see my show if I was playing next door, but I don’t worry about that.”

As for his own views, Miller said “I’m liberal on some issues and I’m libertarian on a lot of issues. The only thing I’m not (liberal or libertarian on) is terror.

“I think we have to kill terrorists before they kill us. Period. Now, do I wish there was a country called 'al Qadia,' and that we could have gone after them? Of course I do. But there wasn’t a country like that to invade and Sadaam Hussein and his idiot sons were unlucky enough to win the Wonka ticket in the assh*le lottery.

“When the war started, I was doing a current events show. What was I going to do, lie? You have to be true to yourself and your own beliefs.”

Beginning Sept. 13, Miller will begin expressing his beliefs regular on Fox News’ “Hannity & Colmes.”

“I’ll be doing some short essays at the end of the show,” Miller said. “I guess it’s going to be kind of like Andy Rooney (on “60 Minutes”), but I won’t be talking about cereal boxes. I’m just going to try to get some laughs.”

In preparation for that gig, Miller is doing standup shows Saturday in Milwaukee and Sunday in Clarkson, Mich.

“This is what I do,” Miller said of his standup act. “(Standup) is what I do until something bigger comes along.”

This would certainly seem to be an opportune time for comics who favor politically-tinged material. Miller’s friend, Bill Maher, hosts a popular show “Real Time” on HBO in which the left-leaning Maher, his panelists and the audience often seem to “gang up” on conservative panelists.

“I told Billy I won’t do his show any more,” Miller said. “People aren’t there to laugh. They are there to cheer or boo. That whole 'Christians and Lions, thumbs-up / thumbs down' thing just bores me. It’s not interesting.”

Miller said he isn’t sure what the next big trend in standup will be.

“I’ve seen some clips from that 'Tourgasm' show,” Miller said, referring to Dane Cook’s comedy documentary series on HBO. “I haven’t seen a lot of it, but so far I don’t quite get it. I’ll have to see a little more of it. I guess it’s all about the energy, but I’m waiting for the jokes. Then again, who am I to say anything? The kid is selling 16,000 seats (per show). “

“The guy I thought was going to be the next big thing was from the Midwest and he passed away,” Miller said. “It was that Hedberg kid. (Editor’s note: Mitch Hedberg, who was from St. Paul, Minn., died of an overdose last year at age 37.)

“He was great. I didn’t know him well enough to know what his demons were, but I really thought he was going to be the next big thing.”

What’s the next big thing for Miller?

“I’m going to come to Milwaukee, eat a brat and try to do a good show,” he said.
Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.