T.J. Miller put out two comedy projects of more than an hour each under his name in 2011, a CD (“The Extended Play EP”) and a DVD (“No Real Reason”).
But you only need to buy one.
The 41-track CD is a joke on music. Intended to be a meta statement on music and comedy, it spoofs hip-hop, rap and the rap album’s conceit of inserting sketch comedy between rap tracks. But the joke’s on us. Even with so many other comedians lending their mouths on tracks (Christina Anthony, Brandon Johnson, Pete Holmes, Doug Benson, Bo Burnham, Ethan Suplee, and Nick Vatterott among them). DJ Stop ‘N’ Talk stops to talk about his feelings multiple times. Get it? Trying to be serious while also having it silly?
Let’s just move to the “No Real Reason” DVD, which is where he shines more as a stand-up and as a performer. You hear the CD’s “T.J. Miller” track in the background as it opens backstage, with Miller saying no to drugs, then looking to his parents, drama teacher and comedian friend Nick Vatterott for pre-show support, all to no avail.
His look is purposely disheveled formal. A suit with tie, but the white collared shirt is untucked, and sneakers replace dress shoes. He immediately humblebrags himself into the audience’s good graces with a story about how he, an unabashed drunk, has thrown up in the street. With witnesses. And yet, the degree of preparation he puts into the writing and performance is definitely noticeable, as well. Very controlled and measured, no matter how wildly he may be flapping his arms or head. He eases into characters quickly and smoothly, with immediate explanations for his actions. After a “stumble,” he says, “I walk like a zombie when I vomit.” He’s physical but with a purpose. Each movement, each hand gesture has a meaning in service to the joke.
The comedy mixes observational humor and absurdism, with segments built into the hour to showcase his character skills. His stories include a run-in with some young rapscallions, a kid and his father on the train in Chicago, and a lengthy bit about his little bit. About a half-hour in, he takes several minutes to deliver “quick jokes.” Some are smart; some just plain silly. He’ll back away from the microphone with a wide-eyed grin. He’ll lean in at other times and stare out to make sure you got the joke.
Do we have a clip? Yes we do! Watch T.J. Miller show off some of his recent character studies:
Before that, however, yes, there’s a weird moment with an audience member 48 minutes into the act. Is she a plant? Maybe just a vegetable. Although Miller does get the proverbial last laugh.
If you didn’t see Miller on Conan discuss his unique California driver’s license experience, then watch him talk about it from the DVD/special:
And if you enjoyed the music over the opening and closing credits, then perhaps you’ll want to sample his full music CD.
The DVD extras include three outtakes from the set (one of the outtakes, Paul TV, includes a person saying Paul’s wearing a crown for “no real reason”), and two short films — here’s one of them:
He’s compelling onstage. I still disagree with him about how he imagines his ketchup bottles as legs. But we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that one point.
Miller has become a popular character actor in several comedy films over the past few years. “I’m like the least famous you can be while still being considered sorta famous.” He says people recognize him, but cannot place him. By the time he’s ready to produce another stand-up DVD, it’s a safe bet that he’ll be much more famous, and you’ll know exactly how and from where you know him.
Buy the DVD via Amazon: