T.J. Miller blurs the line between laughing and cringing

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Kate and T.J. Miller - MANDEE JOHNSON
  • Mandee Johnson
  • Kate and T.J. Miller


When I saw T.J. Miller perform this past January, he was joined by his longtime sketch group, Heavyweights. But what Miller did can't really be described as "sketch comedy." In a solo scene he remained silent, using only a clown horn to communicate with an unsuspecting audience member whom he brought onstage. He proceeded to silently act out a first date with this person while using a pair of skeleton hands as his real hands (he later tried the same bit on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert). If it sounds strange and uncomfortable, well, it was. But it was also hilarious. These bits, as well as some outrageous personal stories, are vehicles for Miller to welcome people into his absurd mind, all while maintaining a delicate balance between making them laugh and making them cringe.


This approach isn't restricted to the stage—he adopts it for his role on HBO's Silicon Valley, in talk-show appearances, and even on his professional website. After one clicks through a list of tour dates on the site (normal), a page pops up where he and his wife, Kate Miller—who's joining him onstage on his current stand-up tour—are hawking bottles of "discerning smells" for $90 a pop (strange). Lord help whoever spent the cash to find out if a scent called Warm Urine is actually just a bottle of warm urine.

Miller's current touring show is called "Meticulously Ridiculous," an apt description for what he does. Whether he's performing an explosive bit or telling a story about being on the set of Yogi Bear, everything he does feels carefully planned to deliver the most bizarre and entertaining end result possible. 

T.J. Miller Fri 8/26, 8 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, jamusa.com, $37.


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