Quasi-famous comic's manic stand-up hits awkwardly
To let you in on a personal trade secret, when reviewing a stand-up show, I always keep a pen and paper so I can write down the topics covered as a bit of a cheat sheet for when I write it up, making little notations for particularly funny segments or noting themes. I've never written a more extensive list of topics than the one I scribed for Miller's act. In this one 67-minute set, he touches on over 40 distinct concepts or ideas. A quick bit of math (a skill I severely lack) will tell you he doesn't spend a lot of time lingering on anything. This is run and gun comedy, which is perfectly suited to his on-stage persona, which is summed up in the word wacky. Crazy faces, flailing body parts, screaming, a confetti assault, props... it's a bit of everything in one rapid-fire stew. It's so wildly divergent, that when an audience member disrupts the show with an outburst that I couldn't figure out if she was really reacting to his act or just part of the gag.
It's hard to look away from the wild eyes and wilder hair, looking a bit like a disturbed Will Ferrell (a reality he refers to in his act), as Miller swings from talking about being moderately famous and the effect of creepy hand motions to bringing pinatas through airport security and having ketchup bottles for legs. It's somewhat stream of consciousness, segueing quite smoothly from piece to piece, though in spots he'll stop things cold before going into special "sections," like his group of "short jokes" which are mainly about wordplay, or his characters (a concept done far better by Zach Galafianakis.) When he's hitting, it's hilarious. Meth-heads selling babies at Walmart or Stephen King being scared by his own writing equals funny. But sometimes in his attempts to be weird or unique, he just draws crickets, like his Big Lots joke, which was a thudding bomb. Fortunately for him and his hometown audience in Denver, he's successful more often than not.
Considering how physical Miller is on stage, making some of the silliest faces you'll see in stand-up, including his final bit about taking his DMV picture (a joke he's recently done on late-night TV,) he risks becoming gimmicky, especially with the amount of crowd work he does. The goofiness is entwined with his near-stoner persona that it just works for him though. I'm not one to get much out of over-the-top sight gags, but when he mimes posing with a fan, I actually laughed out loud, something that happened often, whether he was acting out maintaining eye contact while vomiting or the bizarre sex acts he likes to perform with women, or even exposing his stomach (again, Ferrell-style.) It may be a bit low-brow, but it's definitely funny.
Like the best stand-up DVDs, the surround mix puts you right in the midst of the performance, with Miller standing front and center, while the crowd gets the side and rear speakers to react in. There's nothing in terms of a dynamic mix, but the separation between the channels is solid, and captures the comedy concert feel well and without distortion.
The Bottom Line