TJ Miller Comedy Show

T.J. Miller brings new material to SU Homecoming Weekend

Review: The 'Silicon Valley' star let it all hang out in a loose, improvisational set.

Syracuse University students and alumni were treated to an evening of new jokes and unique moments thanks to The Lucas Brothers and T.J. Miller, presented by University Union.

As the audience was still filing into the Goldstein Auditorium Saturday night, Syracuse University’s Homecoming Court was introduced on stage. Brandyn Mumford and LaNia Roberts were crowned king and queen, respectively, of 2017 SU Homecoming.

Photo: Emily Elconin
Brandyn Michael Munford and LaNia Roberts smile after they were crowned Syracuse University's 2017 Homecoming King and Queen.

A photo of wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was projected on the back of the stage as the more than 700 attendees finally settled into their seats. The Lucas Bros., clad in their signature green jackets, political pins and hats with bills turned up, drew the audience’s attention to a book on western philosophy. “Don’t worry ‘bout The Rock,” they said.

Throughout their almost 30 minute set, though, they did worry ‘bout The Rock. Periodically they made jokes alluding to a potential presidential run. That’s the ease at which the twin brothers work.

The two “militant existentialists” (as they call themselves) perform with a spontaneous ease. They speak to their audience as if continuing a conversation, not delivering a joke. Occasionally this leads to jokes falling off track.

Perhaps that’s because their set consisted more of them trying out joke segments than performing something completely polished. There were some jokes from their Netflix special The Lucas Bros.: On Drugs but there was a clear difference in polish between those and their trial balloons.

This didn’t take away from the entertainment value. Mostly because their laid back personas invited the audience in on jokes with them. There was a moment of workshopping a joke’s punchline with the audience —“Corks!” shouted one audience member. “Corks?” the brothers question. It was probably a solid 5 minutes before it was worked out that the audience member said “quarks,” not “corks.” The newly corrected suggested punchline still left many confused.

Interaction from the brothers got the audience about as ready as they could ever be for the mass of energy that is T.J. Miller on stage.

Taking a mic in his hand, Miller immediately screamed. In his blue suit with gold chain around his neck, Miller’s hair somehow looks perpetually wet. This, before he doused himself with water from his water bottle.

Around half, maybe less of Miller’s set was material from his HBO special T.J. Miller: Meticulously Ridiculous. After his set, Miller emphasized the importance of not simply touring his polished HBO set.

“I think there’s nothing better than an audience walking away knowing that that performance was just for them,” Miller said.

For the Syracuse audience, this included running jokes with the spotlight operator — at one point, Miller was sprinting across the stage to see if the light would keep up — and setting up a mic stand in front of the sign language interpreter so the audience can hear the sounds of the gesticulations. His off-the-cuff commentary enthralled the audience, much more than his reliable, less spontaneous set.

These improvisations wound up addressing a couple of career choices that have kept Miller in the news in the last few months.

“Do you need someone to market for you?” a student asked during one interaction.

“Clearly,” Miller responded. “I was in The Emoji Movie.”

He went on to address leaving the popular show Silicon Valley. Making a funny, but valid, point, Miller pointed out that people rarely go around complimenting season nine of a show over somewhere in the first four. However, he did qualify, “It’s going to be an even better show without me on it.”

By the end of his hour long set, Miller had climbed into the audience — a move that was as much a test for the spotlight operator as it was a desire for another level of audience interaction. During a particularly hands-on joke, he nuzzled a student in the second row.

Miller’s shows provide each audience not only the opportunity to laugh, but the chance to have a once in a lifetime experience. An experience that can’t be pulled up on Netflix or HBO. When asked what advice he had for aspiring comedians, Miller responded simply, in a manner distant from the shouts and bravado on stage:

“Work harder than the people around you.”

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