By Connor Smith
T.J. Miller emerged from a locked supply closet following his Tuesday, Sept. 27, performance in the College Union Board’s (CUB) Fall Comedy Show in Kendall Hall. Miller was already dressed like a sleazy magician — or as he put it, “(A guy who’d) sell you a car, but you’re not trying to buy a car.” After the show, however, the actor and comedian had discovered a felt dog nose that was equipped with live-action barking sounds.
Miller donned the nose for his post-show interviews, where he sprinkled in intelligence, sarcasm and electronic barks to keep everyone on their toes. Despite the hilarity, it didn’t come close to some of his wildest antics onstage during his one-hour standup set.
Comedian and writer for “Broad City” Josh Rabinowitz opened the night. As an awkward young adult, Rabinowitz said that the mainstream popularity of the word “awkward” can be a disservice to people who actually are.
“It really feels to me like cool people are gentrifying ‘awkward,’” he said. “Real awkward people who did something uncomfortable wouldn’t be like ‘Awkward!’ You’re more like, ‘I can never come back here. This is the end of me at this place.”’
Rabinowitz’s set bounced from one embarrassing story to the next, highlighting his comedic timing and storytelling skills. Following his final tale of a practical joke gone too far, Rabinowitz introduced Miller to the stage.
Miller’s entrance was Wonka-esque, as he navigated nimbly with a cane, several water bottles and a copy of The Signal.
“TCNJ! You don’t come to the Lions lair without doing your research,” he said. “Not Roscoe’s lair!”
Miller announced that he had recently filmed a new comedy special, so performing for the College was his first opportunity to do different material since before his tour. In an interview with The Signal, Miller said that he believes college students are often overlooked by many of his colleagues.
“Their thinking sort of is that none of you guys are like real people,” he said. “You’re all still like in the weird purgatory between adulthood and childhood. It’s just a weird thing… I think college kids deal with as much shit in their life as any other human being, so I’m happy to try and lift their spirits before they gotta finish their general requirements in biology.”
Onstage, Miller apologized to the students for his attire, which he said was a result of substandard packing conditions.
“I was so drunk, this is what I packed,” he said. “What have I done to my situation? ‘I just want to bring my pineapple shirt. I know what I’ll do: pineapple shirt, gray blazer, pants that are too short, my Empire Strikes Back socks that I didn’t know I had and then shoes that I really don’t know where they’re from. They just fit.’”
Throughout the entire show, Miller was unpredictable. He even pretended to spill his own water bottles several times in creative ways, such as squeezing the contents out like a volcano or missing his mouth entirely.
The audience was also treated to several facts about the College.
“Ninety-five percent of you are from New Jersey,” he said. “Six hundred and eighty seven graduate students. How many students are here total? Anybody know?”
After a few responses, Miller asked if any graduate students were in the audience. Only one responded, a female graduate student who told Miller her name was “Ashley” with an interesting inflection.
Miller determined it would only be fitting that the only graduate student in attendance should be chased through the courtyard at the conclusion of the show. He abandoned the stage and demonstrated how the graduate student should raise her arms, slam through the two doors on her left and flee in peril.
A member of CUB held the door for Miller, which prompted a brief tangent about how he wanted to be locked outside for a bit. Miller said since he didn’t get locked out, the students missed out on such a life-changing bit, the absence of which could have massive implications on America’s future.
Next, Miller used a walking stick he found backstage to demonstrate his experience with a battle axe he purchased with his wife in Philadelphia.
One adventure with the axe took place outside of Minnesota’s Mall of America. Miller had given his shirt to his wife when he was approached by a police officer, who thought Miller was holding his own wife hostage. He explained that the axe was only a prop and that he had given his shirt away to keep his wife warm. In an exchange that he later described as “white privilege,” Miller received a ride back to his hotel, which ended with him being able to keep the lethal weapon.
Miller also made an off-hand remark aimed at Donald Trump. When asked how he approaches the presidential election as a comedian, Miller told The Signal the election is already a joke.
“The situation is so bad,” he said “It’s almost not even worth touching on. I don’t touch on politics, in general. This is the first time I can say that I don’t talk about politics because it’s a joke. It’s an actual, real farce. We should be talking about other things like time theory and renouncing mathematics.”
Last week’s issue of The Signal also made a significant cameo, as Miller used the paper as his window into life at the College.
“College is fun. You guys have Slutwalk,” he said. “I joke, but I know that’s a very serious thing. Rape culture. It’s actually a great trick to get guys to be aware of it. You see this and some guy is like ‘Oh, Slutwalk. Where those sluts walkin’ now?’”
Miller continued to flip through the paper and as he read the “Signal asks…” section, a group of students exploded with laughter.
In the audience, Troy Brier, a senior chemistry major, yelled to Miller that he hoped he’d get to his question.
“That was really scary,” Miller said after a brief pause. “They saw me here with the paper. And Troy is here with his friends, and Troy realized ‘Hold up. We might get to the Troy part. Hell, he went through the Slutwalk stuff.’ Troy, you’re about to have your moment in the sun.”
Miller read the question Brier was asked about the College’s controversial Homecoming changes, which was met with countless jeers.
“No outside alcohol,” he said. “They want you guys to be drinking inside. They wanted me to come and tell you 19 year olds, 20 year olds: ‘Drink indoors. Get alcohol illegally and drink it in the confines of four walls and a ceiling.’”
Miller invited Brier onstage to read his own answer to the question.
When he finished his final punchline, Miller called Brier onstage again to close-out the show with a dramatic song of his choice. Brier plugged his phone into a speaker and “Ultralight Beam” by Kanye West blasted through Kendall. Miller then shouted the codeword: “Ashley!”
After a brief pause, the graduate student fled. Miller led the pursuit and many students followed him to chase her through the courtyard.
“I was hoping they’d chase her a little farther,” Miller said when he returned from the chase. Though absurd, Ashley’s chase was actually the most predictable aspect of the performance, given he had planned it out in the beginning. Much like his style of comedy, Miller told The Signal that acting is just as unpredictable.
“I didn’t think ‘Silicon Valley’ would even get picked up as a pilot. And I thought ‘Deadpool,’ if it did $40,000,000, or at best $60,000,000 opening weekend, then maybe Hollywood would listen and be open to R-rated superhero genre flicks,” he said. “It did $135,000,000 and ‘Silicon Valley’ is the ‘Friends’ — it’s a huge fucking show — as far as live-action sitcoms go. It’s as big as ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ but it’s actually really, really funny.”
Watch what Miller had to say to Lions Television during the post-show interview: