I was interviewing outgoing Silicon Valley star T.J. Miller and his wife, the artist Kate Miller, while dancing with the pair at the downtown Brooklyn’s Alamo Drafthouse, when my exhaustion began to take hold. I had slept little due to a poorly self-arranged travel schedule, and the 2:41am Amtrak train I had to catch in seven hours loomed before me like a dissected corpse. Or maybe it was just the wax replica of one displayed in the House of Wax, a museum cum bar at the theater that would later host the after party for a family and friends-only screening of Miller’s new HBO comedy special, Meticulously Ridiculous.
“This is the first time anyone will see it on a big screen,” Miller explains, “but we previously showed it on a smaller screen. Kate and I commissioned an artist to make a smartphone 30 times smaller than a normal-sized phone, but that was still functional. We gave people these goggles with magnifying glasses in them, so they could see what was playing on these small screens in a big way.” Kate, dancing alongside T.J., adds, “They wouldn’t be able to see what was going on with these huge magnifying glasses. It was like putting it under a microscope. Does that make sense?”
I tell her it does, and in a totally unsurprising way no less, as premiering his comedy special in the smallest way possible sounds precisely like something Miller would do. The concert film (and the tour from which it’s taken) is titled Meticulously Ridiculous, after all, so it should come as no surprise that Miller’s bit about spending $73,000 on carnival games is purposely crafted to sound absurd. Nor should you be surprised by one reviewer’s belief this absurdity actually happened, and Miller’s subsequent using it in a new bit during his Late Show with Stephen Colbert appearance.
“I love the idea that people will examine this and think, ‘Is this real or not?’ And they decided what I said was real,” he laughs. “It’s like, ‘Whoops!’ But it’s also about like, ‘Hey, listen man. I’m a stand-up comic.’ Just like other comedians will say, ‘I’m an actor, man.’ It’s just stupid. You’re trying to make people laugh, and this is just another medium to do that in. I like that I’m able to be very divisive in this way, but I also think it’s better to be polarizing than neutral.”
To Miller’s credit, “neutral” is a word I have ever used to describe him. “Polarizing,” however, is way more applicable — especially considering things like his arrest last December for allegedly assaulting an Uber driver during an intense political argument. That, or his shocking Conan appearance (recreated at later red carpet events) with a fake safety pin lodged through his ear and loads of fake blood — which also happened in December. Even the first trailer for Meticulously Ridiculous presents Miller’s comedy in a similar manner, combining otherwise standard bits with snippets of a more exasperated stage presence.
As for the special itself, Miller doesn’t waste time bombarding the audience with his unique comedy — sometimes literally. Those brave enough to sit in the first few rows of the Paramount Theater in Denver, Colorado, where Meticulously Ridiculous was filmed last summer, are frequently sprayed with bottled water, water from an aerosol can, and Miller’s rapid-fire delivery of surreal, roast-like jokes. It’s akin to witnessing Andy Kaufman and Gallagher’s heir apparent breaking into the Friars Club and making himself at home. Even so, screening it for another audience on a movie screen weirds Miller out.