Fans of the Emmy-nominated comedy series Silicon Valley had a good reason to be upset by the news of T.J. Miller’s departure from the show. He is a smart comedic mind who soaks up all the eye balls in the room, no matter the scene. But fear not, because Miller isn’t leaving the public eye altogether. He returns to his hometown of Denver, Colorado in his newest stand-up special for HBO, Meticulously Ridiculous, and it’s quite the interesting ride. If I could compare any comedy special this year to a summer blockbuster you’d see in a movie theater, this would be the one. It’s loud, fast and full of hit-or-miss jokes, but never boring. If absurd specials such as this one are what Miller chooses to spend his time creating from now on, then I welcome that plan with open arms.
You know what kind of show you’re in for when the announcer introduces him as “the star of Yogi Bear 3D.” Not Silicon Valley, not Deadpool, but the critically panned Yogi Bear. Because when standing on the crossroads between safe and crazy, Miller always follows the crazier path and will embrace even the negative points about himself. Miller even admits to the audience, “I don’t know if you can tell from tonight’s performance, but I’m a bit of a handful.” Sure, it’s a lead-in to a bit where he tells the audience of his “disease” where he lost $73,000 in playing carnival games, but the statement rings true, whether the bit is impersonating the wife of George Washington Carver (apparently a personal hero of his), or soaking his suit in a bottle’s worth of water right from the get-go so he can perform his entire act drenched.
The bit that he commits to the most is one that veers off into some dark territory, or at least it pretends to be dark. After a joke doesn’t get the response Miller was hoping for, he tells everyone he “[wishes] I hadn’t done that joke,” and proceeds to take a dive into material about death and suicide. Only it’s hard not to laugh at even the heaviest subject matter when the central character to the joke has the name “Gleep Glarf The Gobblesnarf.” This whole section plays like the reading of a twisted children’s story written by T.J. Miller himself and where an entire backstory is given to Mr. Gleep Glarf, including a family history of the Gobblesnarfs. Miller’s creativity and deadpan delivery easily made this my favorite bit of the show.
If you think Meticulously Ridiculous couldn’t get anymore insane, you better think again. “I will buy a battle axe in Philadelphia in an establishment called Asian Treasures,” Miller screams to the audience. Which leads to him walking off stage to bring out that very axe and proudly show it off to the crowd who can’t get enough of this weird turn. But wait, there’s more! He gives it to one of the front row audience members to hold and makes him turn to the rest of the Paramount Theater to belt out the loudest battle cry he can muster (and he doesn’t disappoint.)
While I recognize this special won’t fall in line with everybody’s taste, I found it to be enormously entertaining, and exactly what one should expect from a T.J. Miller comedy special. A little more focus on the show’s direction could have done him some good, but I appreciate the risks in breaking off from traditionally structured specials. Even if the show’s finale loses a bit of steam from what it was building up to, it’s not enough to derail the night. Despite the constant shouting, Miller’s sense of humor won me over, and I’m excited to see how far down into his strange mind he’ll let us travel next.
Christian Becker is a writer and improv comedy performer in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @TheAmazingBeck.