Amy Miller doesn’t just tell jokes on her new album California King; she holds court.
Miller may be a familiar face to some because of her stint on Last Comic Standing, but the uninitiated will quickly find themselves seeking out more of her work after listening to her record, which was released today. She’s the type of comedian who laughs at her own jokes, but you don’t mind because they’re funny enough that you get why she’d want to join in (this isn’t a Jimmy Fallon situation). The L.A.-based comic’s hilarious set is enhanced by her frequent and expertly executed crowd work, as well as her penchant for filthy material.
Recorded at the San Francisco Punch Line, California King expands upon Miller’s Comedy Central special Ham Mouth, which is a raucous half hour touching on bathtub masturbation, 40-year-old behavior, and bar bathroom signs. Nearly all of the material she brings over either remains intact or is fleshed out more, usually with some audience participation that keeps the record feeling fresh. Only one joke doesn’t land with the same oomph—a great bit about young white bi women (lol, me) wanting to be considered diversity hires—because of softened phrasing. For the most part, though, California King exceeds the expectations set by Ham Mouth.
Miller’s natural rapport with the audience propels the album forward. Her improvised crowd work is effortlessly woven in with scripted parts of the set, so much so that prewritten bits—including a casual Louis C.K. joke (and a very good one at that) arising from an audience interaction—feel like organic moments, too. Miller also cleverly structures the album by placing her most divisive material near the end of the set, once she’s won over the audience and listeners at home. Even if her more crowd-splitting jokes aren’t your cup of tea, by that point she’s already got you eating out of the palm of her hand.
Throughout California King, Miller shows herself to be a keen observer of human behavior, whether commenting on bird people or women who exclusively date tall men or babies in their “poser beanies.” Some of her best jokes are about sex, a topic that loads of comedians talk about but that not enough of them make interesting. However, by keeping fixed on her own personal experiences, Miller’s dirtier material proves both hilarious and novel. She also makes a refreshing choice by taking aim at fatphobia in her material (if only one of those jokes wasn’t at the expense of an unhoused man). Miller proves herself a people person in every sense of the word on the album.
This is one California King that could be even bigger if it wanted; Miller’s effervescent performance makes the hour go by quickly and leaves comedy fans wanting more.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.