The Alternative Comedy Tour

T.J. Miller, Rhys Darby & Nick Vatterott babble their way across Canada

Leah Scheitel // Comedy Snob

T.J. Miller is a self-professed weirdo, and he exhibited that at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary on Sunday night. Performing to an audience of over 1,000 people, Miller presented his Just For Laughs, “alternative” comedy tour, with opener and New Zealand’s finest export Rhys Darby and host Nick Vatterott.

After Vatterott mastered the task of warming up the audience, Darby graced the stage with his mom-approved humour. With him, the audience felt safe to laugh at the little things, such as the way American’s walk and his native accent. His set was very active, with him using every part of the stage to demonstrate his active comedy and his overly-tight black jeans. I was in the back row and I could see his hamstring flex with every movement.

After Darby and a 20-minute intermission, Miller sauntered onto the stage with a six-pack of bottles and a mug he claimed was full of Heineken, not coffee. He, too, was all over the stage, forcing the spotlight guy to follow him around the stage and doing about 10 minutes of his set sitting down in the wings, mocking the people who had a shitty vantage point.

His comedy was performance-based, using props such as a slide trombone and the six-pack of beer. He also ripped his pants while imitating a homeless man in New York, using it as an opportunity for more comedic value by taping it up with duck tape. He tried to make the moment seem genuine, as he did with all his jokes, but the momentum of the joke made it seem like his pants were secretly tear-a-ways and he accidentally strips at every performance.

There were two impressive factors about Miller’s performance: first, his ability to flirt with the audience, making them feel like they are the most important city he has ever performed in. Secondly was his vocabulary and wittiness. Miller is known for some slapstick comedy and one-sided characters, such as his self-portrayal on HBO’s Crashing and Erlich Bachman on Silicon Valley. However, his act consisted of so many rich words, he must do crossword puzzles and read thesauruses in his spare time.

He was also quick-witted with the audience and even the token hecklers at the show never got a chance to take over. It’s a shame he didn’t rely on his crossword vocabulary and comic wit as much as he does on his slapstick performance values, as it would be a quieter yet more fulfilling humour if he prioritized it.  

Miller, Darby and Vatterott did work for their laughs that night, and treated the audience like they wanted to be treated – as a unique group of viewers. However, the tour might have been misnamed. It really wasn’t that alternative – honestly, just how alternative is a lineup of three white, heterosexual male comics these days?

T.J. Miller’s Alternative Comedy Tour makes a stop at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver on Friday, Nov. 17. Tickets are available at Voguetheatre.com

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