If you’re looking for T. J. Miller’s standup act, his new CD, The Extended Play EP, due from Comedy Central on the 13th of September, isn’t it. What you get in the 41 tracks, some as short as four seconds, is Miller, along with what seems like a cast of thousands, doing a comic take on what the publicity for the album calls “hip hop/pop/folk” music, but which has got to be 90 percent hip hop. Miller in effect is playing the character of a clueless lame rapper who is more likely to get lost in the beat than he is to come up with an effective rhyme. His producer gets upset because he rhymes Denver and tender five times in one rap. He engages in battles where he praises his rival. Most of the time he is the object of his own trash talk.
This kind of thing works best when the audience sees clearly that this is an actor playing a bad rapper and not just a bad rapper, when the audience is laughing with him not at him. It is just the kind of thing a talented actor like Miller can pull off with credibility, and he manages it with skill. The best laughs on the album come at his expense: bits like “D. J. Stop N’ Talk,” where he stops the rap to talk about how sick he is feeling; “T. J. Miller,” where after almost 30 seconds of repeating the name, he begins a long list of his characteristics by comparing himself to Pepsi, always second best; or “Yin and Yang Friends,” where he gets accused of stealing rhymes. The material is less a satirical look at rap than it is making fun of this character who fancies himself a hip hop star. Indeed some of the beats are truly infectious.
Miller, who is currently appearing on film in Our Idiot Brother, has also been seen in Cloverfield, Gulliver’s Travels, She’s Out of My League, and Unstoppable, all of which come in for some joking in the course of the set. Cloverfield even gets its own mocking song. Once again it is the kind of self-deprecating humor that runs throughout the album, a theme that is carried out not only in a series of rap battles but also in some of the non rap tracks. There are some voicemail skits that also take aim at Miller, especially the skit that features Megan Grano’s salacious call about their night of love.
Speaking of Grano, a sampling of the long list of comics and rappers who appear on the CD—too long to list all the names—includes Ugly Duckling, Johnny Polygon, Christina Anthony and Doug Benson. There are even a relative or two who manage to get involved in the proceedings. Most importantly they are all having fun, fun with the material, fun with Miller, fun with each other—and their fun is a good time for anyone listening in.