A cold and rainy evening didn’t stop students from hustling into Ritchie Coliseum for SEE’s annual Homecoming Comedy Show Sept. 29. This year’s line-up featured headliner T.J. Miller and Damon Wayans Jr. as the opener. Considering the location of the show felt bittersweet; last year’s comedy show was the last event to take place in Cole Field House before its destruction. Though this year’s was originally supposed to take place in the Xfinity Center, the relocation to Ritchie seemed an even better fit, as the smaller arena meant a fuller-looking audience.
The night began with Damon Wayans Jr. Best known for his roles in ABC series Happy Endings and FOX comedy series New Girl, Wayans most recently starred opposite Dakota Johnson and Rebel Wilson in the 2016 film How To Be Single. Wayans opened the show with jokes targeted to his audience, as the topics he picked seemed to resonate with many UMD students: crab cakes, and marijuana.
An avid fan of New Girl myself, I was looking forward to Wayans’ performance, and my expectations were met. Much to my own excitement as well as many others in the crowd, he even referred to himself as “Coach” once during the show, a reference to his character on New Girl. During his 30-minute performance, Wayans delivered jokes about topics that ranged from society’s reliance on technology, to seeing celebrities at Los Angeles basketball games, to some more PG-13 content. Though his act ended somewhat abruptly, he was a solid opener and warmed up the audience for the main event.
What really made the show was headliner T.J. Miller. Currently starring in HBO sitcom Silicon Valley, Miller performed in the 2016 film Deadpool and voiced characters in the animated films How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Big Hero 6. Miller took the stage in a manner that defined the rest of his unpredictable performance. Criticizing SEE for not providing music for him to walk on, Miller established the interactive feel that characterized his act. He continuously joke-yelled at the students both running and watching the show: for not giving his microphone enough slack, for not following him with the spotlight, for not immediately responding after he asked the crowd, “So, do you guys ever have nightmares?”
The absolute highlight of the night came from Miller’s interaction with the show’s sign language interpreter. What started as a simple compliment to the interpreter’s skills turned into a running gag throughout the entire show. In a hilarious continuous joke, Miller would say things only so that the interpreter would sign them—most often in reference to her signing skills, such as, “Oh damn girl, I’m the best.” When the interpreters switched partway through the show, Miller appeared appauled, and gave the original one a hug upon her return.
Another memorable moment came from an interaction with the audience. After a heckler called out “we can’t hear you!” when Miller unplugged his own microphone, Miller went so far as to climb up to the bleachers and talk to the audience member face-to-face. These types of impromptu, reactive jokes were what made Miller’s stand-up unique. Most of the first hour of his performance was almost entirely improv. He even commented at one point, “I just feel like I should do some material now.” However, this the performance didn’t feel raw and unprepared. He transitioned smoothly from one topic to the next and made the crowd go wild with laughter over his screaming rants.
Though the two comedians had different styles, both Wayans and Miller came together to make for a memorable evening filled with laughs.