Having a cocktail with Larry Miller
By J.T. Ryder
Life is the one constant of our planet and life is the deep well that comedian, writer and actor Larry Miller draws from. It is life’s glimpses into a larger truth that has made Miller’s comedy much more than fanciful routines and commonplace bits.
Miller, who has appeared in the brilliantly skewed Christopher Guest films Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show (as well as numerous television appearances on Real Time With Bill Maher) will be bringing his distinctive brand of observation to Victoria Theatre’s stage May 7 at 7:30 p.m. with his one-man show, Cocktails With Larry Miller: Little league, adultery and other bad ideas. In interviewing Miller, I found it best just to let the stream of consciousness flow. We started out our conversation with the fact that my oldest son, a Marine, had just been deployed…
Sometimes it’s difficult to justify certain things when you can’t understand what the overall purpose of a combat mission actually is.
I don’t even know what we ultimately did in Iraq … and they have my full support because it’s our people over there, our guys … but each time they’d say, “Well, we’ll go into this town! No! We’ll back out again! No we’ll go in again!” What do I know, for God’s sake, but I’d say, “Alright, if you say so!” With Afghanistan, I keep thinking, “You know, it’s twice as big as Iraq, with like 1/3 of the people.” Every time I see an interview with one of the chiefs or the warlords of some tribe in Afghanistan, I feel like saying “Look right behind that guy!” because you know what’s there? It’s nothing! Not nothing like “something’s been knocked down back there,” kind of nothing. More like two days after creation nothing. Like nothing nothing. There’s not going to be anything there in another 100 years or 1,000 years. There’s going to be … nothing! [Larry Miller]
One of your pieces from the 1980s talked about our generation being lazy and, comparatively, the level of laziness the next generation would achieve. Well, that generation is here now…
Sure, but still, you know what? That’s why I loved talking about that, and I still do. Yet as the next generation steps towards that, thematically, they’re going to be just fine too. It’s to give them the values of knowing how to work. I don’t care if my kids are athletes. I’d still love them if they were in the chess club … it doesn’t matter to me … but they know how to work at something, and you know what? They do well at school, they get good grades, and they have good souls and they have good values. So the other times, if they’re playing Call of Duty, that’s fine with me. So maybe they won’t read Treasure Island the way I keep telling them to. That’s alright. So they’ll do some of the other things that they do, and it’s the same sort of thing. “Oh, so now they’ll be really nothing!” No, they’ll be fine. [LM]
So, you believe that the comparative toughness of each past generation is subjective?
If every generation gets twice as tough as you go back … well it’s a mathematical impossibility. There’s nowhere to go. In fact, it’s, by definition, exactly untrue, and yet that’s wonderful. It’s that same duality. It appears to be true, but of course it can’t be. “Tough” then gets quotes around it. Tough meaning, “Wow! You had to put a wagon wheel back on?” Well yeah, that is tough, but am I handy enough to do that? No! But I’m not lazy and, as tired as I am, I will go to that mall, I will get milk. I got up early today and that doesn’t make me a hero. You’d have done the same thing. I got up earlier today because I realized there’re no raspberries and the little one loves raspberries. So you know what? I went to the store, and then it was like, “Oh no! We don’t have orange juice!” So now I have to get a couple of those little things of concentrated orange juice, but not the ones that get the oranges from China, so now we’re going to spend more. This is actually true, alright? Alright, so do I get a medal, then, because I was a little tired but got up earlier to do that? No. You know what? I’m the luckiest guy in the world, aren’t I … and plus, I get to complain to you now. [LM]
A lot of your material seems to be drawn from the relationships of the family to show larger truths. It surprised me that the set for your one-man show was a living room and not a kitchen. The kitchen is the center of the battlefield…
I have a whole section that I do on the dishwasher. It’s the dishwasher that really is the source of all anger and pain in a marriage. People think that it has something to do with money or time or energy or jobs or sex or anything. They’re all nothing! It’s all the dishwasher! Number one, they don’t rinse the plate off, you know, and the yolk bakes on and you have to chip at it. Or the worst; peanut butter dots. The dishwasher is like a kiln and it becomes a part of the design of the plate! It doesn’t even come off! It looks like a diagram of the solar system! [LM]
So what are some of the elements of your show?
It’s about actual cocktails to a degree, but it becomes, “Life is like a cocktail! A little of this, a little of that, and then hopefully a lot, but not too much.” You certainly want enough to feel like you’ve taken a holiday and feel inebriated, but not too much. In other words, the cocktail should last about 90 years. That would be just terrific! Ninety-two would be grand and that would be a lot, but not too much. You don’t want to be 137. You don’t want to be the one guy in the mountains of Russia like, “This guy eats yogurt and he’s still there.” [LM]
If you think that this article revealed very little of what Larry Miller’s one-man show is all about, you would be wrong. The show is the seemingly scattershot observations of a brilliant mind that suddenly, almost imperceptibly, brings all the pieces into utter clarity.
Cocktails With Larry Miller is in town for one night only. Tickets start at $28; call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or go to www.ticketcenterstage.com. Larry Miller will also be appearing at the Sidebar in the Oregon District from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for a signing of his book, Spoiled Rotten America.
Reach DCP freelance writer J.T. Ryder at email@example.com.