Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Howie Miller has made a career out of making other people laugh.
But Miller, a member of the Paul First Nation in Alberta, says his comedic roots didn’t take hold in the usual manner.
“I know the CBC answer would be to say I was the class clown,” he said. “But really, it was on a dare from my friends.”
A quarter century ago Miller signed up to perform at an amateur night at the Yuk Yuk’s comedy club in his hometown of Edmonton.
Apparently, he was well received by the crowd.
“The boss said ‘can you come back next week’,” Miller said, but he was lacking something vital to a performer.
“I didn’t really have much of an act,” he said.
What he did have going for him was the fact he was Indigenous. At the time, there were very few other Indigenous people trying their hand at comedy and there was a push to get him more well known.
“Yuk Yuk’s really backed me in the beginning,” said Miller, adding the chain of comedy clubs promoted him and helped him secure gigs at its various sites across the country.
Miller has managed to pay his bills by telling jokes for the past 25 years now.
“I took a two-and-a-half-year hiatus because of COVID,” he said. “But this is what I do. I don’t have a plumbing job and I don’t deal with Bitcoin. And I do some acting and some writing when it’s available.”
Miller is ready to start touring once again. He’s got upcoming performances booked for clubs in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.
Plus, he’s also busy promoting his 12-track comedy album titled COLONIZE THIS, which will be publicly released on April 15.
COLONIZE THIS was recorded during Miller’s three performances at Yuk Yuk’s in Calgary this past fall.
This will be his first actual album. It will be available for purchase through a variety of places, including Spotify, Google Play and Apple Music.
“Before I just had a personal CD of one of my shows,” said Miller, who would plug his CD and hope those attending his performances would buy one afterwards.
Miller believes putting out a live album will be a step forward for him.
“I don’t expect to sell any,” he joked. “I just want to have this professionally done. I like taking steps forward. And the steps I take always go up.”
The segments on COLONIZE THIS range roughly between two and seven minutes each.
The opening bit is titled “Just Hanging Out” and includes the fact he is often mistaken for being Hawaiian, Spanish, Samoan or Filipino.
Miller gets quite a few chuckles when he tells audience members he’s not even a comedian but just someone who is distracting audiences while his relatives hot wire their cars.
Miller also has the crowd in stitches while describing COVID-19 testing, as well as his health concerns and detailed info on prep work required for an angiogram.
His bit on “Bubbly Tummy” and the use of public washrooms following a night of drinking can be classified as too much information by some or as comedic genius.
COLONIZE THIS concludes with Miller doing various impressions, including Homer Simpson and Arnold Schwarzenegger pretending to be Old MacDonald.
Miller also does bang-on impressions of Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Donald Trump and Christopher Walken.
Miller was asked whether any of the dozen segments on COLONIZE THIS are his favourite.
“That’s like asking which kid is your favourite,” said Miller, who has four sons.
Miller added he is proud of a certain part of his act.
“I like doing the impressions,” he said. “It’s the most fun. I don’t consider myself an impressionist. I’m more of a mimic.”
Besides his soon-to-be-released album and performances, Miller’s upcoming schedule includes a pair of other items.
“I do have two TV things waiting,” he said. “They’ve been waiting two-and-a-half years now.”
For starters, Miller will act in and possibly write some episodes for Tradies, a show about people who work in the trades.
A pilot for Tradies was shot last year. Reps are currently trying to acquire funding, which will help determine if it will be a web series or TV sitcom.
Another project on the horizon is Paradise Mountains, a sitcom he will be writing, producing and starring in.
Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.