Howie Miller knows how to be funny on stage and on screen, which makes him the perfect host for the Edmonton Short Film Festival's comedy night kickoff event
By Cory Schachtel | October 13, 2022
How’s your morning?
Kind of exciting, right now — I’m outside my building because the fire alarm went off.
Oh no, I hope you’re not seeing any smoke…?
No, they’re just doing a walkthrough. I’m just outside with my little pup, Zoey. The alarm really hurts her ears.
Aww, what kind of pup is Zoey?
She’s a King Charles Cavalier Poodle, but we got her three years ago, so she’s the original King Charles.
Well I’m glad you got her out in time. You’re hosting a comedy night to kick off the 10th year of the Edmonton Short Film Festival, but it seems like you’ve been doing more script writing and on-screen performances than stand-up lately. At this point, are you more of an actor than a comic?
It was definitely stand-up comedy first. And then I thought, like every stand-up comedian, I’ll do this for six months and then I’ll be working with Robin Williams in multi-million-dollar movies. That never happens. But we did a series called Caution: May Contain Nuts, a sketch comedy show, for five seasons. And we get to do that right here in Edmonton using our amazing Edmonton cast and crew. So that was fun, and I’m always looking for other things to do, but I do still pepper my work schedule with some stand-up now, just not as much as I used to.
Now that you’ve done a lot of both, what’s the difference for you between being funny on stage and being funny on camera?
When you’re on stage, it’s the instant gratification, which is why most comedians do what we do. That instant release of dopamine, that in itself becomes addictive. And when acting on film, I wouldn’t say I’m unprofessional, but I always try to keep my audience captivated and entertained. And when you’re shooting with the same group for 16-hour days, it gets a little monotonous. So in between takes I’d be making light of things around me and trying to have a good time, because my co-workers appreciate it too.
Is it true that stand-ups think they’re better than actors because stand-up comedy is harder than acting, and actors don’t respond because no one has written anything for them to say?
Not actors in general, but I think there’s a definite bridge between stand-up comics and improv actors. And there seems to be a toll booth in the middle of that bridge that I was always trying to open when I was a part of the Caution team that was entirely cast with improv actors. I was the only stand-up comic, so I had to really open my mind to all the hugging and partnership, the brotherhood and sisterhood of the improv actor family, when normally I’m on stage by myself. I’m actually scared of doing improv because I don’t feel I’m that quick to interact with somebody because I’m used to performing alone. Fellow actors are very supportive of each other, but comics almost want to see other comics fail so they can do better.
You’ll be doing some material on Friday, but you’ll be there to introduce a selection of comedic short films. In your comedic opinion, what makes a good comedy film?
First of all, it helps to tell people that it’s a comedy. I remember it was someone from Monty Python who said they once got a letter from somebody saying “I loved your thing the other night on BBC!” But they weren’t on that week. The BBC bumped Python and put this nature show on with some boring guy talking, but people still thought it was Python being incredibly dry. So context is important. And I’ll just clarify that the short films we’ll show are definitely comedies. And I’ll be there too, so be ready to laugh.
As a long-time joke slinger, do you appreciate short films because they don’t take so long to get to the point?
I love short films because of that reason alone — I don’t have to invest my entire day. Plus I’m a bigger guy, so my ass is gonna get sore. I do appreciate epic movies — I’m just saying it’s very nice and refreshing to have something fast paced and like, bang, let’s move on to the next one.
What can people expect from the evening?
It’s gonna be a lot of fun! Or at least I’m gonna have a lot of fun. I haven’t seen the films yet, so I’m gonna watch them for the first time with everybody. So I look forward to that. And I’m not going to wear a tux, because that’s not fun or funny to me. But I’m looking forward to being there and having a good time.
Finally, your website says you do impressions as well. Do you have any local impressions, perhaps of a recently appointed conservative premier?
Well, it looks like the building is good and we can go back into our domicile. Time to make Zoey’s breakfast!
The Edmonton Short Film Festival’s Comedy Night happens Oct. 14, 7-9 p.m. in Casino Yellowhead’s Pearl Showroom.