Philadelphia: The City of Brotherly Love. And battle axes, according to comedian TJ Miller's new special on HBO.
Released on Saturday, the special, dubbed Meticulously Ridiculous, has Miller discussing his last visit to Philadelphia for a show at the Fillmore (we interviewed him). While here, Miller, 36, stopped at a little store called Asian Treasures at 529 S. Fourth St. to purchase, of all things, a battle ax. The large, double-bladed weapon with a skull painted in the center has since become a pivotal prop in his stand-up, and Miller brandishes it onstage during the special.
"When [my wife] Kate and I went in there, we thought it was going to be a very different type of establishment," Miller, who stars in Silicon Valley but is departing the show next season, jokes in his HBO special. "It's a place that sells kimonos and travel chess and swords. [The owner] immediately thought I wanted a sword. I guess I looked at the swords for too long, and she started trying to sell me."
That owner is Lisa Du, 51, who opened the store almost three years ago. She first took over a stall in the New Castle Farmers Market in Delaware after she came to the Philadelphia area from China about a decade ago. Currently, the South Street-area Asian Treasures location is up for sale, but Du says she will maintain ownership of the Delaware location.
Du says she remembers selling Miller the ax last year, but didn't know at the time that he was a well-known comedian. Instead, she says, he merely looked like a "sword guy" because of his long hair and overall appearance.
"He looked cool. I knew he was not regular. He was different, but I was not sure how," Du says. "I didn't know him, so I treated him like a regular customer."
Du says it was Miller who first noticed the battle ax. After examining the ax, Miller says in the HBO special, which was filmed in his native Denver last year, he bought the weapon for $95 despite it being priced at $100. Du, however, says Miller probably paid $90.
"It surprised me he liked the ax," Du says. "I usually give 10 percent off the price."
The battle ax has become something of a go-to prop for Miller, who previously showed the weapon off on a November 2016 Conan appearance where he told a story similar to the one in Meticulously Ridiculous. The ax featured in that Conan bit, Du says, was not the actual ax he purchased at Asian Treasures, but the one in the HBO special is the real deal.
That Conan appearance has had some real-world effect on Asian Treasures, with Du saying that customers have come to the shop specifically because of the story Miller told on the show.
Miller, meanwhile, dedicates a solid chunk of his new special to stories about his beloved double-headed battle ax. In one, for example, he cuts himself badly while playing with the ax on his tour bus, much to the disappointment of his wife. In another, Miller and his wife are stopped by the police as the pair walk around Minnesota's Mall of America with the ax. For that latter story, Miller was shirtless, prompting an officer to investigate the situation.
While Du says she didn't particularly appreciate Miller's impression of her ("We don't have time to make fun — if I knew him, that's different," she says), the shop owner is happy that the comedian gave her business a little boost.
And for local TJ Miller/battle ax fanatics, the store has got you covered. While there were no other axes such as the one in Miller's special when a reporter visited on Tuesday, Du indicated that she would be happy to order more axes, should customers want their own version.
"Sometimes, I want to thank him for the advertisement," Du says of Miller. "It has been a big benefit for me."
Miller's Meticulously Ridiculous special is available to stream on HBOGO.