Miller learned his craft performing standup comedy for the large and mixed audiences in variety theaters. He seemed to know what to do, having hung out in such places along the Brighton seaside since he was a lad. Miller was considered brilliant at commanding listeners' complete attention and, in a career cycle repeated by many such comic greats, he went on to work in films. Miller also made his own music including original songs, but should not be confused with the so-called "real" Max Miller, a pianist born with that name who was a fixture on the Chicago jazz scene. The comedian's heyday was no doubt during the Second World War, radio audiences hungry for laughs as well as the moments of peace heralded by such broadcasts. With so many listening, Miller's Cheeky Chappie just had to be the bad boy, pushing the limits of what was allowed by the censors. Where this would lead on the tight little island does not require a sleuth to figure out: the BBC wound up banning some of his broadcasts. There was one period of five years in which Miller was completely barred from the network.
It was apparently in the previous war that Miller, at that point still Sargent but actually a private, realized he could be as funny as the goofs who had entertained him on the Brighton vaudeville scene. Having made fellow grunts chuckle under the worst circumstances, the young entertainer felt he could take on whatever came away his way in the theatrical foxholes of London as well as Brighton. Recordings of his material have allowed it to live on; the Pearl Flapper label, for example, has had several volume of vintage Cheeky Chappie tracks available since 2002.
Critics of the BBC like to view the censorship of Miller as an extreme example of state-controlled media fascism: "Hitler couldn't even manage to censor Karl Valentin" is a comment that has been made in reference to the Bavarian comic superstar. Valentin's comic valentines were more overtly political, however, whereas the jokes Miller mailed were simply smutty, although hardly by the standards of the next century. The latter humorist mastered the double entendre instead of coming right out with profanity. His comic style has often been labeled "seaside humour." The seaside was where he spent most of his life, hanging around with normal blokes rather than showbiz peers or young worshipers such as the Beatles
themselves. Miller commented thusly on these social preferences: "I much prefer a retired bus driver to anybody in show business." ~ Eugene Chadbourne