T.J. Miller talks comedy, ‘Deadpool,’ ‘Silicon Valley,’ why Alabama’s ‘the most Southern state’ – AL.com

T.J. Miller talks comedy, ‘Deadpool,’ ‘Silicon Valley,’ why Alabama’s ‘the most Southern state’ – AL.com

Comedian T.J. Miller performs during his "Touring In Perpetuity" Tour at The Paramount Theater on September 22, 2019 in Huntington, New York. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)Getty Images
“Oh, we’re doing hats?” T.J. Miller says, after logging onto our video-call interview. “OK, I can do a hat.” Seeing my Thin Lizzy logo-emblazoned trucker-hat onscreen, Miller pulls out a red baseball cap and puts it on. And some sunset-tinted shades. And an easy smile. He’s clean-shaven and wearing a white jacket over a yellow tee.
Miller is an actor/comedian famous for his starring role in “Silicon Valley,” the acclaimed HBO comedy series that cleverly parodied tech startups. Miller played charismatic and cocky entrepreneur Erlich Bachman. In 2015, he won a Critic’s Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for that.
In lesser hands, the show would’ve just been “Entourage” for dweebs. But “Silicon Valley” was co-created by Mike Judge, the big-brain behind comedy classics “Beavis and Butt-head,” “King of the Hill” and “Office Space.”
Miller’s notable film credits include “Deadpool” and “Deadpool 2.” He was deftly cast as the wisecracking superhero’s pal Weasel. He easily kept up with star Ryan Reynolds’ trademark snark. Miller’s also had key roles in “Ready Player One,” “Cloverfield” and many other successful films.
MORE ON CULTURE:
Ann Wilson talks Heart, Muscle Shoals album, Led Zeppelin
Steve-O talks ‘Jackass,’ comedy tour, Alabama bit that didn’t air
18 Southern bands with a number 1 album in the last 30 years
The Denver native started out as a stand-up comic. He’s returned to those roots throughout his career, and is back on the road again performing at comedy clubs across North America. His current tour includes shows in the Birmingham area and Huntsville. (Show info and ticket links at the end of the below Q&A. Additional tour dates at Miller’s awesomely URL-ed website, tjmillerdoesnothaveawebsite.com.)
In conversation, Miller’s engaging and matter-of-fact. When we connect via video, he’s in an airport bar in Toronto. His flight today, like many flights lately, has been delayed. Once the flight finally departs and eventually lands in Winnipeg, “I’ll go straight from the airport to the stage,” he says.
While waiting for his flight, he’s reading a worn paperback about pitching movies because, Miller says, in a couple weeks he’s got a big pitch coming up. He tells me who he’s pitching to. It’s some famous directors who’ve helmed multiple blockbusters. Miller doesn’t tell me not to include those names, but just to be on the safe side, we’re leaving them out.
Miller’s also been prepping a limited series project called “The Loneliest Megaplex” featuring him as the sole employee of a movie theater, set amid the pandemic’s bleak early months. When not touring, on-set or stuck in airports, Miller resides in New York. During our chat, he’s sipping a Canadian beer and a Canadian whiskey. Below are edited excerpts from the conversation.
T.J., so what’s this movie you’re going to be pitching?
It’s a Christmas movie. My buddy, he had an idea for a Christmas movie and his wife and my wife and friends, and his wife said, “Tell T.J. about your movie idea.” And I was like, ugh, great. It’s gonna be awful, and the next half-hour of my life I’m going to have to listen to this stupid idea and try to pretend it’s good. Then he said, “It’s a Christmas movie.” And I was like, oh no. Nobody has a good idea for a Christmas movie. They’re impossible. And so then he told me, and I was like, “That’s the greatest f—ing idea I’ve ever heard in my life.” It’s f—ing unbelievable. I cannot believe it.
And randomly, because my stand-up special that’s dropping on September 29, I was editing that at the (two famous movie-director brothers’) production company, I found they’re really trying to come up with an idea for a Christmas movie. I was like, “What? Shut the f— up.” And I know them because the first TV show I did, they directed it. I had a meeting with (famous director) to catch up, and I said, “I heard you’re looking for a Christmas movie,” and told him the idea and told him it’s not even my idea, it’s my buddy’s idea. And (famous director) was like, “Oh my god, that would be amazing.” And so we’re gonna go pitch it to him in Los Angeles. It’s exciting and that’s a big step because it’s a $100 million, $200 million movie. It’s a huge, huge movie and I would star in it, ideally. But I think they, (the two famous movie-director brothers), think I’m a movie star. That’s how they see me.
I’d play a mall Santa but not a “Bad Santa.” And I’ve already been a Santa type person in “Office Christmas Party,” so that’s a good CV. I’ve already done it. That movie was successful, so let’s do it at a much, much bigger, much bigger level. Do you want to hear the idea, the elevator pitch? Don’t put this on the internet, obviously. [Miller tells me the film’s premise. It’s original and he’d be a natural fit for it.]
When was the last time you were nervous for a pitch meeting or something like that?
Well I was nervous for this interview. Just before this, I was looking in the mirror going, “Don’t f— this up. This is for AL.com. He’s going to be wearing a Thin Lizzy hat and he’s probably a guitarist. [On the video call, my guitars are visible in the background.] Don’t f— this up.”
No, I was just talking about this, with the director of my stand-up pandemic special. He’s doing a pitch, has a big meeting on Monday, and he was like, “I’m really nervous about that.” And I’m like, “You know, obviously, you know me and I don’t get nervous.” He’s like, “Yeah, I know. I do.” But I said, “You know, you want these things to go well, and they kind of have to go well. But I just never think like, ‘I’m not gonna go into this pitch and like freeze up or f— it up.’” I have the mentality of a stand-up comic where I just do this, do this, do this and then it’s gonna work. So I don’t really get nervous.
T.J. Miller accepts the award for best supporting actor in a comedy series for "Silicon Valley" at the Critics' Choice Television Awards at the Beverly Hilton hotel on Sunday, May 31, 2015, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Invision/AP)Vince Bucci/Invision/AP
Speaking of stand-up, if a joke’s good enough do you have to write it down to remember it? I once read an interview with Noel Gallagher, from the band Oasis, and he said something like, “If I come up with a really good guitar riff, I don’t have to f—ing record it, because if it’s good enough I won’t forget it.” Is it that way with jokes too? Or do you have to write down even the best ideas, so you won’t forget them?
I’ve never had anybody ask that. The really great stuff at this stage of stand-up, when people have been doing it for a long time, just a mature stand-up comedian that’s touring, you start to think about it as theory and philosophy from your life. So, you know, now if I’m gonna write something it’s about broader themes. When you’re starting and you’re younger, you talk about sex and drugs and that kind of stuff. And as you get older, we want to talk about kind of these overarching sort of beliefs in life and try and translate that into stand-up.
I’ll tell you some stuff that I just wrote down. [Takes out his phone and reads from it.] At a gas station, you can’t eat anything in there. Everything they offer in a gas station is bad for you. There’s not one good thing. And so it’s really weird to even go into unless you’re using the bathroom, which is also a bad situation. So you should never go into a gas station because it’s all stuff that’s terrible for you.
So you know, you write down that down and there’s a bigger theme there, which is America and how food as drugs is pushed on you, and how hard it is to be healthy in a capitalist society. It’s more social satire as you get older. And then it’s autobiographical, and if it’s autobiographical you’re definitely not going to forget it because it’s about you.
But I just saw where there was like a Romeo and Juliet suicide in New York, where they jumped off this thing called the Vessel (a 150-foot-tall sculpture). But it’s stairs you can climb up, and people have been jumping off the to kill themselves. And so these two people, they do the Romeo and Juliet. But she chickened out. This guy died and she didn’t do it. And I wrote that down. That’s a really bad breakup. Maybe the worst breakup ever. Whose situation’s worse, you know? And then there’s the janitor’s day. So stuff like that, you do have to write down, because you have to get the idea that just occurred to you and put that down. So, two very different types of writing.
Since you’re doing a few shows here in Alabama, is there anything you find fascinating or interesting about Alabama?
It’s a very different South from South Carolina, or even Greensboro, North Carolina. And it’s very different from Louisiana. It’s very different from Florida, but Florida is different from everywhere.
But I’m very lucky that my wife’s best friend is from Birmingham, and she’s produced television down there for a long time, more like news, and so we’ve been down there a lot. And she married a guy who she grew up with, who is also from the same neighborhood in Birmingham. It’s really in Hoover, where they live.
And so we know so much about Alabama through her and meeting all her friends and stuff. I think it’s kind of, in some ways, the most Southern state in the sense of the politeness and the hospitality, and the … segregation. [Laughs] But no, really, it’s kind of a holdover from The South of days of yore and I love that, because it’s obviously progressive and Birmingham is a really big city. And you know, just overall (Alabama) it’s a holdover of the Old South in all the best ways. And so that is fascinating.
But I like performing all over. I’m fascinated by Florida. It’s in my pandemic special, how in the beginning when I started working, I could only go to the crazy places. So that was like Nashville, Tennessee, Tampa, Florida. And Greensboro, North Carolina, Orlando, Florida, and Houston, Texas, and Jacksonville, Florida, and Naples, Florida and Miami. You get the picture.
So I worked down there, like two months, or two-and-a-half months out of the year. It’s such a big state with so many places to perform and so I can’t hate it. I just find it interesting. That’s one of my mantras. I choose to make all of this interesting. So I’m not a guy who’s like, “Ugh, the airport again …”
Actor T.J. Miller, right, and his partner Kate Gorney pose for photographers upon arrival at a fan screening of the film "Deadpool," in central London, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard/Invision/AP)Grant Pollard/Invision/AP
And so Kate (Gorney, Miller’s wife), she’s going gonna come down with me to Birmingham with me to spend time with (her friend). And it’s fun to hang out, because for her, in their world, it’s a fire pit out back and then all the neighbors see that the fire is going, and they make their way over and have drinks and bring beers.
They all know each other. And then as soon as one person leaves, you know, everybody’s talking about how they fit in the group and what they love about them and the dumbest thing they’ve ever done. It was very Southern. Everybody’s drawn like flies to that fire. It was just very Alabama.
Actors, from left, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, Ryan Reynolds and T.J. Miller participate in AOL's BUILD Speaker Series to discuss the film, "Deadpool", at AOL Studios on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about a couple of the biggest projects from your career thus far. In doing the “Deadpool” movies, what’s something fun or cool that goes into those movies people might not expect but you enjoy?
Well, you know, I think people know from the outtakes and stuff that we do more than one take. And that’s the most fun thing, in television also, is when they just let it run. “Alright, we got the line, as-written. Now just do whatever you want to do.” That’s so fun.
And it’s strange to do comedy in a bit of a vacuum because nobody’s allowed to laugh. You’re doing these jokes and the crew is, like, holding their mouth and like laughing inside, and the camera guys are like, they can’t touch the camera because they’re laughing so hard.
And as soon as they yell cut, everybody explodes in laughter so it’s a very weird kind of thing. Because in standup, you get the laugh as soon as you finish the joke. And in film, you’re waiting, kind of building and building this tension. And so that’s another interesting thing, is really to trust your instincts and say, “This is funny. They’ll be laughing at the end of this”
And then I definitely like when you’re working with people that you enjoy. Like I did this film called “Underwater” with Kristen Stewart, and I kind of loved everybody on that set, but specifically her and Vincent Cassel because they’re both movie stars.
It’s weird. I get along with movie stars a lot better than actors. I don’t really consider him an actor, everybody else does. I consider myself a comedian who’s proficient in a couple of different types of comedy.
And it’s like a summer camp a little bit, where you see these people and you become really close them and then you might not talk to them for another five years. It’s like (Mark) Wahlberg and I are buddies, but I don’t think we’ve talked to each other in four years. That’s kind of interesting too.
But it’s fun to watch other people work. Because for me, I’m fascinated. Like, Ben Mendelsohn in “Ready Player One,” the villain, watching him is like “Whoa, that guy’s a real actor.” And getting to know these titanic film legends is cool. It’s weird that I know Steven Spielberg and that’s he’s like a fan. It’s weird I’m friends with Michael Bay. The reality of that is really interesting.
Mike Judge, from left, Martin Starr and T.J. Miller pose on the red carpet for the world premiere of his television series "Silicon Valley" during the SXSW Film Festival on Monday, March 10, 2014, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP)Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP
From doing “Silicon Valley,” have you ever bumped into any of the big tech guys somewhere and they go, “Hey, was that about me?”
Every day, or every couple of days, somebody is like, “I’m a huge fan of yours. I work in tech. It was scary how real it (the show) was.” Or “I’m moving across the country for a new tech job and rewatched all of ‘Silicon Valley.’” Or, “This dude is Erlich.” It struck a nerve because tech was becoming so important, and Mike Judge is such an effective satirist.
The funniest thing about what you’re talking from my life is we’re friends with the Winklevoss twins, which is just so bizarre. And like they started this sort of cover rock band. And we were going over to their place to party and stuff. And Cameron (Winklevoss) was like, “You know, because I went and saw you do stand-up, and I saw that energy, I was like, ‘I want that’ and that’s kind of what made me want to do a band.” I was like, “What?
But yeah, it’s weird because on that show I think in some ways, I was the coolest of the guys, the guy who always smoked weed and was sort of a blowhard and the funny guy or whatever – everybody was funny. But yeah, that was very lucky.
And I left right at the right time. I just could feel I was starting to go on autopilot, and I was trying to too many other things. I remember I was doing press for “Big Hero 6″ and got on with these two radio deejays and I was like, “It’s T.J. Miller, from ‘Big Hero 6.’” And they were like, “Nah, you’re Erlich” and that’s when I knew I had to quit. But you know, I think no one’s ever been like, “My favorite season of ‘Breaking Bad’ is season seven.” So after four seasons, I felt like I’d done what I needed to do.
T.J. Miller performs 7:30 p.m. Aug. 25 at StarDome Comedy Club, address 1818 Data Drive, in Birmingham, Ala. Tickets are $25 – $50 (plus fees) via etix.com. More info at stardome.com. Next, Miller will be in Huntsville at Stand Up Live, address 2012 Memorial Pkwy. S.W., for shows 7 and 9:15 p.m. Aug. 26 and 6:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. Aug. 27. Tickets are $35 (plus fees) via huntsville.standuplive.com.
Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.
Registration on or use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement, Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement, and Your California Privacy Rights (User Agreement updated 1/1/21. Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement updated 7/1/2022).
Cookie Settings
© 2022 Advance Local Media LLC. All rights reserved (About Us).
The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Advance Local.
Community Rules apply to all content you upload or otherwise submit to this site.
Ad ChoicesAd Choices

source

CATEGORIES
Share This

COMMENTS

Wordpress (0)
Disqus (0 )