Comedian T.J. Miller is headed to Boston this week to perform at Somerville's Johnny D's on Thursday, February 6 at 7:30 p.m.
The “Chelsea Lately” regular and Denver native, who stars in the upcoming comedy Search Party, is quickly becoming one of the most sought after young comedians and actors in entertainment – especially after being named one of Variety’s “Top 10 Comics to Watch,” as well as one of Entertainment Weekly’s “Next Big Things in Comedy.” With an infectious energy and offbeat take on the world around him, Miller never fails to delight audiences nationwide and recently delighted the Boston Comedy Scene Examiner by chatting about his upcoming projects and his return to Boston.
BCSE: So T.J., you've got a pretty exciting year coming up. You’re starring in a movie coming out later this year?
TJM: Yeah, I’m in a movie called Search Party. It’s the first movie that I’m starring in. I'm working with Todd Phillips – he wrote Hangover 2, The Hangover. He wrote Semi-Pro. It’s an R-rated style comedy, and me and two other guys are basically going to rescue our buddy who is naked, covered in cocaine and stranded in Mexico with no money or way of getting out of there. It’s very exciting, that's Search Party. It’s coming out in the fall.
BCSE: Aw, we have to wait that long?
TJM: I know, it’s a ways off. In the mean time, let’s get in to HBO.
BCSE: Yeah, that’s got to be a really exciting thing to be in Transformers 4, huh?
TJM: It’s pretty crazy. It does not get any bigger than that, so… here we go.
BCSE: Awesome, awesome. I have to say, I’m so envious of your professional life. You just seem to have the most fun of anybody that I've heard of.
TJM: I mean, that’s so nice of you to say that. I've been fortunate to work with a lot of great people on a lot of different kinds of things. But I think it’s also just your approach, I mean, from my perspective it’s so fun doing comedy, I think it’s sort of essential to the human condition. You get to something makes you happy, and the sole focus of it is to make people happy. What’s better?
BCSE: Exactly, you’re living the dream.
TJM: Living the dream.
BCSE: I mentioned last week, I think I tweeted, I wondered if comedians realized that what they produce has the power to help people with depression. What you do is so important to people and I don’t know if you guys know that.
TJM: It is certainly. I appreciate that you appreciate that. Already you’re living the dream, you’re like an inquisitive, smart journalist, you have great questions, I think, even this early in the interview. My thing is, that’s exactly… I don’t think enough comedians realize that.
TJM: That’s my drive and the reason I do it. You look around, more and more people are depressed. More and more people are anxious. More and more people need to take Xanax, need to meditate, need to do all these things and it's because life is getting harder and harder and there’s more to be anxious about, and we’re going deeper and deeper into this capitalist like “If you only bought this, then you’d feel better. If you only had this car, then you’d be happy.” And so, I think it’s becoming more vital. And that’s why you're seeing more live comedy, there’s comedy sections in newspapers, and comedians are being profiled and documentaries are being made about them, you just kind of realize how important comedy is in everyone’s life. And yeah, that’s right on. And I think some people, they might be motivated selfishly. But I tweeted a little while ago that the act of comedy in itself is selfless.
TJM: The moment in which you make somebody laugh, you’re only doing it to make them laugh and be happy. Then afterward you can be like, "oh I just want the attention. I feel so good that everybody's listening to me and I got the approval that I need." That’s all just shit that you’re dealing with in your mind afterward. In that one moment, it’s a really selfless act.
BCSE: Right. And, you know, not to say that it’s entirely selfish to bask in the glory of that afterward because when you do something nice for someone, that feels good. So naturally, when you are able to make people laugh, that’s going to feel amazing.
TJM: Yeah that’s right.
BCSE: Yeah. So when was the last time you've come to Boston?
TJM: I’m so sorry, I’m driving, I have to figure out which way to turn, which is basically every intersection, I have no idea where I am or what I’m doing, which is sort of a metaphor for my life. I think the last time I was in Boston was for a twenty-four hour improv festival at Improv Asylum, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that.
BCSE: Yeah, definitely.
TJM: Yeah, so of course, I really loved them and they've always been great. Actually they offered me a job and I almost went to live in Boston when I first started doing comedy. But then, I just couldn't leave the stand-up scene and Second City offered me a position, so it was a near miss because I do like Boston, it’s a great city. I gained a total respect for it, actually. I'm friends with Mark Wahlberg and spending time with him, because he’s so much about that, and it’s such a big part of his life and personality.
TJM: I think it’s going to be great. I can’t wait to go and play an independent venue. I’ve played the comedy club above the Chinese food restaurant, you know?
BCSE: Yeah, the Comedy Studio.
TJM: Yeah. And then I used to play the Connection, but they closed I think, so I haven’t really had an occasion really to go back for awhile. It’s really exciting.
BCSE: Yeah, the place that you’re playing, Johnny D’s, is an amazing little venue. I mean, it’s primarily music, but comedy works so well there. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
TJM: I wonder, this might be a question for you, but I wonder is that sort of the future of comedy? Or do they faction off, like comedy clubs are for comedians to do much more mainstream stuff, family-focused stuff, relationship-based material, and do alternative comedians find that sort of splitting venues with musicians? What do you think about that?
BCSE: We’re seeing a lot of that, particularly in Boston. We have a rock club, Paradise Rock Club, that’s been doing a lot more comedy and I think we’re finally taking off on the concept that good comedy doesn't always have to be within the confines of a comedy club per se. You know, so, I think that the people who are in charge of these venues are really reading the public and they’re saying “Hey, this is what people want, let’s put it right where they already are.”
TJM: Yeah, right, exactly. And then also, you know, comedy is like, I don’t know, a lot of stuff that’s going on right now to me is very cool, it’s interesting, conceptually I’m looking at people, people just don’t understand, this is an art form that is as diverse and powerful as music, you know?
TJM: And sometimes it’s befitting of a space that reflects that. My favorite place to perform is theaters; theaters where you can drink, you know, you want to be able to have f**king beers and sh*t.
TJM: But like, it’s weird, I go to Denver now, and I did a show where it was like in the back of a pizza place, this place called Sexy Pizza (which is delicious, my buddy is the owner). It's kind of a franchise in Denver. And they just tarped up, they just straight tarped up the front of the place, you couldn't see in the restaurant. You entered through the back alley where they did deliveries, and everybody's just smoking weed and the comedians would go on and do their act. And they were serving pizza and you could make up your own pizza with whatever ingredients they had, and they would make a slice of it for you or a whole pizza. And like each comedian came on stage with the slice of pizza they created. What a weird sort of performance art fusion of drugs and food and entertainment. It was awesome. It was perfect.
TJM: People loved the show. It's getting really interesting.
BCSE: Yeah, we have, it's not an open mic, but it's a couple steps up from an open mic, it takes place in a laundromat here in Boston.
TJM: Yeah, I run a show at a sex shop, a place where you go to buy dildos and stuff, every Tuesday. We book the biggest acts; Sarah Silverman comes by there, Patton Oswalt's done it, Greg Proops, all these great comedians come by and we just section off the private sex shop and it's crazy.
BCSE: Awesome, yeah. I think especially alternative comedy, even though I hate that term because I think comedy is comedy, I think there's sort of like a takeover, like 'Alright, we're going to forge our way; we're going to change the climate of stand-up a little bit.'
TJM: Yeah I think so, and I actually don't mind the genretization of comedy because I think for a long time it was like, 'You want to go see a comedian?' and they would go and someone would be like 'I hate this, why did I come see this?' And it's okay, if you like blue collar comedy, then go see blue collar comedy.
BCSE: True, true, yeah.
TJM: If you prefer mainstream Dane Cook comedy or whatever, then go see that. If you like dirty comedy, like Jim Norton or something, go see that. Urban comedy, that's fine too. I think that's just kind of what needs to happen. So the alternative label may stick until the point when people are like 'this is indie rock' or 'this is just rock.'
BCSE: Yeah, I just think it needs a more fitting title per se.
TJM: Yeah, yeah, Exactly. Exactly. No, I think you're right. It was the alternative to club comedy.
TJM: It's interesting, there's punk rock comedians, too. There's guys like Ben Roy in Denver, they have sort of a punk feel to them. Kyle Kinane, is almost a punk rock comedian.
BCSE: Definitely. Well I have to say. I think, I get a lot of enjoyment out of what you do because it's so diverse and you really, you're one of the few people that you can really see how much you enjoy doing what you do no matter what it is; whether it's acting or comedy, or you know, just being silly for lack of a better word.
TJM: Yeah. I appreciate that. I mean, I guess I don't really take myself that seriously and that combined with the authenticity of me truly having a great f**king time with it, it really translates to like, I mean, it's a little infectious. It's okay to take yourself too seriously if you're a serious actor and you've got the scrubs on. And then with me it's kind of like, well I'm a comedian, I'm making fun of everybody and everything. And I'm making fun of myself. I'm having fun making fun of and for other people. It seems really boring. That's why I don't really do any straight acting. I mean, I'll do it if it has some sort of comedic element to it but it doesn't seem fun to me, and there's people that are so much better at it than me, like, I'm not a great actor because I've worked so hard to be a great comedian. That's what I'm hopefully doing.
BCSE: That definitely comes across, yeah. I find that when you get actors who sort of venture into comedy, it doesn't work on that side of it. You know?
TJM: No, no, no. And it's like with James Franco (I'll be a real douchebag as a person) does a great job with comedy but he's not like a comedian, he's not funny.
TJM: He's just playing the role of someone who's funny.
TJM: But that's what I want to do, just make people have a great time. That and kind of get this rap career going; I have an album from 2011 that just hasn't been doing very well. It's called 'The Extended Play EP'; it's a forty-two track EP, and I'm just trying to cross-over that, like Donald Glover, like how P Diddy went from being a comedian to having Ciroc. I'm also trying to sell my new brand of liquor which is called 'Single Malt' liquor. It's a very fine, high-end malt liquor like 'Old English' or Mickey's, and my perfume line, which is called 'Wet Garbage'.
BCSE: [Laughs] That's awesome.
TJM: 'Hot Garbage,' sorry, we're still working on the name. I'm don't want to cross platforms and make money off of my celebrity, but that's really the end goal here. That and to make people laugh.
BCSE: Right. Right. Well I got to say, man, keep doing what you're doing because you definitely stand out in the pack.
TJM: Thank you so much for saying that, that's incredibly nice. You seriously made my day, because, you know, like any comedian, you can't get better unless you look at yourself and you're really critical and like 'Am I doing everything I can? Am I trying to do the highest caliber of comedy? Are people receiving what I'm doing?' Because I'm doing it for them, I'm not doing it for just myself. So when people say shit like what you just said, I really, really, really f**king appreciate it. Genuinely.
BCSE: Well it's my pleasure. Definitely my pleasure. Well I'm going to wrap this up, I don't want to take too much more of your time but I'm really psyched to see you next week here in Boston.
TJM: Yeah, and come to the show and if you have time, I know you're really busy, come up afterward and say hello.
BCSE: Definitely, I wouldn't miss it.
With a winter storm set to descend on Boston on Wednesday, there's no doubt that you're going to be in dire need of a night of high-quality entertainment after you've dug yourself out. There's simply no better way to shake off those winter blues than with an up-close and personal evening with the hilarious T.J. Miller, so be sure to grab your tickets before they're gone completely. Johnny D's is located at 17 Holland Street in Somerville, across from the Davis Square T-stop.