This interview appeared on Starpulse.com on October 29th ,2007
When The Washington Post’s TV reviewer sat down to watch ABC’s Carpoolers, they made the same decision the press has been making for years, ” The show is stolen by potential comic discovery T.J. Miller.” Beginning his career in Chicago, Miller’s been labeled the breakout star of almost every performance he’s been in, whether it be standup, Improv, or videos, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he does the same in the forthcoming Untitled JJ Abrams project. Starpulse spoke to TJ about his role in one of the most anticipated films of 08, making his debut in his tighty-whities, and making Very Bad Porn.
I just called and got your outgoing voicemail message, which was funny and very lengthy.
Lengthy on purpose. Once you’ve heard the joke, you can just press one to skip it. It’s very important that if you’re going to have a funny outgoing message there needs to be a way to skip through it so that the people don’t have to listen to it again and again.
Do you feel a sort of competitiveness amongst other comedians for having the best outgoing message?
No, I don’t really feel very competitive with comedians in general. I think that’s an important thing, that there’s a stereotype that stand ups are competitive. I just don’t feel that, but there is a sense of pride and if you have an OGM and you’re a comedian it should probably be pretty funny, but the trick is you don’t want it to be hack. You don’t want it to be trying to be funny; you want it to be genuinely clever.
You just said OGM. When you’re talking to someone, do you usually just drop an acronym like that?
Yeah, I mean to be real about it, I’ll drop an acronym at any point. In fact, I’ve used an acronym about an acronym. Like, you’ll ask, “Did you watch TV tonight?” And I’ll answer, “You mean TVS? For television set?” So I’ll send an acronym with another acronym. I’m crazy as hell; you know what I mean? I drink, I party, I smoke weed.
Is that something that the ABC network, which has a family friendly image, would want you publicizing?
Yeah, I think so, if you phrase it like that. I’ll go on record and say, “I think my OGMs are dope because I’m cool. I drink, I smoke and party.” Have you seen thepromo on ABC’s website? It paints me quite obviously as an alcoholic. I mean, you’ve got to see it. Look it up, I go on record on their site saying, “I used to drink alcohol. I used to fill piñatas with bottles of alcohol and bash them and drink the liquor, but because we’re a green show, I’ve just been using candles of liquor. I mean they fall apart, but if you hit them fast enough, the gin can get in your mouth.” It’s crazy, it’s pretty hilarious.
How does it feel to make your primetime television debut in your underwear?
You’re the first person to ask me that and I’m excited to finally answer. I don’t give a shit; everyone makes a big deal about it. I don’t care, it’s like a Very Bad Porn . Being in your tighy-whities, I don’t care if it’s network or not, it’s not as embarrassing as shirtlessly not being able to have intercourse with anyone. And I’ll go on record and say that. “Shirtlessly not being able to have intercourse with anyone.” A lot of people ask about that, and a lot of people say to my parents,” I can’t believe he did that. ” My biggest concern with me being in my underwear was the joke. I mean they burned the joke in the first episode. Everyone’s seen that I was in my underwear. Because of that I fought very hard for and won that he’s not going to be in his underwear very much in the series. It’s more of a bit that they were using to show who the character was and got it done. To me it’s not about people seeing me in my underwear, but about becoming part of a joke that becomes hack quickly or worn thin, so in the second episode I wear pants and the third is the same way. That’s just one aspect of the way this guy dresses.
At any point do you don a dress?
No, but I appreciate your use of the word don. At one point I don a Don, which is a guy who works on the crew, and I’ll actually put him on me. I’ll don a Don but I won’t don a dress.
How do you feel about the use of drag in comedy?
I think that when appropriate it’s fine. If a bit calls for dressing up like a woman, I think it’s worth it so long as the funniest thing about the sketch or the show or the character is not that the guy dressing in women’s clothes. I also feel strongly that if you’re going to dress in women’s clothing, then you should try and be funny, but a believable woman, instead of a guy who’s like, “This is what a girl is! Look my toenails!” I mean that’s how women say that. I’ve dated what, 5? No, 1500 of them. I do own a princess dress, though, full sized, and with wings.
How would you explain Very Bad Porn to someone who hasn’t experienced it?
Very bad porn is a satirical porn website based on the main character, Chelsea Humboldt, who’s so bad at making pornography that there is no sexual content in it. There’s no nudity on the site. That’s what it is. It’s something that I feel strongly about because it represents the problem of internet pornography for the majority of the guys I know and are friends with, which is how can you be an ethical individual and on a moral level be against some of the aspects of pornography, but still watch the stuff almost every day.
What system of ethics do you employ?
Wow, we’re really getting into it today. I believe in a system that is based loosely off of Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Camus. And I believe that, I mean if we’re talking strictly ethics, I’m a bit of a relic of this, but I believe fundamentally that there is no meaning to life except that of which you make on your own. God is dead, just like Nietzsche said. We should strive to build our own ethical belief system, not follow the ones like the dogma of the Catholic Church or Hillary Clinton. Just kidding, I’m a huge fan. I consider myself a fairly ethical individual, while I do have a lot of dichotomies within me. We’re all victims of our own hypocrisy at times. I try to be an ethical moral person and a nice person, and I like to have that reflected in my comedy. I’m not a mean comedian and I don’t think that my comedy is mean. I think that for the most part, it’s more focused on the diversity that we all handle and try to provide a distraction from the disaster of modern living.
Has being on carpoolers at all changed your comedic or career aspirations?
No. To be honest, I would never have imagined myself acting on a sitcom that I didn’t write. I’ve never considered the possibility of being an actor on a sitcom, which is essentially why I improvise a lot on set. So in that way I have a bit more lines that go on the show. The good news is that Bruce McCullough is a brilliant comedian. Obviously Kids in the Hall was paramount in my sketch comedy education, and I like him and think he’s funny. The character is one that I feel close to and enjoy playing. I think that the character is fun for me and is funny. They let me be really, really strange. They let me do a lot of physicality, a lot of improvisation and they let me take it to an interesting place.
While we’re on the subject, I’d like to include that I’ve gone to great pains not to make this a stupid character. I’ve read a lot of press that read, “The linebacker sized, dimwit, Millard’s son” or their, “Moronic slacker son” or stuff like that. Bruce and I spoke in the beginning of the series, even in the beginning of the pilot, and I made it very clear to him that I wouldn’t play the slacker, stupid son. It’s been done. It’s a very archetypical character; it’s already been played. Our focus was to have a character that wasn’t bad, but that people could still relate to. So can we relate to it? We’re not really figuring that out right now. The thing about Marmaduke is that he’s probably a genius. He’s certainly a genius in certain areas. Actually, he’s more on the idiot side than the savant side. He’s just a strange guy. He lives at home by choice because he thinks that it strengthens the family unit, not because he can’t get a job. He’s very advanced at internet and computer communications and his vocabulary, as you’ll see in the next couple of episodes, trumps that of his parents. He’s a smart character whose very eccentric and esoteric who’s more than a little off in society. And that’s what I’m playing because playing an idiot is not something I’m interested in.
I’d read that you were at work on a Very Bad Porn movie. What is the status of that?
That’s been kind of put on hold because of all of the things that we have going on, but I’m still very interested in doing that. I think there’s a film there. I think that that character and that story and that world deserves to be fleshed out and seen on a higher level. Whether it’s doing more with the site, which I would also like to do, or if it’s just merely making a feature. But I’m quite busy now, I’m in the process of pitching another television show to networks and we’ll see how that goes, and tonight I have a showcase for Jay Leno, so I’ll be doing a lot of standup and keep that moving.
You’ve also got a role in this untitled JJ Abrams project.
Yes it is. I can’t talk about it at all with you.
Will audiences get their fair share of T.J. Miller in this?
Audiences are going to get less than any share of T.J. Miller. They’re going to get a fraction of what is considered a fair share of me. You will probably see my face for possibly 3 minutes and twenty-five seconds. It’s possibly the weirdest situation I’ve been in. But you’ll hear me, and I’ll be present in the movie for the entire duration of the film.
Is that information that you are able to reveal?
Yeah, I think so. You can say that it’s safe to say that because I’m behind the camera and you’re going to hear a lot more of me than you’re going to see. And you can get that from the preview. In the preview you don’t see me at all, you just hear me. It’s going to be crazy. It’s going to be everything the JJ Abrams fan wants out of a movie and probably more.
Is it hard to keep a secret this big?
I’m not a guy who runs out and is like, “Look what happened to me!” But I think it’s strange because in every other film, they want you to talk about it as much as you can. They just want people to be aware of it, and in this one I just got a call because I spoke to a PA who is on the trailer but isn’t on the movie and I talked to her about the film in some bar and it got back to them. They said that this was a huge problem, “You can’t go out drinking and talk about the movie.” I didn’t know she wasn’t on it. They’re furious about how secretive it is. Nobody can really confirm what is going on in the film. You just can’t. It’s even almost hard for me to confirm anything. I didn’t get the script until after I signed onto the project, and even when I did get the script I wasn’t told what was going on. It’s a very strange project to work on.
What would happen if somehow it slipped out?
It’s JJ Abrams. I’d never be able to work with him again or I would have to be in Mission Impossible: 4. Both of which are disconcerting to me.
In case you were wondering, here’s TJ’s OGM: You know what to do, which is press 1 to skip this greeting, or if you haven’t heard these instructions before, in order to contact me you leave me an alphanumeric message in which the key is sent to alphanumerickeycodes@ tjmillerdoesnothaveawebsite.com . I will check my email, use the key to decipher the message, and then I will send you a text message using the code that you set up and emailed to me. That text message will contain a 1-800 number, which you can call in order to contact someone who will let me know who it is who left a message, and I will contact you using the number you’ve given to my assistant at the 1-800 number that you got from the text message from the coded key that you set up on the original voicemail on this number. Thanks. Have a great day!
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