Monday, January 17, 2011

Interview with TJ Miller

Danielle Solzman: Thank you for joining the Chicago Improv Celebrity News today. How are you doing?
T.J. Miller: Okay.

DS: You've had a rather busy year with She's Out of My League, How to Train Your Dragon, Get Him to the Greek, Unstoppable, Yogi Bear and Gulliver's Travels being released in 2010. Were you trying to compete with Jonah Hill and Amanda Seyfried for the most movies in 2010?
TJM: Nah, I don't consider myself in the same league as those two. I'm far further along than they are.

DS: With all these movies, how do you find the time to perform stand-up tour?
TJM: Whenever I'm not doing a movie, I'm doing stand-up or working on my own stuff. I don't see any alternative. I have to do as much stand-up as I can because other comics don't have to take time off if they don't want to. I have no choice, so I'm always playing catchup to the comics that are just doing stand-up. So I'm basically working all the time unless I take a concentrated period of time off on purpose. Which I rarely do. Except for something like brain surgery.

DS: You made a YouTube video to obtain your part for Yogi Bear, right? Did you ever think it would work?
TJM: I did not make a YouTube video to obtain anything. I did it as a joke. I thought it would be funny to send a video of me with a real bear to Warner Bros. and pretend it was real. They obviously knew it wasn't, I wasn't pining for the part or anything, I auditioned sort of as a joke, made the video as a really silly joke, and then when they offered the part I said "what is the funniest ending to this story/joke? to be in the movie." So I did the movie. So the whole thing was really based on comedy bleeding into life...

DS: Having seen you perform at a venues such as Lakeshore Theater in Chicago (may it rest in peace) and Comedy Caravan in Louisville, which is your favorite type of venue to perform in? The larger theater or the smaller one?
TJM: I like any size room as long as it's well run and the audience is into it. The bigger the room the easier to get laughs (when it's full) but a small crowd in a good venue is just as fun. It's about the audience not the venue usually. I like a venue about 300-500 though, that is pretty sweet because my subtle stuff still goes over but it feels like a huge crowd.

DS: When did you get the itch to go into comedy for a career? Was it while living in Denver? Or while a student at George Washington University?
TJM: Comedy as a career came when I was in receSs at GW. Those guys were the first ones to make me understand that comedy was it's own thing. I didn't have to be an actor who did comedy, I could be a comedian and just a comedian. And that is more than enough. Way fucking hard.

DS: What sort of training did you undergo in Chicago as far as improv and sketch is concerned?
TJM:Annoyance Theater, iO, and I took like one class at Second City and then they rejected me from the conservatory. Later they hired me after my first audition to understudy and later tour. So they don't always know what is going on. A rejection from them should be seen as one from the prettiest girl in town. She's flighty, flaky, and will eventually come around once other people want you.

DS: Is there any thing that has stuck out from any instructors that you have had?
TJM: Everything Mick Napier has said. I think really standing behind your instincts is important. I also think someone somewhere must have said something akin to "do what you think is funny and will make you laugh." Because that's usually where I start.

DS: What teams were you on at IO?
TJM: Sturgis and Bullet Lounge.

DS: When did you join the Second City National Touring Company and how long were you with them?
TJM:I think in '05 maybe. I toured for a little over 2 years.

DS: What was the Tour Co experience like?
TJM: Amazing. It was the first real reps I got on the road, the first time I had to start performing for people from all over, not just peers in Chicago. That was extremely helpful and an invaluable learning experience.

DS: Have any favorite characters that you like to do at gigs?
TJM:I have a new one I like but people aren't into it as much, a guy who is really pushy about whether or not you're going to take a bite of his banana.

DS: I want to talk about Carpoolers. Do you think the series would have lasted longer if the strike didn't get in the way?
TJM: Maybe. Maybe a back order, but I don't know if it could have gone many seasons because ABC didn't have a comedy brand then, and now they do with Modern Family and such. I think it was tough timing no matter what.

DS: Variety named you as one of the top ten comics to watch in 2008. How did that make you feel? Pressured?
TJM: No. Most awards and accolades are appreciated but not much more than that. Comedy isn't really about awards, it's about laughs and respect from the peers you respect. If you're getting that, and you're happy with your work, then I don't give a fuck what list I'm on, I'm still going to keep ascending in one form or another. I'll never try and get an academy award, I'll never want to be taken seriously. That list is usually just hype around town anyway...

DS: What do you tell beginning improvisers?
TJM: Do as much as you can all the time. Perform as much as you can, take as many classes, start your own group. All comedians: Your work ethic is one of the few things you have complete control over.

DS: Thanks again for joining us. Is there anything else you would like to add?
TJM: No. Thank you.