TJ Miller is a standup comedian versed in the styles of sketch, improv and absurdist comedy. His most recent cinematic venture, Transformers: Age of Distinction, just wrapped and he has three more in post-production. In 2011 he released The Extended Play E.P. demonstrating that laughter, while a one-way street, can be approached from many different angles. A true entertainment busybody, he may be most recognized as the voice of Cloverfield, Jimmy of The Goodwin Games or maybe from one of his numerous standup specials. In the past year his television interviews have proved farcical, but lucky for us, Miller was willing to dial it back a notch and genuinely discuss what it means to laugh and why doing so is the best escape to the tragic nature of our lives.
On Saturday, February 15, Miller will appear at the Firebird performing his true-to-self, chaotic yet finely tuned form of standup comedy. We talked with him about why he doesn't stick to just one medium, the many genres of comedy and where it all began.
Kelsey McClure: I want to talk about how you are an amazing comedian.
TJ Miller: Let's fucking do it. I don't care for it; I find myself to be fairly prosaic and boring to talk about, but I will indulge you for simply the reasons of comedy.
Oh man, that is so sweet of you, I really appreciate it. I just learned a new phrase, it is "fingers in the pie..." Have you heard this before?
Fingers in the pie -- is that like irons in the fire?
Yeah, pretty much.
You can't really craft a great sword if you are looking over at too many irons. The idea is to cross the platform while making fun of cross-platforming.
And to do comedy in as many mediums as possible. Go ahead and make a music album, which I did. It's called The Extended Play EP, it's 31 tracks, it's from Comedy Store Records. I feel that it is better than Donald Glover's work. That is all a joke -- I am just doing that to make fun of comedians that would be like, "I'm also a rapper." Just do an actual music album -- so they are like, "Do you have a comedy music album?" That is where the thing with the pie comes from.
A lot of people think I have this insane surge for whatever, for being famous or being successful, and it really doesn't have anything to do with that. I'm trying to do comedy to make you laugh and to be happy for a moment and to escape their tragic lives and have an ephemeral moment of joy. I should be trying to do that for as many people as possible, and to do that you have to work in the mediums of television and film, live performance, written word, music.
Right. Based off of just that very idea, I was going through some of your Tweets and you had one that read, "Comedy is in itself a selfless act, selfish reasons for doing it come only after the fact, which are our own flaws as people."
Do you remember that one?
Of course, yes. I remember everything. That doesn't mean that I am not always fucked up.
My question off of that is... [Laughter]
No laughing off of that one!
I'm not! No, I read that and I was just like, "Wow. TJ Miller: truth-sayer." I assumed it was a serious thought or statement; it wasn't something you were trying to make funny...
It was serious; it was born of a pretty serious conversation. I don't want to drop too much knowledge because I don't want to waste your time. We decided, like Nietzsche, that the only absolute in life is beauty, and you know that because you only evaluate it afterwards, you cannot argue if something is beautiful. Most people will look at something and say, "That is beautiful." Afterwards you can be like, "Well...I have seen more beautiful sunsets," or, "It is kind of cloudy."
When it happens in the moment, that is an absolute, you see beauty, you recognize it is beautiful, then you can talk about it or say that it isn't real, or just go on and criticize it or whatever, but it happens in that moment. Comedy is the exact same thing. When something is funny, you laugh immediately, and then you can evaluate, "Oh that isn't that funny. That is not that great." Or whatever. "Ryan thought it was really dirty," or whatever.
When comedians say, "When you do comedy, it is about you, it is about getting attention. It's a selfish thing. Comedians are all about themselves, they are narcissistic." All of that stuff happens after they're comedians. They do that to themselves, and other people do it to them.
Afterwards, you, yourself, can evaluate and go, "It's because I want attention because my parents weren't nice to me. It's fulfilling a need for me." It's all a waste of time. We should all be looking at that moment of laughter, and in that moment of laughter we find complete selflessness.
Continue to page two for more of our interview.
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