The Highplains Comedy Festival starts today and I was lucky enough to have a Q&A with one of the headliners, T.J. Miller. T.J. is a stand up comedian/actor from Denver, Colorado. His first big break was Hudson, the cameraman in Cloverfield. Since then he has been movies such as the “How to Train Your Dragon” movies (as Tuffnut), “Yogi Bear 3D”, and most recently “Transformers: Age of Extinction”. He’s also done his fair share on the small screen starting in “Carpoolers”, lending his voice for “Gravity Falls” and portraying the gold hearted douchebag Erlich in HBO’s “Silicon Valley”. If that isn’t enough for you, he hosted “The Gorburger Show“, co-hosts the podcast “Cashing In With T.J. Miller” and will occasionally terrorize a local tv morning show. If you haven’t figured it out yet T.J. is a hilariously talented dude and I was lucky enough to chat with him.
First off let me say thank you and that V-Neck is fantastic on you. It draws the eye downwards and makes the imagination run wild… Anyways, you insist on people spelling your name T period J period (T.J.). What do the T and J stand for?
Yes, “TJ” would be pronounced “tuj”. Which sounds gross. Like a gross fluid emission of some kind. No one has ever asked me this and I’m glad you are– I’m not being facetious and I don’t even know what that word means. ‘T’ is for ‘Todd’ and J is for ‘jeriously folks’. I’m being jerious.
You grew up in Denver, the home of the High Plains Comedy Festival, what are the best restaurants in Denver?
There are so many. I absolutely remain mile high until I die, I am devoted to denver. It’s the best. Everyone who lives there and is from there agrees. Greatest city on earth. I like Pete’s Kitchen, my hood is colfax so I’ll eat anywhere up and down there, but my favorite spot I always hit is Sexy Pizza and Barracuda’s on 11th & like Downing/Corona. I can walk there.
Nietzsche claimed, “God is Dead”. However if God is dead was he ever that powerful in the first place? If was not that powerful, then was he even a God? Also, what do you think he meant when he wrote, “Fear is the mother of morals”?
Well, you’re definitely getting complicated– and leaving out pronouns. But, and remember, I’m not a very smart guy, I hit my head twice on the same cabinet yesterday, “God is Dead” is more of an expression of modern man having no further use for religion as we understand it from the Christian sense. As to whether he is powerful, Nietzschean thinking says that we are all gods, and we created god, so no, he was not very powerful. That sense of “God” is created by us, so we then are more powerful. The important thing I’m reading about now (and I’m reading a lot of Nietzsche because I’m writing a movie The Nihilist) is that man is ultimately alterable. We have power within ourselves and it is our reason for living, power to change ourselves for the better, power to change other peoples lives and power to help each other become what we already are.
As for the morals part, yikes. That’s where he gets so complex that I have to read great thinkers like Jaspers WRITE about Nietzsche to even be able to read Nietzsche, its so complicated. Morals aren’t morals and they are and they come from morals but none of it comes from anything because it already is. Nature is the only real thing, and morals are arbitrary and usually handed down by previous belief systems that were primarily used to get everyone by as best they could. The people that determine the “slave morality” (that we all now subscribe to without question) were reserving wealth and resource for a select group of people who then used morals to keep down the proletariat class, as it were. Oh boy. And I think fear of people acting how they want to, acting how they are, of the powerful taking from the weak, that is why fear is the mother of morals. But again, I’m just starting to begin to understand people who understand Nietzsche, yet I feel like I know him better than anyone else.
I read somewhere that you are fluent in Spanish? Is that true? If so ¿Dónde se aprende?
I am fluent in Castellano, which is essentially Argentinian spanish, and it only has a few tense variations and a different accent and pronunciation, so yeah I speak fluent spanish. I lived in Buenos Aires in college studying film at the UBA, and studied Castellano in tandem with that. It was hard, but very rewarding– twice I have traveled with PAMS, the Peruvian American Medical Society to translate for surgeons doing free medical work in Ayacucho, the poorest province in Peru.
Which news station has the best morning talk show?
Las Vegas is pretty fun, and I had my best appearance ever in Omaha, but they all are pretty great. You wouldn’t believe how relieved the anchors are not to have to worry about a segment, or have someone do something different, albeit crazy, on the show. Most of who they talk to are people that are nervous, or boring, or both. I’m all three.
You were a member of the lambda chapter of phi sigma kappa. What are your thoughts on hazing, and body shots?
We used to shoot people in different parts of their body to haze them. I think that’s what you mean. You had to have five gunshot wounds to start rushing. Our fraternity was sort of an ironic venture, 10 of my friends and I joined as they were collapsing in terms of numbers our freshman year. We were the least cool fraternity. I was as involved as I could be, but back then my real brotherhood was receSs, my college comedy group.
Comedy and acting can be competitive trying to get noticed. How have you stayed so grounded and not gone all Tonya Harding on the competition?
Well, I know an immense about giraffes and an immense about 90s figure skating, so I can totally relate to your metaphor. I know about those two things precisely because I don’t value any particular knowledge over any other particular knowledge, I’m afraid that’s absurd. I hope I have stayed somewhat grounded, but I try to stay grounded in the surreality of it all, and try also to depart occasionally for the clouds, you know, keepin’ it Kerrigan.
How is New York? Are you there working on a project or vacation?
I don’t vacation much without working, unfortunately for k8, but I’m in NYC specifically to write a movie, The Nihilist, which I’m working on as soon as I finish this interview and was working on before. I’m doing standup, but the focus of living here is really only twofold, to live out the dream k8 and I have had since college (where we dated, and then dated subsequently after) to live together in New York and work as artist and comedian, and to write the picture. I hope people enjoy it. I certainly won’t.
What is the status of the Gorburger show? Who is the #2 dancer in the world?
The status is we’re going to make more, but we don’t know where yet. Lonely Island is involved now, and I love those guys, so we’re going to make it happen I’m sure. It’s just a matter of time. I think Gorburger is such a talent, and he deserves to be on the airwaves, and like Triumph the Insult Dog, he can say something things and ask some questions no human can.
Usher is also the number two dancer in the world by Gorburger’s account, I don’t really have an opinion. I just know the alien (Gorburger, not the dance).
Are you planning a rap comeback? Should it even be called a comeback?
No, don’t call it a come back, you see, I’ve been here for years– but I’m not a musician really, or even a rapper. That album was a satire on celebrities cross platforming into mediums they don’t belong in, so therefore, I didn’t belong in the rap/folk/pop game at all, and that’s why I entered it and did a 41 track E.P.
How was it to slap a child (for Silicon Valley)? Did you have any previous experience?
I haven’t! I have only slapped adults hitherto, and I was slap happy to do it. That kid was really funny, and I love that entire sequence, and people seem to love it also. Which tells me something about human’s innate violent streak that runs close to the surface when it comes to little punks who don’t dish out the right drugs.
You play Tuffnut Thorston in How To Train Your Dragon. How tough are your nuts?
Tough Enuff to Be Too Gruff for Your Bluff.©
You’ve been in lots of animated works; do you have a favorite cartoon or movie?
I really like The Brave Little Toaster. Something about that movie always spoke to me. I think I am that Toaster. Or probably the lamp. You’ll see what I mean.
Red or Green?
Christmas. Mix it up, my Mexican. Mix it up.
Note, the answers to the questions were emailed and were not altered in way to help give the most authentic interview possible.