T.J. Miller was born and raised in Denver, and now he's bringing the Meticulously Ridiculous Tour to Denver for a last stand on September 16, when he'll take the stage of the Paramount with his wife, Kate Miller, and Nick Vatterott for performances that will be filmed live for Miller's first HBO Comedy special.
But appearances on both the small and big screen are nothing new for Miller; in addition to starring in the film adaptation of Deadpool (the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time), Miller portrays Erlich in the HBO sitcom Silicon Valley (a role that won him the Critic's Choice award for Best Supporting Actor in a Television Comedy), co-stars alongside Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman in the upcoming Office Christmas Party, and is the world's foremost comedic actor in the art of voicing animated bears. Yogi Bear 3D remains one of his most cherished roles to date, Miller says.
During a recent trip to his home town, Westword asked Miller where he'd like to meet for an interview. His reply: "Capitol Hill, muthafucker!" Specifically, Cheesman Park, where he talked about growth and pot in Denver, his HBO Comedy special and what it means to be a comedian (and where he also scared small children off playground apparatus).
T.J. Miller commandeered this digger from a three-year-old.
"I'm so absolutely pro-Denver," says Miller. "I wrote a fake hip-hop song about Denver. I've been claiming Denver. Part of the joke of the song is nobody was really claiming Denver — no rappers, no comedians."
Although he's now living in Hollywood, Miller is proud of how Denver has grown and changed since his departure. "Gentrification always makes me laugh," he says. "People complain about traffic. Live in Atlanta! You can't have it both ways; you can't live in an incredible city and not expect it to get congested."
And what makes this city incredible? "I find Denver’s hipster scene to be fully unique," Miller says. "They don’t have the same cynicism. It’s a diverse city — culturally, it fucking rules." He's also pleased that the city's on the forefront of the marijuana revolution. "It makes us known as one of the most progressive places," he explains. "What better place to get high than Colorado? It's not like other places, where the main thing to do when you leave your house are eating and drinking. It's Colorado. It's beautiful."
Colorado is where he's currently filming Walden: Life in the Woods, with Colorado director Alex Harvey. But while Miller also shows up in everything from commercials to cartoons to blockbuster movies, he says his approach to his career is calculated. "You can be oversaturated," he says. "There's people on one side of it who think it's just branding. And then there's the other side, where everything is so fractured and people aren't going to see half of the things you do."
The self-proclaimed "intellectual buffoon" attributes his drive and dedication to his father. "My ethic comes from my father, who moved here from Kansas and saw what this place could offer," he says. "I worked so hard because he did."
And from the start, he worked hard at writing as well as sketch comedy and standup. "I'm trying to be the best comedian I can be," Miller says. "And a good comedian [makes] people laugh and pulls them out ofthe tragedy, which to me is sort of everyday life."
His voice, as well as his towering height and wild hair, are becoming familiar sights and sounds in everyday life. But fame has had an ironic impact on his psyche, he says: The more he's known, the less he can be known. "I've permeated culture in as many places as I can," Miller explains. "Slowly but surely, I went through different phases of fame, and each rises you further into isolation and alienation."
The result of fame, he adds, is that "sometimes it's just paranoia dripping from every orifice."
T.J. Miller and Demián Bichir on the set of Walden: Life In the Woods, currently filming in Denver.
Courtesy of Patti Cieniewicz
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But for all his obscure musings and stream-of-consciousness conversation, the 35-year-old actor is definitely grounded. A few years ago, he suffered an acute neurological condition and underwent a life-saving brain operation. "Anything can happen at any time, and there's no reason to spend too much energy getting upset about that," Miller says says. "The surgery proved that...life can really go away in the blink of an eye."
And his feelings of mortality definitely influenced the Meticulously Ridiculous Tour, he says: "All that is weird shit, and all that sort of stuff brought me to a place where I sort of started to realize that in my standup, I needed to start talking about death and morality. Strangely, it did have an affect on my standup, and my mission statement about life."
T.J. Miller brings his Meticulously Ridiculous Tour to the Paramount Theatre on Friday, September 16, with shows at 7 and 9:30 p.m.; HBO will film the performances for a live comedy special. Find out more here.