TJ Miller's life is "totally insane."
You can blame Melody Duggan for that. The East High School drama teacher was the first person to encourage Miller to do standup, when he was a sophomore in her class close to a decade ago. Wisely, the now-25-year-old chose comedy over hip-hop as his life's work. "There was a lot of West Coast/East Coast hip-hop rivalry," Miller explains. "So I decided to represent Midwest. I would freestyle in the park near East -- and quickly found out that I wasn't very good and that it wouldn't be a career."
Comedy wouldn't seem a lot more solid, but Miller's been working professionally for five years now. Not in his home town, though. "I love Denver; it's a great place. I'd love to move back there if there was more comedy," he says. "I toured with Second City for about a year and a half in Chicago and have been doing standup and sketch, pretty much performing every night for a long time." He also started working with a management company, 3 Arts Entertainment, which told him about a new sitcom in the works. "I put myself on tape in Chicago, and they loved me," he remembers.
So right after the Aspen Comedy Festival (where Miller was one of four Denver comics to make the roster, the first time this city has been so honored in Aspen -- and the last, since the festival is leaving that pricey place), Miller flew to L.A. and filmed the pilot for Carpoolers, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, the brothers behind Arrested Development, which follows a quartet of California carpoolers. Miller plays one man's son. "I am in my underwear the whole time," he reports. "Tighty whities and a bathrobe." Maybe it was the undies that pushed ABC over the edge, because the network just announced that out of 31 pilots it was looking at for next fall, Carpoolers is one of just three to be picked up, and is now slated for Tuesday nights. (Another top pick is Cavemen, based on the Geico characters -- and a friend of Miller's is in that cast.)
Miller heard about that last Friday, and "I hit the ground running," he says. "It's pretty crazy." He flew to New York this past weekend, went to Saturday Night Live, then was at ABC for the announcement on Tuesday. He's made so many phone calls, his battery is dying. One of those calls was to Duggan. "The first time I did standup was in her class," he says. "The first time I ever really acted was in her play. She cast me in Dracula. She's so funny and was so encouraging. And to this day, I still consider her the person that I owe all this to."
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"All this" isn't just a part in Carpoolers, either. Miller's also been cast in a "really funny, very secretive" movie that he'll film in June and July, right before he moves to Los Angeles to start work on the first season of Carpoolers. The creator/writer of the half-hour sitcom is Bruce McCulluch of Kids in the Hall, "one of my comic idols," Miller says. "Sitting across from him at dinner last night was surreal."
Even better, the writer has promised Miller that "in the second episode, I'll have pants."
Scene and herd: Denver's last big break-out comic was Josh Blue, who paused his relentless touring schedule to shoot a sketch that aired last Sunday on Comedy Central's Mind of Mencia. The bit's premise -- that certain people are just not right for certain jobs -- saw the Last Comic Standing crashing cars as a traffic cop (due to his unpredictable arm, a result of his cerebral palsy), as well as stabbing a customer as a chef, with blood abounding. Blue will be back in town to headline at the Paramount on July 13.
Rapids poster boy Kyle Beckerman has become a regular at Snooze, the Ballpark neighborhood breakfast joint, and was recently joined there by two less-dreadlocked teammates. They lounged in a circular booth sopping up steak and eggs Benedict while watching the first half of Manchester United's 3-2 victory over AC Milan on the corner TV. A few days later, Beckerman notched a goal in the Rapids' 2-0 manhandling of Real Salt Lake to help move the Colorado team into first place in the Western Conference. This wasn't the first time that Snooze had helped a streak, either. Last summer, Jamey Carroll, the Rockies second baseman, was batting .300 and scarfing eggs and toast on an almost daily basis, according to Snooze owner Jon Schlegel. This season, though, the only sign of Carrol in Snooze is an autographed picture on a shelf behind the bar. His average: a paltry .178 at home. Your mother was right: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.