T.J. Miller might be out the door at Silicon Valley, but with June 17’s new HBO stand-up special Meticulously Ridiculous and lofty plans to, ahem, further expand his empire, the multi-hyphenate performer continues subverting traditional notions of what comedy can and should be.
Thanks for making the time to do this interview. Las Vegas is my favorite city in the United States. I’ve always dreamed of having a residency in a Vegas casino. When you see the headliners there, you’re like, “Wow, this would be amazing. It’s really a show. There’s a lot to it. It’s very visually stunning, a lot of spectacle.”
Is this trip partially celebrating the debut of your new special? HBO made me have a screening for influencers, to get people to see the special. I asked, “Can we not do it?” They’re like, “No, you have to. That’s what happens in Hollywood, T.J. You have been around for a couple of weeks ...” I’m like, “But it’s so embarrassing to invite a bunch of people to watch you for 45 minutes with you in the room. What if they don’t think it’s funny? They still have to be like [uses halfhearted voice], “Ha ha. Ha ha ha.” [Pauses.] “He’s right behind me!” That’s not the vibe I want people to feel. So I introduced it, then right after it started and I heard the first laugh—which took longer than I expected, I’ll be honest with you—I got out of there, went to a bar next door and drank.
Las Vegas, for me, is a celebration every time I go. I love that it’s the most American city. I’m kind of obsessed with it because it’s such a real, raw, gritty city that has this Strip of glitter and confetti right down the center. It’s almost two different cities. I’ve never met anyone from Las Vegas that I didn’t like.
We’re definitely going to tear up the Mirage. I [also] try to go to Circus Circus, if only just to walk through it. And I love Downtown for playing craps. It’s everybody on a team, a team of strangers playing against a casino. When one person’s winning, everyone’s winning.
How much new material have you amassed since the taping? I’m considering playing a video of the special and just lip-syncing along with it. No, the great thing about Las Vegas is if you walk around, in two hours you have an hour of material: “I saw a guy wearing a cardboard box with a roulette wheel painted on it, walking around talking to a pigeon about the results of a horse race. And that was just at the airport!”
The city itself is so dynamic, and the people you see there are so ridiculous, I feel right at home. I feel a kinship with it. If people are generous enough with their money and their time to come to the show, for me, the show is what it is that night. It’s never the same. It may be a completely improvised hour. There is a new freeness for me to not be doing an act I’ve done for years, honing and figuring out what an HBO special would be. I think it’s going to be a lot of riffing, interaction with the crowd, probably some Q&A and a lot of absurdist material that I’m working on. Plus a bit about how Razor Scooters are now popular again.
Have you been surprised by fan reaction to your leaving Silicon Valley? I’m always surprised that anyone enjoys anything I do. The fact that there was sort of a public outcry was very, very … pleasantly surprising, but also kind of frustrating that I made a decision that made so many people sad. A couple people were angry, like, “That’s the best thing you’ll ever do, you f*cking idiot.” It’s like a breakup: Some people get angry, some people just get sad, some people lament the loss but kind of think it will lead to better things. And that’s how I feel.
You’ve explored stand-up, storytelling, sketch and improv, acting, voiceover, writing, producing, even music, so what’s next? What other entertainment art forms do you see yourself tackling? First of all, I’m on the down slope. I did this major motion picture Yoga Bear 3D, which was sort of the pinnacle of my career. Not many artists, certainly not comedians, reach the pinnacle of their career early on in their life. Many of them get better as they age—the very reason I left television, because unlike wine and women, television starts not to get better with age. Films do. And most actors do, most comedians, most clowns. I did not. I peaked at Yogi Bear 3D. I’m not a greedy guy; the rest of this is sort of the down slope of a career that never really began but was fully actualized, if that makes sense.
But if you go to my website, we have a whole boutique brand called Ironic Luxury. It’s clothing designs by my wife [Kate Gorney] and fragrances by the two of us. We make custom outdoor cushions, all very high-end stuff. The perfume is all $90, and it doesn’t really exist. The cushions are upwards of $15-$27 thousand dollars. So that’s our next thing: boutique luxury lifestyle branding that makes you question why you ever buy anything at all. My wife and I are also talking about doing a silent film, which we did in college and haven’t done since. That’s one thing I feel really uncomfortable making, unless I know that it’s not only close to perfect, but is also relevant. That’s really tough to do. But when you do it well, you win Best Picture.
T.J. Miller June 24, 10 p.m., $44-$55. Mirage, 792-7777.