T.J. Miller’s career is driven by one mission statement: “Life is a pretty tragic endeavor, so you want to make as many people laugh as possible, and to do that, you've got to do it on all levels.” Sure, it’s pretty altruistic, he admits to ET, but it’s been working handsomely to guide his career forward.
As the breakout star of HBO’s Silicon Valley, on which he played bad-boy entrepreneur Erlich Bachman for four seasons, the 36-year-old actor and comedian has seen his profile rise with sidekick roles alongside Mark Wahlberg and Ryan Reynolds in Transformers: Age of Extinction and Deadpool, respectively. He closed out 2016 with the ensemble Office Christmas Party and voiced Gene in this year’s Emoji Movie. This fall, he was back on the road in Canada with Nick Vatterott and Rhys Darby as part of the Just for Laughs Alternative Comedy Tour.
But for all that he has going on, Miller knows audiences aren’t going to see him in everything he does. “Some people are going to watch Silicon Valley, but a lot aren't. They're going to see Transformers 4, and then some people that would never see Transformers 4, they end up listening to the podcast and really get into that,” he says of the ambition that keeps his brain moving at breakneck speed. “[I’m] driven by this idea of how can we reach even more people? That's what it always is.”
It’s a self-less philosophy that doesn’t allow Miller to sit around. “The way I relax and unwind is by working, because instead of needing escapism, my escape is creating more escapism,” he says.
To that point, after his surprise departure from Silicon Valley, he packed 2017 with filming the Kristen Stewart thriller, Underwater, reprising his role as Weasel in Deadpool 2 -- which he says “is going to be so much funnier than the original” -- and the tour through Canada. Then in November, he launched Heavyweight, a new monthly sketch podcast on Laughly that grew from his four-person sketch team of the same name.
Born out of the Chicago comedy scene, Miller, Vatterott, Brady Novak and Mark Raterman have been performing together as Heavyweight since 2004. Their transition into a podcast -- a medium Miller has a firm hold on with his cult series, Cashing In With T.J. Miller as well as numerous guest spots on his peers' and friends' shows -- was a surprisingly natural progression, stemming from a hole Miller saw in the sketch comedy world.
"People go to see live sketch, but it's not really a thing that's that popular, besides Comedy Bang Bang," Miller explains. "Think about how much we love sketch comedy: UCB, Saturday Night Live... I don't love Saturday Night Live, but there are great sketches. Melissa McCarthy killed it. They definitely have their moments. So, great sketch can be unparalleled in comedy. There's something about it.”