It’s no surprise that T.J. Miller’s website URL is tjmillerdoesnothaveawebsite.com. He’s a fan of technology, yes, but enjoys laughing at the absurd world behind it. Take the lovably detestable Erlich Bachman, for instance – the tech entrepreneur whom Miller plays on HBO/Sky Atlantic’s masterful Silicon Valley. With his obnoxious dress sense and social autism, Bachman is the pinnacle of start-up culture.
Today Miller is in an LA warehouse, far from Silicon Valley proper. Employing similar cock-eyed hubris, you could say he’s just like Erlich – except Miller can take a joke.
Are you hoping Silicon Valley will help the Erlichs of the world take the p*ss out of themselves?
We’re trying to start that conversation. Erlich’s self-importance is everything. Maroon 5 are huge fans of the show. I was talking to Adam Levine [frontman] about how there’s an unapologetic aspect of Erlich we all wish we had. We envy his confidence in the face of every situation.
It’s very easy to hate billionaire inventors…
Like you wouldn’t believe. Take Travis Kalanick [Uber’s CEO]. Everyone in Silicon Valley treats him as a god. Some Silicon Valley types actually think: “Finally they did a show about us! We’re the funniest people on Earth!”
You presented at The Crunchies [tech awards], and upset people when you referred to Kalanick’s girlfriend as a “bitch”…
I was pretending to impersonate one of them when I said, “Is this bitch from Palo Alto?” It was supposed to be like I was looking down on somebody for not living in San Francisco proper. They didn’t get it. Why invite me? They should have hired Kid Rock.
In the past you’ve said that comedians are the new philosophers. Explain.
Comedy is the new rock’n’roll. It’s the place where you can discuss bigger existentialist questions because it’s easier when they’re funny.
Death. Not enough people talk about death. I want to examine mortality through an absurdist lens, go back to Epicurus – the philosopher who helped noblemen conquer their fear of death. If I can confront people’s death anxiety then I can help. Art is more powerful than politics. Cultural icons are figuring out new belief systems. Beyoncé is more powerful than Hillary Clinton.
Have you seen Beyoncé live? It’s a religious experience.
I wouldn’t doubt that. Kate [Miller’s wife] and I randomly met Justin Bieber, and exchanged phone numbers. He invited us to his concert…
What do you make of him?
Bieber is a brilliant individual. People want pop stars to be empty-headed because their influence scares us. When I asked him about philosophy I found him really insightful.
You had brain surgery in 2011. Is that why you want to help people’s fear of death?
I had a few seizures and a brain surgery where I had a 10 per cent chance of dying. But it’s not the reason, and I was never scared of death. Being at peace with death is what happens to philosophers. Take Socrates. He had to comfort those around him when he drank poison. He wasn’t afraid. As humans we never intersect with death, so why fear it?
At college, you were almost going to become a psychologist, not a comedian…
[Interrupting] You British intellectuals! If you were an American interviewer you’d already have asked: “What’s a great idea you’ve had for an app and when’s Deadpool 2?”
I’ll scratch those off my list. Anyway, there was a fork in the road: either psycho-analyse people, or psycho-analyse the world via comedy…
Firstly, it was more of a spork… But yes. That’s so astute. For me, it came down to: how can I make the most people happy? In psychology if I work for 100 years, I can affect a few thousand people. But now we’re in this so-called platinum age of TV I can make millions of people happy. In film I can do that with a 13-minute role in Transformers 4.
Which you won a Razzie for.
Actually, Transformers 4 won a Razzie. I was nominated but didn’t win. Oh, but if I would have won! I’d have made a speech about how Yogi Bear 3D was the zenith of what I could do and that my career has spiralled since.
I have to ask about Deadpool 2.
OK fine. I believe I’ll be in the sequel, but it’s not for sure. It needs to be made fast, because in the glut of superhero movies Deadpool is the antidote. The Deadpool 2 demand is high in a post-X-Men Apocalypse world.
If you lost your voice tomorrow what would you do?
I have a steamer! But really, I took an independent study in college on silent film and I studied clown in France. Wouldn’t that be a great story? He lost his voice and then he became a silent clown! I’m also a juggler by trade. I can juggle five balls, four clubs, three knives, three torches. My wife is a trained clown, too.
Do you clown at each other?
Of course. In the morning we do this [leaves the room and does a clown walk past the door]. My dream is to have a clown show in New York with Kate in it.
You’re a weed smoker – does it slow you down or speed you up?
The hybrid I smoke gives me energy and helps me creatively. Not because I’m stoned. It allows me to think about different things at once and connect them. I’m prescribed marijuana to prevent seizures, and for manic thinking and insomnia.
What’s the most intense high you’ve had in LA?
I had this paranoid episode. My dispensary sold me something called XJ219. They said it was strong, but I said [adopts voice from Dr Dre’s The Next Episode], “Smoke weed every day.” The THC in it was off the charts. A couple of days later I was still paranoid. I had to stop smoking for months. In Colorado where I grew up they don’t make that crack weed because they use dabs – concentrated oil. You smoke one hit and it’s like heroin. Not that I’ve ever done heroin, except this one time by accident.
Is that a joke?
Let’s just say nothing I’ve said has been true.
[Images: Art Streiber]