You should get used to hearing TJ Miller’s name this year. The comedian and actor has already appeared in a number of films, including from Cloverfield to Big Hero 6, not to mention Transformers: Age of Extinction, and he recently hosted the Critics Choice Awards. But this year, along with his work on HBO’s Silicon Valley Miller is set to appear alongside Ryan Reynolds in the upcoming superhero movie Deadpool.
Yeah, he’s kind of a big deal. But we like TJ Miller because he strongly believes that the worlds of drinking and comedy come together as perfectly as a Venn diagram. “The drunker you are the funnier I am,” Miller says. “Wait, I can’t say that,” he adds as he begins whistling at a garbage truck for no apparent reason. “[Drinking and comedy] go hand in hand. Both are sort of about a good time.”
He points to that specific moment where you push your anxiety aside and let yourself relax. “When you enjoy a beer or drink and you laugh at a joke, you forget about the perpetual anxiety of future, the perpetual uncertainty of the future.”
And Miller doesn’t just enjoy beer; he also pitches it. He’s starring in a Super Bowl commercial for Shock Top. The brand came to him and presented him with a unique ad. “It’s lower key, the tone is more casual, but at the same time, it’s surreal,” Miller says.
If you watched the game, you’ve probably seen it. The ad consists of Miller talking to a beer tap referred to as “Wedgehead.” The duo cracks jokes and teases each other, and other bar patrons. According to Miller, the production company told him, “We thought you and ‘Wedgehead,’ you guys can riff off of each other and the other people at the bar.”
He knew he could do it, and was excited to be a part of it. “Something surrealistic in tone, and a little more subtle and low key allows us to improvise, and I’m allowed to riff from the POV of myself, of TJ Miller,” he says. “I was ecstatic.”
Since he’s well-known as a very funny ad-libber, he was allowed to change up the original script a bit. “It was sort of half and half,” he says. “We had a great script from [ad agency] Anomaly, but they let us just riff. It’s inherently understood that ill improvise. I’m an improviser by trade.”
Obviously, Miller doesn’t just act in commercials; he also has a full-time gig on one of the breakout hits of the last few years. But, Miller didn’t realize that HBO’s Silicon Valley was special when he first got attached to it. “I was done with TV. I was in Goodwin Games which was canceled, and a few other things, so I kind of swore off television unless I was writing or producing it.”
When he got the part of Erlich Bachman and shot the pilot, he didn’t even think the show was going to get picked up. He was just happy to have been part of the experience. “It got picked up, but after the first season I thought no one is going to watch,” Miller says. There are no shows about Silicon Valley, and he figured that no one really cares about the tech industry, especially not comedy fans. “I just could not have had less faith in the show,” he says, adding that he thought it would be canceled and he was already planning other projects for the year. “And then it came out on HBO and was a power house.” He adds, “So, it was weird to think that no way this could be successful because there are no other shows on the subject matter and then to realize … oh no, that is what it’s like to be in a real hit because it was in the cultural zeitgeist.”
Naturally, when he’s not working, Miller likes to drink beer to unwind. Unless he’s he’s trying to avoid the dreaded “beer belly,” in which case he’ll switch to gin and soda. Or maybe some wine. But not the good stuff. “Cheap wine,” Miller says.