TJ Miller has been in a lengthy list of TV shows and movies, but when you hear the name, his face might not come to mind. When you see his face, you may not be able to remember that thing you definitely recognize him from – for instance, the movie Cloverfield, in which he appeared for the first few minutes before taking on the role of holding the camera that the movie is supposed to have been shot from. And after spots on Conan, Chelsea Lately and Comedy Central, as well as roles in FOX’s The Goodwin Games and She’s Out of My League, he’s about to become a lot more recognizable, appearing beside Mark Wahlberg in Transformers: Age of Extinction, due out this year.
Before you catch him on the big screen, you can see him right here in Somerville this Thursday night, when he’ll be headlining a stand-up show with opener Nick Vatterott at Johnny D’s. Miller got on the phone with BostInno before the show to talk about his childhood dreams, his online store, and what people say when they see him on the street.
HM: Hi TJ, how are you?
TJM: How do you pronounce it? Bosti-on-o? Bost-i-no? Bosteeno? (laughs)
BostInno, close enough. So, what was the most awkward thing that’s happened at a show that sticks out in your mind?
I’ve been answering this a lot lately, but to tell you the truth, I mean, one time a guy tried to punch me in the face in Atlanta. It was pretty crazy. I should stop using that as my example, but his wife was cackling the whole time, and all of a sudden she was like, I lost my baby, my child in the last two months. And it was just this real thing where everyone in the audience was going woww. So in the end I was kind of joking about her, not about the baby, just about like … everyone’s had tragic loss. Everyone. Everyone’s at a comedy show because things aren’t going great, in general. They’d like to laugh. But the husband just ran on stage, and we were about to get in a full on fist fight, which I probably would have lost, and luckily security pulled him off and kicked him out. He waited outside for a bit but it was fine.
I also had a guy throw a banana at me, but he threw it too high so it got caught in the rafters, in the lighting. That was pretty funny.
When you were little, what did you think you were going to be doing right now?
Like how little? Because at one point, I thought I was going to be a ninja firetruck operator. A fireman ninja, around age 5. Oh yeah. Fuck yeah.
Okay, how about when you were 11?
Hmmm, I don’t know, I might have wanted to be an actor. Or a lawyer. My parents were still – but I think when I was like, 14 or 15, I started to think I could be an actor, like, ‘I make people laugh a lot.’ I just thought you could be a comedic actor, I didn’t think you could just do comedy. That never made sense to me, I watched standup but I had no idea. My acting is just me acting naturalistic in between me being funny, and somehow, Hollywood applauds that. They won’t for long though, at some point I’ll be discovered as a fraud within minutes. Or maybe years, or decades.
So when you get recognized on the street what’s the most common thing people say?
Uhhh. Watch it, buddy! Hey, watch it buddy! (laughs)
But what about when people recognize you?
“Oh hey, you’re that guy from that thing. From ‘She’s Just Not That Into a League of Their Own.’ But you know what? I love your work, man. It’s great. I can’t remember any of it, for the life of me, but I think you’re great.” I’m right at that perfect point where nobody knows what the fuck I’m doing but they want to bother me, to ask me to tell them what I’ve done.
Are you ever recognized as the guy who filmed the movie in the movie Cloverfield?
Sometimes, not that much. After ‘Transformers 4″ it will get considerably more bizarre.
Oh yeah, what’s your role in that?
Mark Wahlberg’s best friend.
So you met Mark Wahlberg?
Yeah, he’s my buddy, dude. He’s my buddy.
I love Mark Wahlberg. He’s from Boston, ya know.
Yeah he is, I’ll email you if he decides to show up.
You do a lot of voice acting roles too.
Yeah, I do. I’m very fortunate, I’m lucky man, for whatever reason. Listen to how I sound, I sound like a drag queen after a rough night. I’m lucky.
What kind of voice acting roles do you usually get?
Weird people. I play a dopey, teenage boyfriend in “Gravity Falls.” I’m in Disney’s “Big Hero 6,” which will be their big release this Thanksgiving. It ranges, usually it’s the stoner-slacker, or you know, a guy who is very immature. Immature but confident.
Are you living in Hollywood right now?
Yes, Hollywood, California. I’m in Hollywood right now. The neighborhood. It’s hardcore. There’s guys without shirts playing acoustic guitars with dogs around them with signs that say “Any spare change, we’re dying.” It’s pretty real.
Do you give them change?
I did give them change. Good one. But not to the dog.
What’s better about Boston than Hollywood?
On your website, what do people buy the most from your online store?
Old headshots. They’re all autographed and I always write something about the person. But don’t worry about it, they’re excellent purchases.
Who’s buying these headshots?
Girls buy them, guys buy them, big homosexual bears buy them. I’ve had a couple asshole bears buy them. They sort of communicated to the ranger they wanted them, so I sent them headshots to bears in national preserve parks. I have a connection to bears that no one else will ever understand because I was in “Yogi Bear 3D.”
I followed you on Twitter; what does it feel like to be Twitter verified?
Tweet at me, and I’ll tell you publicly.
You have to answer, though.
Perfect, I’ll answer in a couple minutes.
(He never answered.)
I saw you invited all of Massachusetts to your show on Thursday. How far do you think people should drive to get to your show?
However long they want to, no matter how many hours they drive I’m still gonna try to give them the fuckin’ best show I can that night. They’ll drive as far as they think it’s gonna be a good show, so I’ll do my best. There will be a lot of riffing, so it will be different than any other show. Just barely amusing enough to feel like it was money well spent. That’s all. And if I made a case enough that you feel like you want to tell your friends, that would be nice.
See TJ Miller in Transformers 4 and this Thursday at Johnny D’s, 17 Holland Street in Somerville, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $29; 21 and up. Get an idea of his stand up in the clip below: