Comedian TJ Miller on the loneliness of the movie biz and how social media has ruined us all

Some comics can crack you up with few words. Others will carry on for some time, saying anything for even a snicker. 

Before comedian T.J. Miller recently did a stand-up stint at Valley Forge Casino, Philadelphia Weekly was able to get him on the phone – or should we say – couldn’t get him off the phone. 

Don’t get Miller started on the evil evolution of social media, the Internet – the dark hole humans go down and its endless effect on your psyche. Miller, known for the films “Deadpool,” “Cloverfield,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” “The Emoji Movie,” “Office Christmas Party” and for playing Erlich Bachman in HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” among other roles, will talk about it all. 

But he says his intent is not to bring you down. It’s to bring you up, make you laugh, and that’s what he did for hundreds of people during a stop on his “Touring in Perpetuity Tour” recently at Valley Forge Casino. 

After shooting “Underwater” with Kristen Stewart, which comes out in January 2020, he said he’s taking a “much-needed break from the real world” by interacting with people via his stand-up act. He told PW that doing movies is kind of like “going to summer camp and never going back to summer camp with those same people again.”

“That is the loneliness of the [movie business],” Miller said. “Movie stars – look, I’ve starred in movies – I’ve been in the film business for a long time…You live in these little mini-worlds that are movies and you never leave. We’re living in kind of a reality right now where things are so – there’s just anxiety about modern life, about living in the U.S., about everything,” he said. 

That break came Saturday night for Miller. He broke out a trombone, a ventriloquist dummy toting its own ventriloquist dummy. He did some juggling and put on what he described as a “dynamic, almost circus-like show” for the audience. 

But while you may know him from his TV appearances and movies, it’s stand-up comedy that Miller says he’s been doing much longer and enjoys more than anything on the big (or small) screen. 

“I have so much more control. I can speak directly to people,” he said. 

“There’s no director or editor or studio in between me and the audience. And it really brings me a lot of happiness. So, when I’m doing it, it’s very rare that I don’t have a good time…I think that’s easily the best thing I can do for the world is to help millions of people just check out for a little while and be happy.”

Although you can find him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – and he admitted to advertising on these platforms – Miller criticized social media today for giving people “screen fatigue.” He said he wishes he could take social media away entirely. 

“If I could get everybody to put away their phones for two hours,” he began, “I can say thank you guys for ripping your faces away from these screens that I kind of think are ruining our lives.”

He went deeper…

“To be able to congregate with people – to be in congregation – Obviously, I’m not a religious leader or something like that, but I sort of am acting as the mouthpiece for what a lot of people are thinking.  Laughing together is the most beautiful type of congregation…That sort of communion is getting rarer and rarer, and it seems like the only kind of response to this sort of dark, absurdist world that we’re in right now.” 

End scene. 


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