‘Known Madman’ and Cannabis Supporter, T.J. Miller Tells Us Why Comedy is the New Rock and Roll


T.J. Miller Interview

Colorado is one of only three states that has legalized recreational use of marijuana, and Denver has wasted no time capitalizing on that unique position, particularly within the world of stand up comedy. This Friday night renowned supporter of marijuana use, and one of the biggest rising stars in comedy– T.J. Miller will be headlining Cannabash 2015, an event combining cannabis, cocktails, and of course, comedy.  T.J.’s career is just exploding with his recent voice-role in the Oscar-winning animated film Big Hero 6 (which included a memorable trip to the Academy Awards last week), his scene stealing role as Erlich in the HBO hit comedy Silicon Valley, a gigantic stand-up career, plus a hugely popular podcast Cashing In With TJ Miller and a new role in the upcoming Marvel megaflick Deadpool— and that’s just what T.J.’s been doing this past year.  There’s much more to come.  So we were excited to talk with him about Cannabash.

I was the furthest you can get from Neil Patrick Harris which was fine with me, cause he was singing too much.

But first we couldn’t resist asking him about his hilarious appearance at the Academy Awards earlier this week, when T.J. became the first invited guest in the history of the Academy Awards to do a shout out from the very last row of the theater. (watch it here)  “Oh my god can you believe it?” he said.  “I was so disruptive it was great.”  He really was in the very last row, which he described as “the furthest you can get from Neil Patrick Harris which was fine with me, cause he was singing too much.”  The cast of Big Hero 6 were in the audience. Miller said Disney was “pretty pimp” bringing everyone in, and nobody was upset about the disruption, mostly because he has a reputation for being a little unusual:

“Even Dreamworks– like right now as I’m talking with you I’m smoking a joint, walking around strange Los Angeles and there’s certain studios and certain places that are cool with it and certain that aren’t but in general, I’m sort of a known madman, so Disney’s fine with… you know. If I had rushed the stage, they probably would have been like, ‘oh, you crazy wacko’ but that’s it.  Whereas strangely, HBO which is the nudity, sex, drugs and all that stuff, you would think they would be the most rock and roll of all, but no way.  They’re very stringent, strict.  So its a weird world out here.”

Denver is kind of the epicenter of this movement and rightly so. Because there’s a big city that’s powerful but it’s very very liberal and has this bizarre mentality of like ‘yeah man, this is Denver, it’s fucking sunny all the time and we can go to the mountains.’

This Friday it will get weird in Denver for Cannabash 2015. It’s a pro cannabis party show at a one-thousand person venue produced by Andy Juett and Kayvan Khalatbari of Sexpot Comedy— and some of their friends and favorite comedians, with T.J. headlining.  It’s the kind of event that those of us who don’t hang out in Denver circles couldn’t even imagine would be possible, with a cannabis industry mixer before the show, live music, cocktails, free samples, and even a free taco bar to go along with an amazing line up with T.J. and other great comics like Adam Cayton-Holland.

For years T.J. has been involved with raising awareness of what marijuana can do for the country, and the comedy scene, and talked about the role that Denver has in all of it.

“Denver is kind of the epicenter of this movement and rightly so.  Because there’s a big city that’s powerful but it’s very very liberal and has this bizarre mentality of like ‘yeah man, this is Denver, it’s fucking sunny all the time and we can go to the mountains.’  People just don’t get in each others way as much.”

We asked Miller about how he got hooked up with Sexpot Comedy, and his feelings about combining smoking pot with watching and performing comedy.

The IBang: How did you hook up with Andy Juett and Kayvan Khalatbari from Sexpot Comedy?

T.J. Miller:   It’s sort of just the comedy scene.  It’s so interesting.  So Andy Juett, we sort of met– he kind of was buddies with The Fine Young Gentleman’s Club, and he knew the Grawlix guys, and so he just kind of became a Denver friend.  I kind of met Kayvan through Andy, but also because I live three blocks away from one of his pizza places.  And I used to go as a kid, on my break, I mowed lawns, I would take my lunch break and walk to that pizza place. And it was called like Pizza Italiano or something like that back then.  And when they became Sexy Pizza I remember thinking, ughh this fucking, whoever chose to call it Sexy Pizza, that’s so stupid.  What a douchebag!  Little did I know that a few years later I’d sort of be in talks with him to open a smoking club and also to sort of raise awareness how much marijuana is going to do for us as a country. So I kind of met the two of them and it was interesting because Kayvan is such a real marijuana enthusiast, and he owns dispensaries and when I heard that they were starting to produce shows, that made me kind of go alright, so now they’re doing a channel on-line and they’re very ambitious and Kayvan’s going to run for office in Denver in the city. I think those guys are really trying to push forward this new business in the kind of new Denver.  It’s very cool.

And the two of them are super professional. I’m a pretty driven guy as well so all three of us get along.  And you know, [Adam] Cayton-Holland and I, we sort of went to school together at one point, so I knew him from way back in the day and he’s become almost the face of Denver stand up.

The IBang:  Some comedians don’t like  performing in front of audiences that get too drunk because they can become too disruptive. What’s it like performing for an audience where everyone is high?

If people are really high it’s a weird rhythm to their laugh. So they’ll laugh later upon thinking of something that was said minutes earlier. It makes it a little more unpredictable.

T.J. Miller:  Well, being friends with Doug Benson I’ve had this conversation quite a bit.  But I don’t really, I never perform when I’m high or drunk or anything like that.  I need to be so sharp because hecklers are constantly trying to get at me.  But I think that there’s something…I did a show where they kind of closed it down and blacked out the windows and people were smoking and eating marijuana and I found…if people are really high it’s a weird rhythm to their laugh.  So they’ll laugh later upon thinking of something that was said minutes earlier.  It makes it a little more unpredictable.  But at this particular show, I smoked a little before I went on stage.  Just a little bit, It doesn’t really affect me that much, I have a pretty high tolerance in general, and that actually helped a little bit.  I was sort of on the same wavelength and they could understand this kind of slightly stoned cadence with me delivering the same material.  But I really like performing for people who are smoking weed and drinking cause for whatever reason that loosens them into the idea of enjoying the really absurd material that I do.  That seems to hit sort of a little better with people whose minds are sort of relaxed and they don’t need things to make sense or have a purpose or anything like that and they can sort of melt in.

The IBang:  So do you think there are certain comics people like to listen to when they’re high in the way that when you were growing up you would listen to certain bands when you were getting high?

Comedy has also become this really different thing in the United States. Its becoming a new rock and roll

T.J. Miller:  Comedy has also become this really different thing in the United States.  Its becoming a new rock and roll is the way a lot of us talk about it.  Just because people now have their favorite comedian.  That’s how they describe themselves. These are the bands I listen to, these are the comics that I like.

And it sort of tells you something about them.  Yeah, people will look back and be like ‘yeah when I was like in junior high, I used to like take some of my dad’s weed and I’d just smoke and chill out to Matt Braunger albums.’  And if somebody says to me like ‘yeah, I love Kyle Kinane,‘ I’m like well then you’re a bit of a pessimist.  It’s fun, it’s really nice but I like that.  

The IBang:  Cannabash sounds like its going to be a blast.

T.J. Miller: It’s going to be really really fun for sure.  And I hope people make Denver a destination to see stand-up and if they’re thinking of visiting it’s such a great city. It’s so beautiful there’s so much dope shit to do in both senses of the word and they’re going to have big comedians start to come and do these events, cause they’re going to have a lot them.

The IBang:  And then you’re on @midnight this week. Got a strategy?

Chris Hardwick just goes ‘points points points points’ there’s no rhyme or reason to it.

T.J. Miller:  My strategy is to not care about it at all as a game show because it isn’t really.  And I usually win because of that. It’s ridiculous! People get upset. Cash Levy, who I do the podcast with, he lost and he got really really upset and I’m like it’s not even real! It’s just a comedy show.  You won by getting as many laughs as you did.

The IBang:  People get upset about losing? That’s so funny.

T.J. Miller:  Yeah they do.  They’re sort of like, ‘yeah I should have gotten ahead.’  But Chris Hardwick just goes ‘points points points points’  there’s no rhyme or reason to it.  It’s hilarious.

The IBang: April 12th  Silicon Valley returns. What’s Erlich going to be up to besides eating shrimp?

T.J. Miller:  (laughs)  Eating liquid shrimp? It’s so weird, HBO doesn’t want us to…but the story kind of continues. And now Erlich really does own 10% and is a board member of Pied Piper.  But the entire crew is faced with an entirely different set of problems.  Because even if you have funding, who is still going to be trying to get that algorithm from us, and I think Erlich is going to continue to be offending people.  That’s sort of the deal.

Cannabash takes place this Friday, February 27th at the City Hall Amphitheater.  You can buy tickets and get more information at cannabashcolorado.com. And keep up with T.J. Miller on twitter @nottjmiller and tjmillerdoesnothaveawebsite.com.

We talked briefly with Andy Juett co-founder of Sexpot Comedy about Cannabash and he told us “Simply put, when T.J. comes back to town we have the best time.  T.J., to me, inherently, is a juggernaut of fun and I think that we both thrive on energy and so beyond normal friend stuff, I am excited when he’s home because catching up is also fun.  He works his ass off and he’s a ball of talent so it’s really fun to see him crush it on Silicon Valley and in movies and TV and on stage and have people love it.”  For more on Sexpot Comedy and all of the wonderful events they produce, visit sexpotcomedy.com

Buy Tickets to Cannabash 2015 | Follow T.J. Miller on Twitter 

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