T.J. Miller has a tendency to be larger than life. The actor and comedian has made a name for himself by doing his own thing, bigly, in everything from Silicon Valley to Deadpool, recently making several off-the-wall appearances this year as himself on pal Pete Holmes’ HBO show, Crashing.
Since 2012 Miller has acted as the titular blue alien behind The Gorburger Show, a faux-Japanese TV show created by Ryan McNeely and Josh Martin. While Gorburger has kicked around as a webseries in various forms since its inception, it’ll make its debut on Comedy Central as a full-fledged television show April 9, with an episode called “Vape Is Life.” In anticipation of the comedy series’ step up, The A.V. Club checked in with Miller to find out what makes him laugh.
The A.V. Club: You put “Mucinex lean” on your list of hilarious things. What do you mean by that? People getting high off Mucinex?
T.J. Miller: Girl, what you think lean is?
AVC: Isn’t lean cough syrup and some sort of soda?
TJM: Let me put it this way: It’s a certain kind of cough syrup, and you’re mixing that with purple drink or any kind of RC Cola and ice, in two styrofoam cups to keep the ice cold. So, this has nothing to do with me being Mr. Mucus from the Mucinex brand, but let me put it this way: Mucinex lean. That’s all my lawyers allowed me to say. Mucinex lean. If you’re going to print it, print it like, “That’s all my lawyer ’llow me to say. Mucinex is my lean.” And I don’t even know how you spell “’llow,” really.
AVC: Lean is a bit of an inherently funny idea in general.
TJM: Well, I mean, you’re drinking fruit punch. Trying to party doesn’t mean anything, because you’re really drinking fruit punch. So yeah, I get a kick out of that.
AVC: The next thing you have on here is “floor sliding to a slide whistle.” Floor sliding is very funny, and then slide whistles are also very funny. Put them together, and it’s a winning combination.
TJM: My wife and I just moved to New York. We met in college, and our dream was always to live in New York together. Two days ago, we closed on a place. So we have this flight to New York, and we can’t even wrap our fucking minds around it. It’s so big. We dated on and off, but we’re the same age, so we’ve been together for a few years, and we got married, and it’s fucking amazing. Unbelievable is now having this place in New York City.
AVC: To slide around in?
TJM: We’ve got no furniture, no nothing. I’ve got to tell you, though, that we do have socks. So when there’s socks and bare hardwood floors, you have a woman nonstop sliding all over the fucking apartment. And her husband owns a slide whistle because he’s a professional clown. That’s been something.
That’s been a lot of fun, just moving in, and being new New Yorkers.
AVC: What made you decide to move over there?
TJM: Because I’m a stand-up comedian, and my wife is an artist, and if you want to be a stand-up comedian or an artist, you move to New York.
AVC: First you had Mucinex on your list, and now you have another company you work for, Slim Jim.
TJM: Yeah. You know, okay, so here, this is just for you guys. I’ve never talked about this, and probably never will. Maybe it’s not interesting. Maybe I was never asked a question, or I’ve never provided the material to receive it.
Anyway, I did a lot of research on Slim Jims. I love that there was this brand that said, “Yeah, do whatever.” I really did say, “Look, we really want this to be a campaign where we can do whatever.” And Slim Jim really was like, “Yeah, absolutely.” So, you know, I did research. Every single gas station I’ve been in, it’s, “How many Slim Jims do you sell a day? What do you sell them with?” I get into it. I want to know. So, I’ve found out that mostly Slim Jim is a sort of dinner for people on the go. Whether they’re getting a six-pack and a Slim Jim or a couple Slim Jims and a Diet Coke, that’s their dinner. I don’t know. It really, really made me laugh a lot. We are all on the go so much, and I just love the idea that Slim Jims can really be counted on to give you the protein you need to make it to bed. It’s so funny. I love it.
AVC: There’s brand loyalty on Slim Jim, too. You’ve got a lot of jerky options, and people are sticking with Slim Jim.
TJM: I don’t like Jack Links, because I did my study, and it turns out that Jack Links contribute to appendicitis, heart disease, all this stuff. Again, I did my own study, and it was not official or anything. But I found real detriments to the competition of Slim Jims. I work with a lot of brands, and out of all of them, Slim Jim really came through for me. I’d rather do Greg The Mediocre Genie than be a cast member on SNL. That’s what I love. And that’s how much control they gave me. They were like, “Yeah, do whatever you want. It’s great.”
AVC: You said you’d explain this one.
TJM: This is a new stand-up bit, and it’s going well. I wanted to figure out if it would work in an interview context. I don’t think it will, but we should try it, just to waste people’s time, okay?
I go to the mall, because first of all I’m working in malls, but I try to split families. What I’m doing is, when a family is walking down the hall, they’re all together, and I’m walking towards them, as if I’m going to the middle. I just keep walking, splitting them down the middle. I do this with couples that seem like they’re newly in love. Fuck your love, you know?
Then that merged with other things. I bought a slide whistle. Oh sorry, I applied for a conceal and carry for the slide whistle so I can use it California, New York, anywhere. I’m really using that slide whistle a lot. I’m trying to do things that make me feel wonderful about America again because I think America is having a tough moment right now. I’ve been going into bars, ordering a Budweiser, and then taking a very heated call from my wife. It’s a very good way to remind us of what America is.
You know “throwing around the pigskin”? You know that expression? We’ve been throwing around a pig. Dead pig. We’re just trying to make America America again. Because right now, we’re living in a post-real reality.
AVC: Create as good of a life as you can for yourself and everyone around you. Do what makes you laugh, and do what you think is going to make other people laugh.
TJM: Better wording than I just did, and that’s why you’re the writer.
TJM: My wife is this famous artist, and she’s fantastic. Her art name is Rose Petal Pistol. Barneys made her a tastemaker because she has great taste or something. I don’t get this world at all. I do intelligent dick jokes, and I’m in the How To Train Your Dragon franchise, that’s what I do.
Anyway, Barneys had us in this thing called Barneys Locked Overnight. I found this big knife in there, which I obviously had interest in because I’m part of the “alt-right” conspiracy to try to destroy the American government. So I had this giant knife that’s really well designed, and it’s not sharp, and I think, “What is this? It’s all smooth.” So I ask the crew, and they don’t know. And I finally find someone from Barneys who was there overnight, and said, “What is this thing? This is ridiculous. Is this a giant cheese knife? What the fuck is this?” They say, “That’s a champagne saber.” I say, “What do you mean? There’s no such thing as a champagne saber.” They said, “No, no.” In Napoleon’s time, when they had won some victory, it was some celebratory thing where they take a fucking saber and chop off the goddamn head of these champagne bottles. Because all they drank was champagne. The whole thing is insane. You can just pop the cork. You’re really making alcohol violent.
At the end of the night, they said, “Can we get you anything? Thank you so much for doing this.” And I jokingly said, “Please gift us one of these champagne sabers.” And Barneys did. They did. They sent us one months later, and so we’ve been using this fucking champagne saber. We got it for free—we would never buy this thing—but I drink champagne, as does [my wife], and the saber works.
So I’m pulling a saber right now out of a pile of snow in New York. I’m going to saber a bottle of champagne. I don’t know if we should video this, but you get the picture. You find the seam on a bottle of champagne after the neck of the champagne has been on ice. I found out earlier today what happens when you saber champagne that doesn’t have frozen glass at the neck of it, and that is that it explodes. Kate [Gorney, Miller’s wife] and I have successfully sabered champagne, and I am now going to attempt to use this champagne saber, which I think is one of the most ridiculous things of all time. It shouldn’t exist.
I’m going to now try to saber this bottle. All right, ready? Can you hear it? [Clinks saber against the bottle.] Okay, here it is. And it’s going to go fast, all right? Okay, here we go. And if it explodes and it hits my eyes and I can’t talk anymore, report my death. You can have the exclusive. All right, ready? Sabering it. [Chopping noise.] Yes! We did it. Clean break. Absolutely just the top of the champagne came off. Throw that in the New York ice. And there you go!
You know what’s great about a champagne saber? You’re excited to do it, you do it, and then it isn’t exciting anymore. You’re just like, “Why did I just do that?” But all of that being said, these are all the most ridiculous things right now for me in my life.