Some people don’t waste any time. After flying through the ranks of the Chicago comedy scene in just four years (a faster track than most)—touring with Second City, performing with iO and doing stand-up everywhere from Heaven Gallery to the Improv—TJ Miller, a 26-year-old Denver native, has driven off to sunnier pastures. On Tuesday 2, he makes his television debut in Carpoolers, an ABC series created by Bruce McCulloch (Kids in the Hall), directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (Arrested Development), and costarring Jerry O’Connell, Faith Ford and Jerry Minor. While the show—about four officemates who carpool to work—isn’t all that groundbreaking, Miller as the goofy, mouth-breathingson of main character Gracen (Fred Goss) is reason alone to watch. We steered a few questions in Miller’s direction.
How did you get hooked up with Carpoolers?
I put myself on tape in Chicago and sent it out [to L.A.], and they loved it, so they flew me out, and I got the part. I was up against this really short guy with long hair, who’s a kind of stoner, this really funny guy Derek Waters. They really took a risk on me, and I hope it pays off.
What elements did you contribute to your character?
I sort of created the physicality and the voice for it, but the catfish line [from the first episode] is mine. That’s my big thing in the pilot. I also suggest story lines and I riff lines—I’m a Second City–iO–Annoyance background guy so they let me do [a lot of improv].
What about the choice to wear no pants for the entire first episode? Was that, um, all you?
No, that was not my idea. Definitely not. You can underline definitely. I’ll do quite a few things if it serves the comedy. I’ve done Very Bad Porn [verybadporn.com], so I’m no stranger to that.
Seeing as you just moved to Los Angeles, have you had any “L.A. moments” so far?
Yeah, I was at the TCAs [Television Critics Association Awards], sitting there with two producers from DreamWorks and my manager, and we were all drinking martinis and Scotches, and in the middle of a story I was telling, all three of them picked up a phone call. I even said out loud, “Well, this is exactly what I thought Hollywood would be like. I’ve arrived.” And they all kind of laughed and then kept talking.
You still keeping your Chicago connections alive?
I’m still doing live shows with [a few Chicago friends] and producing [online] content. While I was doing the film [the top-secret J.J. Abrams flick codenamed Cloverfield, slated to be released Jan 8, 2008], I really had to cut down on stand-up and improv because we were shooting at night for a lot of it. I miss the Chicago stand-up scene. There’s not really as much for good stand-up out here. I’m much more of a Chicago guy or a New York guy, so I really don’t like L.A. that much. But it’s worth it to be here for the show.
Carpoolers rolls by Tuesday 2 on ABC.