Picture this: A 20-something comedian, who happens to be a GW alumnus, pursues a comedy career in Chicago. Producers for a new ABC sitcom fly out to convince him to sign on for their show. Not long thereafter, he moves to Los Angeles, briefly crashes at the home of a Victoria Secret model and a movie star, and finds himself in precarious situations such as being face-to-face with a caged white tiger at a pre-Emmy’s party. No, this isn’t a movie pitch. This is the life of T.J. Miller.
Miller, 26, is one of the stars of ABC’s new fall comedy, “Carpoolers,” which centers on a group of commuting co-workers, their families and the unexpected bonds they form. He plays Marmaduke Brooker, a character whom he describes as “eccentric” and “esoteric.” The show is under the direction of Bruce McCulloch, the former “Kids in the Hall” star and one of Miller’s comedic idols.
So where did this TV star-to-be say he built the foundation for his career in comedy? Right here on in Foggy Bottom.
Miller attributes his easy assimilation into professional comedy to his involvement with Recess, GW’s on-campus sketch/improvisational comedy group.
“If I didn’t have Recess I don’t know what would have happened,” Miller said. “I owe almost all of it to Recess and GW.”
He called the group “a pretty insane breeding ground for talent,” and is proud of the successes of other Recess alums.
In his time at GW, which ended with his graduation in 2003, Miller said he created “comedy on many different platforms.” He said he believes that a well-rounded experience creates more chances of making it big. He wrote and created videos for Recess, participated in the student organization “Liquid Art” where he expressed his budding interest in freestyle rapping, was the mastermind behind a one-man show for his senior thesis and within the piece incorporated an original silent film.
After graduation, Miller tried his hand at stand-up comedy. He spent a lot of time in New York and ultimately settled in Chicago where he made money by day and comedy by night. Upon his first audition, Miller was accepted into the prestigious Second City comedic performance group with whom he toured the country.
It is Miller’s varied experience that could have very well contributed to his, “going quickly from struggling in Chicago,” to landing a role on a network primetime sitcom and being a houseguest of fellow show star Jerry O’Connell and his wife, model Rebecca Romijn.
In real life, Miller is the son of a therapist and a former personal injury lawyer, but on the small screen he plays the oddball son of Leila Brooker, a real estate agent, and Gracen Brooker, a mediator. His parents are played by Hollywood veterans Faith Ford and Fred Goss.
“I’m slightly attracted to Faith Ford, which is slightly confusing,” he said.
At 22, Marmaduke spends a large portion of the time in his underwear and still lives at home with his parents. He doesn’t sound much like real-life Miller: “He’s very different than me,” the Denver native said. “But there are things about him that are close to me.”
ABC.com describes Marmaduke as, “part renaissance man and part renaissance man child.”
Miller said, “That’s pretty correct.He has the imagination of a child in the mind of an adult.” And despite curious decisions, such as purchasing an ATM machine, Miller insists that his character is no dimwit. “He’s sort of a genius.but a little bit off.”
Though “Carpoolers” works from a script, Miller has not forgotten his improvisational roots. On what he calls a, “very collaborative,” set, he sometimes does multiple takes on scenes in which he improvises completely.
And as if starring in a sitcom wasn’t enough, Miller is set to star in an upcoming flick from J.J. Abrams, famed producer/writer/director. The details of the film were under such tight wraps that Miller couldn’t even get a sneak peek at the script before he signed on.
When not on set in California, Miller writes and creates videos for two comedy Web sites he’s involved with: VeryBadPorn.com and BLERDS.com. He and fellow BLERDS member Jordan Vogt-Roberts are pitching an idea for a new TV show to major networks, including Comedy Central.
Miller is currently, “psychologically trying to live in L.A. without losing [his] mind,” and with the premiere of “Carpoolers” looming he said he hopes, “the show is successful, mostly for GW.”
“Carpoolers” airs Oct. 2, at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.