T.J. Miller is trying to figure out how to pronounce ‘Kelowna’ before Just For Laughs presents The Alternative Comedy Tour at Kelowna Community Theatre on Wednesday.
When he finds out that the original meaning of Kelowna is ‘female grizzly bear’ in the Okanagan/Syilx First Nation language, he jokes: “That’s pretty cool. That’s a lot tougher than Red Deer. Grizzly bear I like a lot. I know that I’ve been drunk enough that I’ve
pronounced your beer Kokanee as Ke-low-nia. Now, I’m excited that I’m going to perform in Grizzly Bear.”
The stand-up comedian, Hollywood and TV actor, producer, writer and voice in animated movies will perform his absurdist observational stand-up act of more than 10 years with special guest Rhys Darby from Flight of the Conchords and Wrecked, and host Nick Vatterott, one of Vulture’s 50 Comedians You Should Know.
The Alternative Comedy Tour features some of comedy’s funniest and quirkiest stand-ups for an evening of off-beat hilarity.
Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. show are $45.50 (plus charges) and available from the Prospera Place box office, by phone at 250-762-5050 and online at: selectyourtickets.com.
“You know I like you initially because my name is T.J.,” he joked, combining a pun with both of our names. OK, it’s going to be one of those interviews. His first question (who is interviewing who?) is about my nicknames with a moniker like J.P.
“I get Teeg a lot and I get JT,” said Miller who was born Todd Joseph on June 4, 1981 in Denver, Colorado.
“What’s funny, though, is T.J. Miller, in the very, very beginning, this is so strange, but I didn’t think it sounded like much of anything. And then, a lot of people would be like ‘It sounds like an athlete’s name.’ And then, a lot of fans of mine that are black, like Twitter fans from the very beginning, were like: ‘I couldn’t believe when I found out T.J. Miller is white.’”
Since then, he discovered many other black T.J. Millers, plus a professional hockey player and a big college wrestling star with the same name.
Getting my first question in, Miller said his involvement in this 13-city Canadian tour was simply a matter of good timing.
The offer came just as he left Mike Judge’s HBO comedy series Silicon Valley for which he received the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Television Comedy. As a result, he didn’t have to film in October-November and was planning to return to stand-up comedy.
“I said: ‘That sounds exactly like a gift from Heaven. I can’t think of even 500 reasons I’d rather be in Canada than in the United States right now. Like, dude, I’ll think of 500 more,’” he explained, the latter comments sarcastically.
“This is the perfect time to come up here. I thought it would be a great to remind all of Canada there’s still more than half of America (U.S.) that is sane and funny and optimistic and in-it-to-win-it. I thought: this is a good fit.”
It should be called The Mainstream Alternative Comedy Tour because Just for Laughs is the most trusted name in Canadian comedy, he said. “Here, we have The Second City.” (He toured with Chicago’s The Second City for two years after college.)
“This is a little bit off; this is going to be a weirder show, just very different. Let your
audience know that some of the stuff is going to get a little bit dark.”
Okanagan fans might see 10-15 minutes of an HBO special he just completed but most of the material will be very new and improvisational like The Second City.
“We’ve already done a couple of shows. Ninety per cent of what you are going to see is going to be split between completely new
material and crowdwork, just riffing, talking about the day, asking about the city, wondering how the hell ‘Kelowna’ is pronounced Ke-low-nia.
“You can stream a lot of things that I do, from Gorburger to any of the movies. This is really about: if you paid the money and you’re spending your time coming to see us, we also are spending our time trying to make that night just about that night.
People have responded really well to that. It was such a blast (in Hamilton) when people went: ‘That was so fun and didn’t seem like you were doing any material. How much of that was even material?’”
The evening even has “some new strange new mime pieces that I’m not sure if I stole or not, and clown bits and sound effects.
It really is a dynamic show and it’s all of the fun which is something that I think Canada really enjoys. I’m looking at Kids in the Hall and just your pedigree of comedy.”
Miller’s distinctive voice — once described as an old drag queen after a hard night of chain smoking — stars in Disney’s Academy Award-winning animated feature, Big Hero 6. He also voiced the character Tuffnut in the Oscar-nominated animated film How to Train Your Dragon 1 and 2 as well as the Netflix TV series of the same name. He also voices Robbie from Gravity Falls on Disney, and Gorburger, a very strange show you have to Google to understand.
He was Weasel in Fox’s big-screen comic book adaptation of Deadpool, the highest grossing R-rated film of all time; 2014’s surprise indie hit Transformers 4; and will appear in the upcoming film Ready Player One directed by Steven Spielberg.
Darby is an actor, stand-up comedian and amateur cryptozoologist from New Zealand who is best known as Murray from HBO’s Flight of the Conchords.
He has gone on to star in a plethora of television shows, including The X Files, Life in Pieces, Modern Family, Comedy’s Wrecked and Netflix’s Voltron.
Darby also wrote and starred in his own eight-part mockumentary comedy series for TVNZ and Netflix, Short Poppies. He made his feature film debut in Yes Man with Jim Carrey and most recently, he was seen in the Taika Waititi’s What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. He will next appear in the Jumanji sequel alongside Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
In 2010, The Hollywood Reporter named Vatterott one of the “break-outs” at Montreal’s Just for Laughs Comedy Festival.
Vulture.com listed him as one of the top 50 comedians you should know in 2015 and Chicago Magazine labelled Nick as “The Funniest Man in Chicago.”
Vatterott was also a producer/writer/performer on Comedy Central’s stand-up sketch hybrid show Mash-Up and is currently writing for Gorburger on Comedy Central with Miller.
Vatterott has performed on Conan, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and has a half-hour special on Comedy Central. His debut comedy record, For Amusement Only, was released in November 2014 by Comedy Central Records and was voted by Vulture, Laughspin and Splitsider as one of the year’s best comedy albums.