So how is it that someone can go from earning a degree in psychology, to becoming the most famous ball of mucus on the planet?
Well, that’s been comic TJ Miller’s journey, and it’s one that’s taking him to Newport’s Jane Pickens Theater on Sunday (October 8) as the headliner of this year’s Rogue Island Comedy Festival, a five-day event spread among several Newport venues, beginning this Thursday.
Miller is the headliner among a variety of local and national comics that have performed from Rhode Island stages to national television shows.
Miller, who at 32 has won recognition for his role on “Silicon Valley,” has hosted his own HBO comedy special, has appeared in several movies, and been a voice in children’s movies, including The Emoji Movie.
He has a degree in psychology, and most recently has been the voice of the Mucinex Man in the Mucinex Commercials.
His comedy can range from R-rated standup or sitcoms, to children’s programs.
“I’m performing for all different types of people, all different ages,” Miller says. “I’m really driven to making people laugh.”
For Miller, it’s his first visit to Newport, and a chance at do stand-up comedy while connecting to a diverse audience. And that, he says, is much of the challenge of many of today’s comics.
“I think comedy is in a pretty good place, because we’re in a pretty bad place,” Miller says. His reference to bad place not only refers to the political climate, but also a climate that has brought on severe weather to various parts of the world. “I think all these comedians are lamenting that comedy is most needed and most warranted when things are most overwhelmingly bad.”
While among a young wave of comics, Miller draws his inspiration from some of the classics, like Steve Martin, and particularly the Marx Brothers, who he describes as the “perfect comedic group … I’m trying to be a one-man Marx Brothers.”
That will be on display on Sunday at the Jane Pickens Theater for shows at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Miller promises to catch some of the other comedy acts during the festival, which kicks off on Thursday at Studio Three for shows at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., headlined by Mark Normand, who has appeared on Comedy Central and other national shows. Christi Cheillo, headlines the Studio Three performance at 7 p.m. on Friday, and Kelly McFarland, headlines the 10 p.m. show at the Brick Alley Pub.
On Saturday, there’s a PG-13 show, headlined by Juilia Shiplett, at Empire Tea & Coffee at 4 p.m., and a 7 p.m. show, headlined by Sean Sullivan, at Dockside. Sunday are the Miller shows at the Jane Pickens, and the festival concludes on Monday with Emily Ruskowski, headlining at Studio Three at 7 p.m., and Ray Harrington, also at Studio Three, at 9 p.m.