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the high school drama teacher in T.J. Miller’s life

Many of us have an amazing high school drama teacher in our past.

NPR did a piece last week about the comic and actor T.J. Miller. I am not familiar with Miller’s oeuvre, but:

T.J. Miller has played a dragon slayer in the How to Train Your Dragon movies, a man who doesn’t always change his underwear in Big Hero 6 and a pothead who thinks he’s a tech rock star in HBO’s Silicon Valley. Now Marvel fans will know him as bartender Weasel, best friend to the titular superhero in the new, R-rated comic book movie Deadpool.

I liked what his high school drama teacher had to say about him:

The 34-year-old Denver native started doing comedy early on. Melody Duggan, his drama teacher at Denver’s East High School, says Miller was a typical class clown, except that he was more intuitive than your average teenager. She says, “He understands the frailty of the human condition better than any kid I’ve ever had.”

Duggan, who’s retired now, tried to get her students to sample all forms of acting, including stand-up. She says Miller “was absolutely fearless. He doesn’t mind making a fool of himself.”

His teacher pushed him to do different kinds of roles and performance styles:

Duggan, who’s retired now, tried to get her students to sample all forms of acting, including stand-up. She says Miller “was absolutely fearless. He doesn’t mind making a fool of himself.”

Meanwhile, Miller credits Duggan for the eureka moment that set him on his path to comedy. “She made me do musicals and Oedipus Rex,” he remembers. “She said, ‘You’re going to do comedy, but I need you singing. You have to learn everything.’

His mother helped:

His mother, a clinical psychologist, told him the same thing, and it seems he took the assignment seriously. He studied circus arts, and learned how to be a Shakespearean clown at the British American Drama Academy in London. After that, he toured with Chicago’s Second City.

He is a Nietzsche enthusiast, which reminds me of former Yale School of Drama Dean of Acting Earle Gister, who liked to quote Nietzsche saying ‘Man’s maturity: to have regained the seriousness that he had as a child at play.’:

The comedian says his role in the new anti-hero comic book movie Deadpool is right up his alley. “I’m a student of

[Friedrich] Nietzsche. I’m interested in morality and mortality, and Deadpool kind of has all of these themes.”

He has a powerful sense of mission:

He says, “If I can make someone laugh, I lift them out of their fundamentally tragic existence.” And for this comic, that’s anything but meaningless

I find this guy extremely inspiring. I love the combination of intellectual breadth and the commitment to training and skill. That teacher of his seems like she really had a big impact.

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2018-02-26T21:48:29+00:00

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