In Office Christmas Party T.J. Miller plays Clay, a scattered office manager with a “mind like a drunk baby.” In a last ditch effort to save his branch from closure he tries to woo a lucrative client by throwing a no-holds-barred Christmas party.
“This is the way we close Walter,” says Clay. “We throw the best Christmas party he’s ever seen. We could save everybody’s jobs.”
Miller leads an ensemble cast featuring heavy-hitters like Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, Kate McKinnon and Jennifer Aniston but he doesn’t want to talk about that. Not right away, anyway.
Instead he begins the interview with, “Let’s talk comedy in a time of tragedy.”
“Basically I have a political obstacle to my social mission statement,” he says. “The social statement was, tragedy permeates our everyday lives, people are lonely, they’re scared, they have death anxiety, they don’t know how to attribute meaning to their own existence, so through comedy we can provide an opiate or distraction that permeates our everyday lives. Through satire we can hopefully frame the world in a way that people can laugh at.
“Also I aim to help people, through my stand up, to release the death anxiety. I aim to help people not take themselves so seriously.”
When Miller, who also currently plays Erlich Bachman on Silicon Valley, finally gets around to talking about Office Christmas Party, he’s still on message.
“It’s very easy to promote a comedy during the apocalypse,” he says.
The Christmas film, which features a greedy pimp, a sexually repressed head of HR and an office load of drunk, disgruntled employees, is a mix and match of sentimentality and debauchery that Miller thinks is perfect for the season.
“What better way to spend the holidays?” he asks. “First of all you don’t have to talk to your family for an hour-and-a-half during the holidays. That’s a bonus. If the movie is funny, you talk about how funny it was for half-an-hour. How dynamic Jenifer Aniston, Jason Bateman and Courtney B. Vance are. How strange I look in a Santa suit for that long. That my facial hair is still abrasive and arresting. That’s two- and-a-half to three hours towards a stress free holiday. That’s what we’re pitching you.
“It’s a funny movie. It’s a laugh a minute. Well, it’s a laugh every minute-and-a-half to two minutes. We wanted to give you a break. It’s exhausting to laugh every minute.”
Miller, who once worked as a legal secretary in the same Chicago office building seen in the film, says the movie is silly and fun but shares his core comedy philosophy.
“Workplace environments have become so sterile and corporations have become so much about profit and not the people they work with that we’ve lost the fun of work. We don’t have cool office Christmas parties anymore. We are saying, ‘You spend so much time with the people you work with, why not have a night or two a year where you can kind of just relax? Take a night off from worrying about offending someone or giving ‘tude.’
“That is our message to North America. Take the holidays, drink way too much eggnog, laugh, relax and know that we’ve got a lot of work to do in 2017.”