T.J. Miller is in a manic, easily distracted mood. His energy seems to be going in a thousand different directions simultaneously, none of them particularly useful. He’s sweaty, his eyes are disturbingly intense, and there’s copious white powder on his suit jacket. All this can only mean one thing: He’s having a great time hosting his own morning talk show, Talkin’ With T.J., on the Chicago Riverwalk. The Denver-born Silicon Valley star came up through the Chicago comedy scene while working as a personal secretary (a manly job, he insists) in the IBM building. Now, he gets to return to the city as a conquering hero, a TV and film star big enough to trust with his own chat fest. But he’s going to do this thing his way. That much is clear from the outset, when he clambers over the furniture and knocks over a a flimsy easel with his show’s logo on it. Miller’s guests during the chaotic 16-minute program include sex therapist Dr. Laura Berman and Windy City Live hosts Ryan Chiaverini and Val Warner. All prove remarkably good sports.
Near the beginning, Miller is seen having his face powdered while eating a powdered doughnut. So that theoretically explains away the appearance of his clothes. But that still doesn’t account for all of his troubling behavior during Talkin’ With T.J., which includes constantly spraying or pouring water on himself and launching into passionate tirades that are only loosely connected with the topic at hand. Miller also apparently demanded that there be a hair dryer aimed at his flowing, curly locks at all times. It’s a gonzo approach to the morning talk show format to be sure. But Miller’s guests appear very willing to roll with it, partly because it seems to be such a beautiful day in Chicago. Music fans will take note that the distinctive Marina City towers from the cover of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot are visible in the background during the program. Another Chicago favorite seen during Talkin’ With T.J. is the Italian beef sandwich. Miller doesn’t so much eat his as deconstruct it.