I went on a mad Silicon Valley bender recently, bingeing hard on the hilarious HBO comedy about a houseful of surly programmers struggling to survive within the brutal start-up culture. Web-stalking yielded that Thomas Middleditch, the 33-year-old sad-eyed straight man of the group is a country-man—he grew up in Nelson, B.C., a tiny hippie enclave he describes as “pretty hemp and wool.”
“I have a bit more go-get-it, capitalist nature in me,” he says, “but I’m glad some of that ‘be kind to one another’ stuff rubbed off.” After a stint in Toronto in his early twenties, he fled to Chicago and then New York for years of hard time in improv shows, playing talking boners and the like. “When you’re the talking boner all the time, you want to be the straight guy, but when you’re the straight guy, you’re like, ‘I want to be the talking boner guy!’” he laughs. Another strange bit: Middleditch recorded himself acting as several teen girls and then created an animated video for it, which he sent out to production companies. The zany clip won over Mike Judge (Beavis and Butt-head); he was so tickled that he wrote the Silicon lead for Middleditch.
“The big struggle for me,” he says, “is always trying to find a little moment here or there to make sure that the straight man is actually funny.” He is funny as start-up CEO Richard, who’s a sweet, sweating, mumbling mess. But IRL Middleditch is weirdly magnetic, by turns fizzy and prickly, bursting into silly voices then meditating seriously on his craft. Like many self-identified dorky comedians, he still pulled a mad-hot wife; he and costume designer Mollie Gates married this summer in Nelson. Now he has five films coming up, including the scene-stealing role of Duncan, a spunky know-it-all, in The Final Girls (October 9), a terrific horror-comedy that spoofs summer camp slasher flicks. I asked Middleditch how soon he’d die in a serial killer situation—would he be the bad girl who gets killed off right away or the saintly one who lasts until the end? “I couldn’t be the final girl.” He explains in a screwball-caper voice: “Well, I’m definitely not a virgin, sweetheart. Oh god, I’ve been screwing my way through Hollywood since the ’90s.” Back to normal voice: “I have no purity left, my friend.”