It's a wonder Thomas Middleditch, who plays the awkward, fidgety programmer Richard Hendricks on HBO's "Silicon Valley," finds time to sleep at all. In addition to his many film and television appearances, the actor and comedian lends his voice to several animated characters and frequently performs at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles. His work ethic has led fellow "Silicon Valley" actor TJ Miller to deem him “the greatest living improviser.”
Middleditch came up in the vibrant Chicago comedy scene, performing sketch and improv at iO and The Second City. After an unsuccessful audition for "Saturday Night Live", he moved to New York City, where he appeared in commercials and landed a bunch of minor TV roles. Eventually he gained the eye of Mike Judge who cast him as the star of "Silicon Valley"; he also voices Disney’s animated series "Penn Zero" and hosts his own video game live-streams.
An actor’s life means early mornings, long days and a generous helping of stress. For Middleditch, a sometimes insomniac, it can also mean self-perpetuating whirlpools of sleeplessness. In his own words, here’s how he stays afloat.
I wish I was a person that did well on little sleep. I honestly feel like a zombie if I even get seven hours as opposed to eight. The thing is, I battle with bouts of insomnia, where often times I’ll go a full week with just five to six each night, and it’s like I’m just not even there.
I rarely have trouble falling asleep initially. The monster I battle with is staying asleep, and if there’s even the most benign reason I have to get up at any time before, let’s say…10 a.m., then the odds of me waking up well before that are nearly 100 percent.
It comes in waves, where one week will be bad, or a few days in a row, and then I’ll manage to get on track for a few days or a week, and then it’s back the other way. It’ll typically go like this: I go to sleep, I wake up far too early, my body absolutely must go to the bathroom, even if it’s not needed, and if I’ve missed my window to fall back asleep then my mind is churning away on nothing at all and I’m just up. I couldn’t tell you the worst bout because really they all suck. I’m sure it was during a shoot where those 5 a.m. starts compound the previous night of little sleep.
Hotels are a mixed bag. Occasionally you get the perfect storm where it’s a massive bed, comfortable and there are curtains that block out every ounce of light.
On those nights you take a shower, brush your teeth, read a little, really wind down, maybe take a pull of ZzzQuil, then on with the eye shades and in goes the mouth guard (yeah, I’ve got one, it’s not awesome), and ooohhhhhhh baby — get ready for a good night because daddy’s got his heavy eyelids on.
I rarely have any strange dreams — thank god for that. Years ago, I was performing comedy on a cruise ship and sometimes the motion of the boat mixed with complete darkness— because those crew cabins in the bowels of the ship can get dark — would produce some truly epic ones, though.
All I have on my bedside table is a light and whatever book I’m reading. I just finished "The Ariadne Objective."
As for the eyeshade and mountain of dildos? I keep them in the drawer.