McMillan studied law at the University of Melbourne for two and a half years, where he also directed and appeared in the Melbourne Law Comedy Revue. He was also a member of United Nations Youth Australia and was editor of its newsletter in 1999 and 2000. He says he was more interested in writing jokes than studying, and halfway through the course decided to drop out. He subsequently completed a media degree and began to pursue a full-time comedy career.
He performs under the stage name Sammy J, a condensation of his full name, Samuel Jonathan McMillan. The first time he publicly used the stage name was during a performance on Hey Hey It's Saturday's "Red Faces" segment in 1999. He attended The Peninsula School, Mt Eliza, and can sometimes be seen wearing his uniform during performances which reference his school days.
In 2006, McMillan took the Best Newcomer award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for his debut solo show, Sammy J's 55 Minute National Tour. He has since performed solo shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Adelaide Fringe and Melbourne comedy festivals, as well as starring in the Comedians' Theatre Company's production of Breaker Morant at the 2007 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In 2009, McMillan created a one-man musical comedy show based around his schooldays titled 1999. In 2011 he featured in an episode of ABC TV's Comedy Warehouse series, and in 2012 headlined at the inaugural Jakarta Fringe Festival alongside Bill Bailey and Emo Philips. In 2013 McMillan presented his solo show, Potentially, which was nominated for Best Comedy at the Adelaide Fringe and played to critical acclaim at the Arts Centre in Melbourne.
He has appeared on various Australian television shows including Spicks and Specks, Good News Week and Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation, and wrote and performed on The Comedy Channel's satirical news show The Mansion. In 2013 he hosted Wednesday Night Fever, a satirical sketch show on ABC television, conducting interviews and performing songs based on the week's news.
McMillan is an ambassador for the youth mentoring organisation, Big Brothers Big Sisters Australia. In 2016, he created and hosted Sammy J's Playground Politics, a series of political satire shorts on ABC iview in the style of Play School, which became a recurring segment on his own show Sammy J's Democratic Party that premiered in May 2017.
In 2008, McMillan collaborated with puppeteer Heath McIvor on a musical, Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams. The show, which starred McMillan and 14 foul-mouthed puppets operated by McIvor, was an adult fairy tale parodying the format of Disney children's movies. Forest of Dreams was well received by critics in Melbourne, earning a nomination for the festival's Barry Award for the most outstanding show and winning The Age Critics Award for the best local act. Following a successful Edinburgh season, the show toured the UK and played at the Leicester Square Theatre in London.
In 2010 he began working with Randy the purple puppet to create Ricketts Lane, which won the Barry Award for Most Outstanding Show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. It then played at the Sydney Opera House. The two debuted the sequel, Bin Night, in 2011 at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival where they performed the song "Secrets", and later that year became regular cast members on the sketch comedy show Good News World, earning a national television following through their weekly songs and sketches.
In 2012 the duo debuted The Inheritance, which played in most Australian capital cities and received five star reviews in Edinburgh. On November 3, McMillan and Randy filmed their very last performance of The Inheritance at the Brisbane Powerhouse for a future DVD release. The same year, Sammy J and Randy hosted the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala, creating an original opening musical sequence in which they set about kidnapping the "real" host, Adam Hills. In November that year, they were commissioned by radio station Triple J to create a musical tribute to Australian music. The duo also appeared on the final episode of ABC's Q&A singing a song about the year in politics, and finished the year performing at the Falls Festival in Marion Bay, Tasmania.
In 2013, McMillan and Randy decided to perform their own solo shows (Sammy J: Potentially & Randy Is Sober) at the Adelaide Fringe & Melbourne/Sydney Comedy Festivals. Halfway through 2013, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation launched a political sketch comedy show called Wednesday Night Fever, with McMillan as the show's host, which resulted in him not making his annual trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
In December 2013, McMillan & Randy debuted Sammy J & Randy's Difficult First Album which is a live recording of one of their Brisbane performances of Sammy J & Randy: The Arena Spectacular.
In September 2015, Sammy J & Randy in Ricketts Lane, a sitcom based on their touring show of the same name, was released on ABC iview. It was broadcast on ABC TV in October.
At the 2008 Melbourne Fringe Festival then 25-year-old McMillan launched The 50 Year Show, the first in a series of live comedy shows which he plans to reprise every five years, ending in 2058 when he will be 75. McMillan describes the show as "a living, breathing comedic time capsule. Every five years we can observe the world, make predictions, see how the world's changed." It includes segments such as a 50 Year Soap Opera, a 50 Year Story; and the 50 Year Dancers, a group of five-year-olds performing a routine which they will repeat at each show. McMillan first conceived the idea for The 50 Year Show in 2007 while sitting on a London bus full of elderly people and wondering how he could make his mark.
The second instalment took place on 3 October 2013, continuing each segment with the original cast performing alongside their younger selves on a giant projection screen.
AlbumsThe Burden of Popularity (2005)
Sammy J - Live? (2006)
Sticky Digits (2009)
Skinny Man, Modern World (2012)
Sammy J & Randy's Difficult First Album (2014)
DVDsSammy J In The Forest Of Dreams (2010)
Sammy J - 58 Kilograms Of Pure Entertainment (2011)
Sammy J and Randy in Bin Night (2012)
Best Comedy Show Nominee - 2013 Adelaide Fringe
Best Comedy Release Nominee - 2012 ARIA Awards
Spirit of the Fringe Award - 2012 Jakarta Fringe Festival
Barry Award for Most Outstanding Show - 2010 Melbourne Comedy Festival (with Randy)
The Age Critics’ Award Winner - 2008 Melbourne Comedy Festival (with Randy)
Best Emerging Cabaret Artist Nominee - 2007 Green Room Awards
Best Newcomer Award Winner - 2006 Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Butterfly Club "Under Our Wing" 2006 Award Winner
Groggy Squirrel Subscriber's Choice Award - 2006 Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Golden Stomm Award - 2004 Most Promising New Comedian on the Melbourne Comedy Circuit
Sammy J's Playground Politics (ABC)
Wednesday Night Fever (ABC)
Adam Hills Tonight (ABC)
Edinburgh Comedy Live (BBC)
Comedy Warehouse Special (ABC 2)
Good News World (Network Ten)
Spicks and Specks (ABC TV)
Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation (Network Ten)
A Tribute to Nerds (Montreal Comedy Gala)
7pm Project (Network Ten)
The Circle (Network Ten)
Good News Week (Network Ten)
OXFAM Melbourne Comedy Festival Gala (Network Ten)
Sunrise (Network Seven)
Stand Up Australia (Comedy Channel)
Studio A (Channel 31)
Kids WB (Channel Nine)
Stand Up! (ABC TV)
Let Loose Live (Network Seven)
Champagne Comedy (Channel 31)
Hey Hey It's Saturday (Channel Nine)