Published Aug 05, 2015On Michael Che's episode of the Pete Holmes podcast You Made It Weird, the Saturday Night Live star shares some advice given to him by Chris Rock: "If you're going to make a special, make a special. Don't make a normal." It doesn't seem like Eugene Mirman ever heard this advice, because what we have on our hands here is a normal.
Vegan On His Way to the Complain Store is Mirman's fifth special, but in many ways it feels a lot like his first — and his second, third, and fourth. Each contains Mirman's signature absurd letters to corporations and public figures, random yelling about religion and governments, and stories from his life that highlight just how strange people can be sometimes.
And it's not that these things aren't funny (his struggle with the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire is very funny), it's just that it feels like we've heard it before. It's like Mirman's been holding up the same mirror to society for years now and saying "Still kinda weird, right?" and the audience is like, "Uh, yeah man. I guess it's still kinda weird."
There's a very telling moment in the middle of Vegan where Mirman takes questions from the audience. "Did you get any response?" someone asks in reference to a bunch of messages that Mirman sent to U.S. Congressman John Boehner. "Sadly, no," replies Mirman, disappointedly. Later, though, when he starts talking about what types of messages he responds to, Mirman lays out that he won't respond if someone says something crazy. If someone says something nice he will ("Because I'm, uh, what do you call it, normal."), but he doesn't engage with people saying crazy things at him just because they can ("I don't want to start a relationship online with a lunatic. And by relationship, I mean any interaction.")
That answer really undercuts the impact of Mirman's jokes on Vegan. So many of his bits are about him trying to insert something weird into a very normal space (e.g., listing himself as the Senior VP of Peepee at Verizon on LinkedIn, or getting his ironic art displayed at his local Whole Foods), but he already knows that nothing is going to come of it. He's happy to point out the absurd and arbitrary loopholes in society, but it's not like he's calling on the audience to do anything about it. On Vegan more than any of his other specials, it's really starting to feel like Mirman is a just a consciously normal guy who does consciously weird things why? Because he's a comedian? Because it's his job? Just because? It's not really clear. (Netflix)