Eugene Mirman

BY Vish KhannaPublished Oct 29, 2009

Eugene Mirman lives in New York City and is one of the funniest comedians of our times. He's renowned for two ingenious comedy records, entitled The Absurd Nightclub Comedy of Eugene Mirman and En Garde, Society! and has been a key supporter of his contemporaries with events like Invite Them Up! and the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival. So yeah, he's basically the most unselfish person ever. He's appeared on television numerous times, including a recurring role on Flight of the Conchords, as the landlord, Eugene, and earlier this year, he released a hilariously unhelpful self-help book entitled, The Will to Whatevs ― A Guide to Modern Life. His brand new comedy record is entitled, God is a Twelve-Year-Old Boy with Asperger's and we recently caught up with him to discuss all of this. All of it.

Eugene, I've interviewed you several times now. What would you say is the most memorable highlight from our conversations to date?
Well, all of it is very, very memorable. I have notes on all of our interviews.

Okay, and? What comes to mind when you think of Vish and being interviewed by him?
I believe that I did three interviews about my book. I was the "book of the month" for a different thing…

Yeah, that was for one of my radio shows, a totally different thing.
I know but it's with you so, to me, it's of negligible difference that you were broadcasting those to totally different people.

It would be unfair of you to say, "Of my different career choices, which is your most memorable?" But congratulations for controlling independent music and comedy listenership and readership in Canada (laughs).

I appreciate that very much. So, you don't really remember anything specific per se, except that we've spoken a bunch of times.
Well, I mean, I guess that's one way of looking at it. But another way of looking at it is that I remember that we've spoken a bunch of times. It would be weird if I remembered that we talked about my favourite bands and what I had to eat that day.

You do a lot of press; what is the most memorable thing that's ever happened to you during an interview? Does something stick out to you?
Um…no. I mean nothing overly exciting. There were fun things, like I went to Boston and spent the day at the Boston Globe and saw some of my friends and that was a fun day. But it's not like somebody ever asked a question and I was like, "Wow." I mean people have asked good questions but not ones that made me write it down, and go like, "One day, I will tell a reporter about this other reporter."

In general, are you a fan of questions?
I'm a fan of questions.

You enjoy people who are curious about things and make inquiries?
Yes, oh yeah, in general absolutely, yes.

And you yourself; do you like answering questions?
It just depends. I think that certain things I'm more tired of discussing and other things I'm more than happy to discuss.

Okay, well I appreciate that. Let's talk about this new record of yours, God is a Twelve-Year-Old Boy with Asperger's. The title comes from a very funny anecdote about your recent Will to Whatevs book tour but it is, I suppose, a tad provocative. Did you encounter any resistance about the title from your record label Sub Pop or anyone else?
No. I've heard people think that people might be offended but I don't know that I've actually heard people be offended. Also strangely, it's people who are hesitant with the use of Asperger's, as opposed to religious people being upset that I'm referring to God as a child with Asperger's.

It's a loaded title in either case I suppose.
The thing is, I don't think it's in any way offensive… first of all, if you listen to the story, it's simply an anecdote. So, in that sense, I'm simply recounting something and I guess if you're religious, you could potentially be offended if you wanted to be. But then, y'know, you could be offended by whatever.

Just so people who are reading understand; there are other things on the record to be offended by.
Yes, people have the opportunity to get upset three or four times (laughs)!

This is maybe the least of what might be upsetting.
Oh maybe. I guess that didn't occur to me (laughs).

I'm really trying to help you sell this record.
Yeah, yeah, you have to listen to this. It's possibly the most dangerous record released today. Tomorrow even.

Were there alternate titles?
Yeah, I mean in general I make a list of lots of titles and that was the one that seemed both to be the most interesting and the most fitting, I guess.

Do you recall what any of the alternates were? I'm just curious.
I think every year I consider calling it Aerosmith's Greatest Hits. Or like, Aerosmith's Greatest Hits 2000 or something weird. Yeah. I also always consider calling it Negativland.

Oh, because of the whole U2 seven-inch…(
Yeah, the Negativland thing. I always think it'd be a little funny to have giant "Negativland" printed on it with small "Eugene Mirman."

Do you think you'd get sued by Negativland?
I would find it highly unlikely that Negativland would sue me. I think that they would be amused.

You could end up in one of their shows, as a sample or something.
That would be the result more likely. It would be absurd. Even U2, I think it was really their label who sued, so who knows? I don't know what Negativland's label is but I can't imagine they would sue me.

No, I don't think so either. Well, you should do that, maybe next time.
Maybe if I do an EP I will do that, because it seems unnecessary to do that as a joke with an album. But with an EP, it seems like the perfect little joke.

I agree. You've had a very busy year in 2009 already and it's not even over yet. Recently you played a relatively major role in something called the 2nd Annual Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival; what in the world is this event Eugene?
It's a half-real, half-parody comedy festival.

What does that mean? How can it be half-real?
Well, it can be real because it's an event you can go to and it can be half-parody because it parodies other comedy festivals. It's both a joke and not a joke; that's what makes it wonderful.

I can't say that I've been to too many comedy festivals; are there common stereotypes about them?
For comedians there are. Yeah, there are lots. You guys have a comedy festival, Just for Laughs. It's very popular.

Yeah, that's right, in Montreal. I've never actually been.
Oh, it's wonderful. And there used to be one in Aspen. There are lots of them. I mean, it's also events where things can be sponsored by stuff. A lot of shows and festivals are often ghettoized where it'll be like, "Gay ladies" or whatever, y'know, so we'll make fun of things like that or we'll just have silly themes. One of the themes this year was "Comedians of Law & Order," where we had all comedians who've been on Law & Order.

Yeah, they seem to get a lot of comedians on Law & Order. What is with that? Is that because of [Richard] Belzer?
No, that's before that show even existed. No, they're just actors also.

Wait a minute; was Belzer not on Law & Order? What show was he on?
He is on Law & Order but I think he's on SVU. But lots of comedians have been on the original Law & Order before SVU even existed. So, I'm just saying it has nothing to do with Belzer. It's really just that a lot of comedians are also actors.

Right. You've been on one of those shows.
Yeah, I was on Third Watch (, which I don't know if you have there. I don't know if we have here anymore. But I did do that; I was a suspected arsonist. It was a lot of fun; I got to fight a cop.

Yeah, you kind of ran off and battled a guy?
Yeah, I wrestled a man and yelled. It was really fun. I mean the show's terrible ― don't get me wrong! But it was really fun.

So, what were some highlights of this year's festival?
Well, opening night we had a pig roast. Outside of the club, we roasted a whole pig. The chef arrived at, I believe, 4 a.m. the previous day and cooked it for 16 hours. The last night we had a limo that offered people rides from the club to a nearby subway. And then we had some wonderful comedians, some from far and some from nearby.

Well, that's cool. And you plan on doing this for the foreseeable future?
Yeah, probably.

It bears your name so I assume you had quite a role in putting it all together.
Yes, I assume the same thing.

And this all took place in New York?
Yeah, in Brooklyn. Park Slope, near my home.

Okay, cool. In the past nine months, you've also put out a book, you've toured the world with Flight of the Conchords, and now you have this new record, God is a Twelve-Year-Old Boy with Asperger's. My question is, are you an insatiable project monster? Is there anything that might stop you from working?
Um, well things could prevent me from working.

Certainly, you might break a leg…
Exactly. But do I enjoy projects and working? Yes.

Has this been a particularly busy year for you?
Well I mean, it depends on how you look at it. The book was written over a period of years; it just happened to come out this year. The album was recorded last year and then edited this year.

This is all a farce, a ruse; nothing happened to you in 2009.
Lots of things have. I'm shooting a TV show right now and did a festival. But it's a culmination over a period of time and I am constantly working on stuff. It's not like I did it all in June. It's an endless whirlwind of entertainment.

It's amazing. I'm glad you're working so much. We've covered a lot of ground here about your current projects. What's next for Eugene Mirman?
Well, right now I'm recording Delocated, which is on Adult Swim.

Yeah, y'know we don't get that up here, which is frustrating.
You can find it online if you need to. But it's still what's next for me, even though you don't get it.

Y'know, the government or someone has done this. I can't get streaming videos to work because apparently they're "not available in my region."
Oh, that's terrible! Well, then I won't tell you about it because it'll only upset you because of how wonderful it is! It's a show I do that stars Jon Glaser and, there's probably other stuff I'm working on. So much stuff, can't even remember.

It's because you're an insatiable project monster.
I am an insatiable project monster. That's a very, very accurate description.

Will there be another season of Flight of the Conchords?
I don't know but my guess is probably not.

Probably not?
If I had to guess, which is the only way I could decide. I think HBO would want to but I feel like Bret and Jermaine live abroad and I don't know if they want to do it as much. You could ask them. Actually, you probably can't because I don't think they like doing interviews. So yes, the answer is "probably not" but maybe.

Okay, probably not but maybe. That's fine.
Not only is it fine, it's accurate.

It's also a little vague.
Well, I would say 'no' but because I can't categorically say no; I have to say "but maybe."

Yes, I appreciate that…
Exactly, but the answer really is no.

All right, thank you for going on the record and saying 'no.'
'No.' 'But, you never know.'

Is Canada bothering you in any way?
No, not really, why?

Well, I know you're a fan of Canada and an expert in Canada-U.S. relations. I think. And you like Canada don't you?
Sure, who doesn't like Canada?

And you have roots here don't you? You used to come to Ottawa all the time?
Sure, as a kid I did. I came there a lot but I don't have any roots or any family there now. And I've only been there for a few days at a time. I enjoy Canada and have been to more parts of Canada than probably many Americans in general.

That's through your work as a comedian.
Yeah through my work as a comedian. And then through my work as a child.

Oh! Child labour, that's terrible.
No, meaning just being a child.

I understand. Do you have any plans that might bring you back up here?
No, nothing yet but I'm looking forward to it.

The last time you were here, Massey Hall, and the time before that, the Horseshoe, which is very different. The Horseshoe: very tiny; Massey Hall: not.
Yes, that's because one of the times I was with Flight of the Conchords who make the venue decisions.

Is it fair to say that show has changed your life a little bit?

Not at all?
Okay wait, yes, it's fair to say it's changed it a little bit. Yeah, people certainly know me from it, so, okay, yes. I like that I had to think about it and you changed my mind. Yeah, that show has changed my life a little bit.

Well, it's too bad that it's probably, maybe not gonna be back.
Yeah. It would be great for me if it was.

At the same time, you're pretty busy because, as we've already established, you're insatiable. You have a lot of work to do.

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