Eugene Mirman | Plays it Straight

"I don’t know what it would be like to actually play guitar. I’ve toured with a lot of comedians and it’s never been like it is for a rock band."


mirman.jpgIt never really feels like Eugene Mirman is making a joke and, for some reason, that is why he’s the funniest son of a bitch with a new record coming out this month on Sub Pop Records.

He increased the odds that he’d bring home that blue ribbon by sheer dumb luck, as it’s not only the lone comedy record the Seattle imprint is putting out during the month of flowers and garden planting, but it’s also the only release the label will have over the next 31 days. That’s not to say that he wouldn’t take all comers regardless of it being a slow or busy month. Band of Horses don’t get laughs, they get riders. James Mercer’s witty and interesting, but he’s not necessarily standup material (I think he said all of two words—outside of song lyrics—the last time I saw the Shins play). Sam Beam’s a stick-in-the-mud comparatively, and you’d never make out the kicker to any of Mudhoney’s one-liners because they’d coat all their jokes with so much goddamn distortion and grungy fuzz that they’d be lost in the cotton. Therefore, Mirman wins. He is the funniest by proxy.

Mirman, the 31-year-old whose family emigrated from Russia when he was a young child, is much like we are. I know he sits around and laughs his ass off at the thinly veiled attempts at marketing products to us, because a lot of his comedy centers around making fun of these methods to get into his wallet. These are things I’m assuming, but you would assume them too if you’d listened to 2004’s The Absurd Nightclub Comedy of Eugene Mirman (out on Suicide Squeeze) or his latest, En Garde, Society! I picture him downing some sort of Jack in the Box meal in front of the six o’clock news making fun of just how hokey and lame all of the anchormen and women are, pasting on smiles and joshing around with the sportscaster for that 15-second segue back into or away from the serious stuff.

He ridicules the little absurdities that we find all around us. On his new album, he points out a fact he learned about Planned Parenthood in New York—that it only costs an extra $30 to be knocked out while you have an abortion performed—then turns it into the silliness that it really is when he asks, “There are literally people out there who are going, ‘Do I want to not remember my abortion or…do I wanna…go…to…Papa John’s?!? On the one hand, I won’t remember my abortion, but on the other hand, I will get to celebrate with three large pizzas.’”

“I’m fascinated by the logic that leads to something,” Mirman said in a telephone interview from his New York home, just hours before he was to pitch a comedy program to a broadband radio channel and a few days before his weekly “Invite Them Up” residency with Bobby Tisdale.

Over the course of his standup career, Mirman has taken interesting paths to get to where he is now—seen as one of the dopest young comics in the country. He’s currently touring with Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, and Maria Bamford on the Comedians of Comedy tour, but doesn’t typically spend much time out hitting comedy clubs. For the most part, Mirman has made his name the same way almost every band of half-washed musicians with a dream does: by getting out in front of rock ’n’ roll audiences. He was originally approached by Yo La Tengo to do some swing state tour dates with them during a recent election year, and soon after that, he opened for the Shins and Modest Mouse. This past winter, he was asked by Cake to join its Unlimited Sunshine Tour with Tegan & Sara and Gogol Bordello.

“Those kinds of tours always depend on things,” he said. “It depends on the sensibility of the audience. I think that if people enjoy certain kinds of music, it turns out that they tend to enjoy the same kind of comedy. Yo La Tengo go to lots of comedy shows and Cake had heard my album, so that’s why they asked me to come on that tour. I don’t ever think of myself as any kind of a rock star. I don’t know what it would be like to actually play guitar. I’ve toured with a lot of comedians and it’s never been like it is for a rock band. Maybe for us to get the same feeling, we could burn down a building, then play guitar in front of the building and hit a cop.”

When he started mulling over the idea of recording another CD of material, he found a partner in Sub Pop through the old it’s-not-what-you-know-it’s-who-you-know tactic—though his sick, twisted mind is a contributing factor to this finish, too.

“I’ve known them for a while,” he said. “My agent has a lot of Sub Pop clients, and when I was thinking about doing a second record, I thought they would be interested in putting it out. It was kind of like asking a friend if they wanted to do it.

“I don’t know if making a CD is the right way to go, but it’s what I’ve chosen to do. I’m using the CD as the only way I get out there. The way it is with television is that I might pitch something and then people pay you to write a couple episodes or a pilot and then it doesn’t go anywhere. But with a CD, you can record it and just sell it and you’ve made something.”

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