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Culturemob Chats with Comedian Eugene Mirman

Eugene Mirman photo by Brian Tamborello

In advance of the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival coming to Seattle March 29-31, I had a chance to chat with Eugene Mirman on the phone. His choosing Seattle to put on his festival has as much to do with his being on Sub Pop as it does his general opinion of Seattle. He likes walking around and checking out record stores, he likes Pike Street Market, and he has friends here. Friendship, it seems, has a big impact on Mirman’s career.

“The people that I produce this with,” says Mirman, “we basically do this for fun.” He continued, “We reach out to friends, or people who we’ve worked with a lot, which is basically what the festival is.” One of the people who he likes to work with is Ron Funches. “We’re flying him in. In a sense we’re using a somewhat local comic.” (He’ll be up from Portland earlier in March also, to headline Laff Hole on March 7th) There may be some Seattle comics at Mirman’s shows as well, but there’s no confirmation from Mirman on that.

The festival itself will be four different shows at the Crocodile in Belltown, and The Neptune Theater in the University District. Asked why he prefers performing in music venues over comedy clubs, he had lots of well-reasoned answers. He mentioned how his agent is a music booker, and how that’s steered him to tour with bands. He also said that it’s a better profit margin at seated music venues, and how he felt that many comedy clubs are cheesy. Mostly though, Mirman tends to play at music venues instead of comedy clubs, he says, “[Because] nobody is going to the Crocodile or the Neptune by accident to see some comedy show there. They’re probably fairly informed on what they’re going to see.”

The shows within the festival will be fairly disparate, despite all of them featuring at least one stand-up. The Talent Show, which will take place at the Crocodile on March 31st, is one of the shows that Mirman mentioned specifically. “It’s a very fun show, where you never know what will happen on it.” He recommended that I look it up online to see the time Ira Glass of This American Life got very drunk at a former Talent Show. “Nothing like that will happen [in Seattle], but It’s really fun, because it’s controlled chaos.”

Another big draw for the festival will be the live Star Talk on March 30th at the Neptune. “[Star Talk is] a great hybrid of science and comedy,” said Mirman. The way the show came together was one of the producers, who works at NASA, went to one of Eugene’s comedy shows and later suggested that he co-host. It was a year between when he was offered and when anything came together. He met with Neil, and they recorded some stuff in his office as an experiment. They did a live podcast at the EMCF in Brooklyn, and then two others. This one in Seattle will be the first one out of town.

Eugene Mirman photo by Brian Tamborello

It can’t hurt that Emerald City Comicon is going to be happening at the same time as EMCF. “It’s a coincidence, but a happy one,” said Mirman. He’s a comic book fan, and he’d like to attend while he’s in town, but he’s not sure if there will be time. “There’s writers who I really like that are going to be there.” Perhaps there will be some sightings of Eugene at the con.

Eugene has a lot coming up after Seattle: a tour with Andrew Bird, and Bob’s Burgers premieres on March 11th. Delocated is airing now on Adult Swim, and Eugene’s working on a pilot for Comedy Central. I asked him if stand-up is his end goal, or if he saw it as a stepping stone on to a sitcom career. Kind of a hack question, right? He likes being a stand up, but also he likes doing different things. He’s on Bob’s Burgers and Delocated. He enjoyed writing a book. “It’s part of many things I like doing.”

He didn’t quite let me off the hook for that question though. “I like the idea that theoretically you are asking me if I’m self-actualized as a stand-up. So if I was like, ‘Yes! I’ve done it, and I need nothing else! I only function for greater things beyond myself now.’” Fair enough. On the phone Mirman doesn’t seem too different than he does on stage. He has a sharp mind, and everything he says is potentially funny. It seems Eugene is kind of always Eugene.

Asked if his style of performance has changed much over the years, Eugene said that it basically boils down to him being more experienced. “A lot of what I do is more of what I do.” Somewhere in that sentence, I’m pretty sure there’s is a Zen koan. His shows will make you laugh. Go to them.