I’d like to be a comedian, any advice?
Yes, start writing and performing in the next few months and then do it for ten years. A lot of doing well in comedy is really tenacity, though obviously, try not to be terrible for that first decade.
Who are some of the comedians you liked growing up?
Emo Philips was my favorite comedian growing up. He’s an amazing joke writer and unlike—in both subject matter and performance—any other comic at that time. I also loved Bill Cosby, Steve Martin, Woody Allen, Steven Wright, Bob Goldthwait and a bunch of others. I was put in special ed after lip-syncing a Bill Cosby routine in 6th grade instead of doing a book report. In hindsight, I have no idea why I did that. When I got to college I discovered Lenny Bruce and street-prank duo Coyle and Sharpe, both of whom I greatly admired. Also, I really loved the music and absurdist in-between-song monologues of Robyn Hitchcock.
Would you perform at my birthday party or wedding?
No, sorry. It sounds like it would be very awkward.
Are you the fairy in Demetri Martin’s Comedy Central special?
Yes. I am.
How did you get on Flight of the Conchords?
I met Bret and Jemaine when they came to New York through Demetri Martin (after he did the Edinburgh fringe). I think they thought I would just be given the role of “Eugene,” but I auditioned with the line, “Hi, guys” (which took place in the elevator) and read it three different ways, one of which turned out to be correct.
What are Flight of the Conchords like in person?
They’re as nice in real life as they seem on TV, but they don’t have indoor voices, so they yell everything when they talk. Also, in real life, they both have a limp.
Did you go to high school with me?
Yes, if you went to Lexington High School between 1989 and 1992 in Massachusetts. Otherwise, I’m one of a handful of Americans who are on television the exact amount that makes people in supermarkets think they remember me from their childhood.
You seem very smart, were you really in Special Ed?
Sometimes children are put in special education because they have terrible grades and it’s unclear what the fuck is wrong with them. I was one of those special cases. In Massachusetts it was called “Resource Room” so you didn’t feel retarded (in meaner states, like Texas, it’s called “Retarded Room”). Every day from 7th to 12th grade I spent one or two periods getting help with schoolwork along with other slow or misunderstood children. The ladies who helped us were all very nice.
Is it true that in Ireland they find the word “retarded” very offensive, like the word “cunt” is to Americans?
Yes, it’s true. I am sorry to anyone in Ireland who got offended by the answer in the last question. However, because I was in special ed myself, it gives me permission to use the word “retarded,” just like it’s okay for a black person to angrily mumble the word “Arab” when he’s shopping.
Are you related to Ethel Merman?
In the spirit of creating mystery and rumors like when a youthful Bob Dylan claimed to have been a hobo grifter or whatever, I will lie and say yes, I am—I’m Ethel Merman’s grand-nephew, if that is a thing you can be.
Were you really born in Russia?
Yes, in Moscow. I moved to the US when I was four.
Do you think you would have been a comedian in Russia?
Most likely I would have been Russia’s nicest oligarch, creating pretty-good working conditions while murdering competitors in a kind-hearted way.
If I see you on the street, can I say hello?
Yes, of course, but don’t tell me a very long, weird story.
I also had a bad experience on an airline.
How did you start doing comedy?
Standup was very popular in the 1980s and I loved it and watched it all the time. Towards the end of high school, I decided I wanted to try it. I did a set at a talent show my senior year and then I signed up to perform at Catch a Rising Star in Harvard Square. I wrote on a form that I’d been on stage 12 times (I counted my appearance in the background of Tom Sawyer in 6th grade and some high school theater and improv). I got a post-card a month later telling me my first set would be four days after my 18th birthday on July 28th, 1992.
I heard you studied comedy in college. Really? Did you? Are you an idiot?
I do not fit the medical requirements of being an idiot, though I can be very forgetful and read slowly. But, yes, I did study comedy at University (holy shit! I was just British for that sentence!)
I went to Hampshire College, which is a wonderful school where you can design your own major. I did a one-hour standup act as my thesis and did independent studies on Lenny Bruce’s cultural impact, the physiology of laughter for science, took classes in writing, film, acting, sociology, rise of mass culture, wrote a weekly humor column for my school paper, did a talk radio shows, helped organize weird events, etc and turned it into a comedy degree. Lots of my parents’ friends thought it was wasteful and silly, but they didn’t understand how practical I was being.
I just heard of you yesterday! Are you telling me you started doing standup in 1992?
Sort of, but not quite. It was often many months between shows (not a good way to improve) for the first three or so years. There were very few places to do standup in western Mass—I did sets at college variety shows, Humor Works Comedy Club at Peking Garden on Rt. 9 in Hadley (where Butterfly restaurant is now), the Hadley Pub and eventually started going to Boston and NY to do sets towards the end of college. My senior year I started a weekly show in the basement of my dorm.
There are no open mics where I live. Should I start one or move to NY?
Either way, whatever you think is best, but just start doing comedy and then do it for about 10 years, okay? Though I guess it’s probably good to spend a few years doing standup in a city that isn’t New York or LA.
I once came up to David Cross and said something really weird. I was trying to be funny, but it came off wrong.
I know. I think it’s fine by now.
I like someone in my class but am afraid to tell them?
Just tell them. It won’t matter in five years, but if it works out now, it’ll be wonderful. Everyone feels upset and lonely and it’s better to take the risk than not. The one exception is if you’re sort of a crazy person. If you are crazy, do not approach love interests until you decrease your craziness by 45%.
You tour with bands, right?
Not that much anymore. Sometimes if a band I like asks me to do a show I will do it, but I mostly tour music venues with other comedians. I still do a variety show tour with John Wesley Harding called Wes and Eugene’s Cabinet of Wonders, which features writers, musicians, comedians and the occasional surprisingly good poet.
What bands have you toured and done shows with?
Modest Mouse, Cake, Yo La Tengo, Gogol Bordello, Tegan and Sara, The Shins, She and Him and some others.
Is it true that you really like the Bourne trilogy?
Yes. I think it’s great.
What do you think about them making a fourth Bourne movie without Matt Damon or Jason Bourne?
Sounds weird. I guess we’ll see.
I think I sometimes see you in a commercial for a radio station? Is that you?
Yes, it is me. About seven years ago when I was on tour a company in Atlanta that makes TV commercials for radio stations asked me if I wanted to stop by their studio and record some improv inspired by my Mr. Robot video. I was sort of hesitant, but did it, which turned out to be great, because then I could afford to stay in NY and buy sandwiches. Right now, I think the only places it’s still airing are Wisconsin and Idaho, but who knows.
Would you email my sister and tell her she should break up with her boyfriend?
Maybe. It depends on the situation.
If I buy a Jethro Tull album, which one should I get?
Eugene Mirman is a comedian and hero who lives in Brooklyn, NY. He voices “Gene” on Fox’s hit animated series Bob’s Burgers. is a regular on Flight of the Conchords, Adult Swim’s Delocated, and has two Comedy Central Specials.
Brooklyn resident Eugene Mirman escaped the clutches of Russian communism at the age of four when his family immigrated from Moscow to Lexington, MA (where along with Paul Revere and John Adams he kicked off the American revolution). He attended Hampshire College and designed his own major of Comedy — doing a one-hour standup act as his thesis, for which he was made fun of, don’t worry.
Currently, he does the voice of “Gene” on Fox’s newest hit animated series Bob’s Burgers. In the streets he’s sometimes recognized as Eugene, the landlord, from Flight of the Conchords or from his role as comedian/mobster Yvgeny Mirminsky on Adult Swim’s Delocated. On Aqua Teen Hunger Force he’s Dr. Eugene Mirman and on Home Movies he was Eugene, the Russian foreign exchange student. “Eugene Mirman: An Evening in a Fake Underground Laboratory,” his 2nd Comedy Central Special, aired on the channel in late 2012 and will be released on CD/DVD in February 2013.
Eugene was named Best New York City Comedian by the Village Voice, one of “50 Funniest” by Time Out New York, and one of the 10 best comedians of the last decade by Paste Magazine. He’s released three comedy albums (the last two on Sub Pop records) and an incredibly funny parody-ish self-help book, The Will to Whatevs. Named by Roling Stone as “Hot Twitterer,” Eugene also keeps his 270k+ followers entertained daily.
He is a frequent comedic co-host of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s science radio show and podcast, Star Talk Radio.
Along with Julie Smith and Caroline Creaghead, Eugene created and curates Pretty Good Friends, which began as a weekly comedy show in Brooklyn, but grew into tours, large outdoor shows, runs in Montreal, London, San Francisco and various other projects. Out of these shows, Eugene, Julie and Caroline also created (originally as a joke) the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival, which is now a yearly institution in Brooklyn.
Positive quotes about Eugene
“Best New York Comedian 2009”
“One of the 10 Best Comedians of the Last Decade”
“Eugene Mirman is the funniest man on the planet. That’s not true. But he is really fucking funny.”
“Equal parts Andy Kaufman and Andy Warhol.”
“The man is so consistently, delightfully silly.”
“Mirman has a skewed observational wit rather than a sweaty Friar’s Club shtick … and kills with self-deprecating ease.”
“Best of Albums 2004: The Absurd Nightclub Comedy of Eugene Mirman.”
“Attention world press: I also have written for magazines and newspapers, so I know how hard it is to sniff out a ‘good story.’ Well let me tell you: a good story smells like Eugene Mirman. Not only is he one of the most consistently disarming, low-voiced, and funny people I have ever encountered, but he is also a very warm person who likes to drink scotch and stand near you at bars, and he is a foreign person who came to this land as a child with but one dream: to make people laugh, and thereby gain some kind of acceptance and avoid being deported. He also started a website, so there you have a tech angle as well. You can print what I say and put your name on it, and guess what?: article done. That’s fine with me. The most important thing is that you, and I, and your magazine and/or e-mailing and/or newsletter spread the word about Eugene Mirman, the most heartwarming person I know.”
Management: Olivia Wingate at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Booking: Robin Taylor at Inland Empire Touring at email@example.com or call 718-389-7100. (To perform at your club, theater or college).
Press: For interview requests please contact Kathryn Musilek at Shark Party Media at km (at) sharkpartymedia (dot) com. You can also reach out to Frank Nieto at Sub Pop records at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Sub Pop at 206-441-8441.