Since the sixth annual Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival is set to go down from Sept. 26 to Sept. 29 in Brooklyn, NY, I thought now would be an excellent time to catch up with the man at least partially responsible for the absurdly titled festivities. To be fair, it was actually comedian Mike Birbiglia and producer Julie Smith who, all those years ago, joked about the concept of a festival named after Mirman. More than half a decade since its inception and continued success, however, the name doesn’t sound so bizarre anymore.
“For me this is just a thing me and my friends do that is very fun,” Mirman tells Laughspin about the fest, produced by himself, Smith and Caroline Creaghead. “There’s no significant reason to do this beyond how fun it is.”
At a time when there are more annual comedy festivals in North America than ever before – most of which attract huge corporate sponsors – Mirman’s guiding concept behind the EMCF is refreshingly simple. Comedy— just for the fun of it? Go on…
As in years past, the EMCF will host a handful of events at respected live music and comedy venues Union Hall and the Bell House. Some shows, of course, are fake-themed; it’s a fun take on traditional comedy fests’ compulsion to assign non-fake themes to each of its live offerings so as to convince audience members they’re part of something larger and not just watching comedy shows that exist on lonely, far-off, sad little islands unto themselves. Yes, this year you’ll be able to attend shows like The Urbane Comedy Hour: Non-Stop Courtesy and Culture Through the Prism of Comedy (although, as of this writing, it’s sold out, so maybe try to sneak in?) as well as Comics Marc Maron Will Probably Resent in the Next Couple of Years!
Everyone from veterans like Jim Gaffigan, Kristen Schaal, and Todd Barry to-up-and-comers like Michael Che, Jena Friedman and Mike Lawrence will be peppered into shows— some of which will include non-comedian types like This American Life host Ira Glass and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. (Full lineup here).
The festival will also boast a bounce house (sponsored by YouTube channel JASH), wherein attendees can consult with a therapist whilst bouncing! As of this writing, sponsors could also slap their name on the Official Eye Contact Booth, the Throw a Water Balloon at a Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro or Jack Nicholson Impersonator station, pony rides and a pig roast.
So, yes, the fest is about to happen. But Mirman, himself, is busy beyond the borders of his home borough of Brooklyn. The fourth season of Fox’s animated hit Bob’s Burgers – on which Mirman voices Gene (pictured) – premieres Sept. 29, he’ll be on tour with the aforementioned Schaal and John Hodgman starting Oct. 15 (dates here) and is planning on pitching a travel show to networks. We talk about that and more in what’s below, a portion of my recent chat with Mirman. Enjoy!
Would you ever expand the festival into other boroughs?
I would but I don’t know that it would make sense at this scale. It’s only a handful of shows and it’s not hard to get those shows full. The more likely thing is that we would try to take it on the road more than bring it to Manhattan— since anyone from Manhattan can get on a subway or a cab and come. Much easier than someone who is in San Francisco.
So we wouldn’t necessarily expand it but we might figure out a way to tour it. We already tried it in Seattle and Boston and we’ll probably bring it back to Boston.
What are you most excited about Bob’s Burgers coming back?
I’m mostly just excited that it’s coming back. I think what’s really neat is you can feel it starting to get traction. People seem really excited about the show. A lot of what’s similar about the audience of Bob’s Burgers and Flight of the Conchords is a lot of families watch it. It’s a show that 14-year-olds and 40-year-olds can like. I get a lot of emails from people saying that it’s a thing that they can both enjoy— so that’s always nice. In terms of specific episodes, there’s one where I become a cheerleader, which was a lot of fun to do. The other thing about Bob’s Burgers is that it’s on Fox. It just reaches millions of people in a way that’s not like anything I’ve ever done before.
Are there any plans for Cecil Tunt (pictured) to return to Archer?
I believe there are, yeah. That really would be a question for [Archer creator] Adam Reed, but I really like the idea that I would say I’m definitely coming back in this interview and he would read it and be like, ‘I guess I have to put him back on the show.’
You released a book, The Will to Whatevs: A Guide to Modern Life in 2009. Do you have another book in you?
I really loved writing the book, so I would probably do that again. I would just have to think of something to write about; I’d have to come up with an idea.
So you enjoyed the experience?
I loved the experience. I also spent a while doing it. But it was really fun. I would often write in the mornings or go places a little while to write and it was just a very enjoyable experience.
It sounds like a lot of work.
Yeah, it was a ton of work, but on the other hand— I wrote a book.
What else have you been working on?
Me and Julie [Smith] who does the festival with me, have really been wanting to do a travel show for a very long time. So we made a little demo thing that we shot in our festival in Boston. And we’re going to start pitching a travel show to different networks. So that’s something I’m working on right now— but that will either be or not be a show. I don’t know if it’ll become a thing. I’d like it to be. So if someone reading this is in the industry, give me a TV show.
What’s the angle of the show? Why do I want to watch it?
You don’t, I just want to make it. I’m sorry if I didn’t make that clear.
Have you seen Larry the Cable Guy’s show on History? It’s also a travel show.
I saw part of it. I believe he was in Vermont and someone was teaching him about shirts. I don’t know if it was about applying for a job or maybe he was learning about etiquette. It was maybe the craziest thing I’ve seen because it was a person who clearly knows about shirts pretending not to know about shirts. And it’s not a prank show. You have a real person pretending not to know about collared shirts. It’s just really weird. I found it slightly baffling. I didn’t know what it was or why it was happening. The show seemed extremely unnecessary.
Most shows are pretty unnecessary, though.
Yeah, but this one in particular. I feel like I used to watch a lot of History Channel and then at some point it changed from being about history. No one watching that segment could have become more informed about what a shirt is. It was so weird and not a prank; that’s what I want to stress. It was a guy for no reason pretending to not understand how clothing works in society. And then a person explaining to him how it works. But their viewership is all people who know how clothing works. No person doesn’t know how clothing works. Does this make sense? Am I conveying how unnecessary his show is? I’m not mad at him, but I do slightly hope he apologizes for it.
For the entire show or for that segment?
Just for that bit. I don’t know the rest of the show. Maybe the rest of the show is him learning about World War II in a way that’s really great. I want him to apologize for that one clip I saw— that I might even be describing wrong…but I still want him to apologize.