Eugene Mirman (Flight of the Conchords, Bob's Burgers, Delocated) performs at the Northstar Bar (2639 Poplar St.) on Sat. March 5. We caught up with him for a chat.City Paper: Have you performed in Philly much?
Eugene Mirman: I've played lots of music venues in Philly, I've never played a comedy club there. I've played the Northstar, TLA, Troc, Khyber ... I like doing comedy in a theater or seated rock club. A lot of comedy clubs have an affectation to them that's sort of, I guess cheesy ... or there's a two drink minimum. But at the rock clubs, you buy a ticket to a show and you can get very very drunk if you like, but you don't have to.
CP: Are there any particularly bad shows you want to fess up to?
EM: I did have one time that I was supposed to do eight shows in Las Vegas, it was just going to be short sets before the headliner. It was very funny though because there was an insane mismatching between me and the audience who were mostly on respirators. I think I mentioned the Internet (it was 2001), and you could see in their eyes right away like, "They don't know what the Internet is." Anyway, I only ended up doing two shows. The guy that was hosting tried to help me. He asked, "Do you have any Jewish jokes or fart jokes?" He was really trying to help me, he was trying to think of anything I can do. It was so bad that someone else did the rest of the shows.
That's the thing that's awesome about doing comedy in these music venues. Because nobody's there by accident, generally. Everybody who's coming to see comedy there essentially has a very good idea of what they're gonna get. And I don't want an audience to not have fun, so I'd rather them go to a place to find what they like. Which is me.
CP: Tell me about the show you're bringing to Philly?
EM:It's called "Pretty Good Friends." It's a show that me and Julie Smith (executive produce of the Onion TV show) have been doing a long time us and this other woman Caroline Craighead. The three of us have been running this weekly show for five years, and then we started doing these bigger shows, and we put on a festival. We're trying to branch out to other cities. Right now we're just doing Boston to D.C., it's a trial sort of thing. Kumail Nanjiani and Reggie Watts will be on the show with me and since we're still close to NY, there may or may not be other surprise guests at the last minute.
CP: How long have you been performing?
EM: Sixteen years, give or take. I majored in comedy in college, I went to a liberal arts school where you can design your own major. I did a one hour stand-up act as my thesis. I wrote papers on the physiology of laughter and Lenny Bruce's affect on culture. I was always sort of serious about comedy, so instead of spending all that time doing something else, I got to focus on it. There wasn't really a place to do comedy, so I started a weekly comedy show in the basement of my dorm.
CP: What are your thoughts about the Louis CK-style work ethic?
EM: If you're ever visiting a city you've already visited, you need new material. That's why I try to do stuff that I haven't put on CD, or haven't done last time I was in that city. And that's pretty much how the rest of the world does it, they perform an hour show for a year, and then write an entire new hour.
CP: Do you have a sort of 'home away from home' or place to tour where you get a particularly good reception?
EM: Austin is very fun. Boston, Seattle... I don't have one particular spot, usually three to four hundred people know who I am in most of the major cities. Flight of the Conchords was extremely popular. When I was in the Hollywood Bowl performing for sixteen thousand people, I realized how popular Flight of the Conchords really was. I've never been to New Zealand but I imagine I would do pretty well there.
CP: As a comedy major, do you have any broad generalizations to make about The Internet?
EM: The great thing about the internet is that you can just make a thing and put it online, and if it becomes popular, you can have a career. It's no longer in the hands of people who have to figure out what to do with you. Years ago, you'd be seen by industry people and they'd go, "Well, you're very funny but we don't know what to do with you." And now you remove that need for the middle man. So you can become very popular on twitter, and tell people where you'll be performing. You can produce and distribute CD's very cheaply. It's helped my career imensely.
Eugene was asked to do a commencement speech at his alma mater. Check it out:
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