Eugene Mirman Interview
You just left the stage. Is this just another night for you or do you still get nervous?
It just depends, because I’m working stuff out. I’m like “O.K. that worked… I need to move that there…”
How much of it are you thinking about when you’re actually on stage as opposed to when you get off?
I think about it a lot, but each show is a different…trying certain slight different things. I’ll try a different version and rephrase it or something. I’m doing like 6 shows this weekend, but to me it’s like, oh I switched that little thing out…
Do you have rules for how you eliminate and keep material?
I don’t really have rules because I might return to it in a year, look at it and say “Oh yeah… I really like that joke”. It just depends. I’m taping a special in three weeks, so my main concern is for it to work in three weeks.
Where is the special?
It’s for Comedy Central and we’re taping in San Francisco.
No, but I did do a pilot with a friend of mine a few years ago that never ended up being made. I’ve got a show for Comedy Central that I’m working on. It’s like a fake network, like Oprah, but mine. We handed it in two days ago. I’ll find out in a month and a half or so.
Is that how you pitched it to them?It wasn’t quite like that, it kind of happened through a conversation. It came out of this parody comedy festival I do in New York. One year, after the opening night, we made up a network and had them sponsor the show and had a bunch of friends make fake T.V. shows. At some point I met with Comedy Central and they asked if I’d ever considered making this thing a show. So we went back and shot twelve minutes, they liked it, said “Okay… shoot more”, now we’re handing in the second round, the full pilot.
Sort of. It’s easier to compare the first years to the first sets. The difference is that you write things how you are imagining it, in a really verbose way, think you’re going to memorize, say it conversationally. But then when you actually start talking you’re like “That’s not how I speak… that’s not how anyone speaks”. Nobody speaks with these weird, long words and super thought out nuances. It’s way too complicated. What you do is think of what you think is funny about that and really pare it down, tell it like a normal story, with beats and pauses. You know I majored in comedy in college, so I did a one hour stand up act as my thesis. Not that I do any of those jokes, but a lot of the types of things and the way that it was structured is still very much how I do it now. It’s just more conversational and different, not as many things that are funny to a 21-year-old in college with a very particular world, but there are a few jokes that I’ve done on Conan.
How have you been able to stick with doing stuff that is not traditional?
When I was in college, I did a weird fake thing with a guitar. I used to have fake fortune cookies where I made up silly things. I really do write things and leave them in bars, it’s an actual thing, though it has the same elements. It doesn’t matter because part of it is just…if you wouldn’t laugh at napkins or whatever, then I wouldn’t do it. I think of something that I think is funny, I try it, if people laugh, I keep it. If they don’t, I try to fix it. If I can’t, I get rid of it. To me it’s really just “do people laugh?”
Have you been having fun in Atlanta?
I shot a machine gun and a bunch of hand guns which I’ve never shot in my life. We were heading to Adam Reed’s offices, and he was like, that’s a gun range, so I went. Part of it is also an art gallery, there’s all these paintings and then there’s the range, everyone was super nice and showed us how to use all the guns. When am I going to ever have a chance to shoot a machine gun? Probably not for quite some time, so that was really fun and crazy.
Did other people have machine guns or just you?
Anyone who wanted to try it could.
Couldn’t you have just turned it to the side and mowed people down?
It’s powerful enough where I don’t think you need to do tricks with a machine gun to have fun.
Atlanta in general seems really fun and the comedy scene here seems really involved and supportive. I think it’s a really good to start doing comedy before cities like N.Y. or L.A., though I think eventually, you have to move to one of those. That is unless you fortuitously get on a show, there’s stuff that’s made here and Chicago, Boston, so it’s not impossible to do it without moving. I know lots of people who lived in various cities and made connections, but I think in general, to get opportunities, you have to go to places where people will see you and give you jobs. It’s almost mathematical.
The risk is higher, but the reward is greater…
Well, I don’t know if the risk is higher because the chances of getting a T.V. show out of a city that isn’t N.Y. or L.A., or meeting people who will give you a web series, or connecting with a record label…well..I think of the risk as much lower if you go because your actual chances of success are much higher. I think the idea of staying in a city outside of those, not that you can’t succeed, is riskier.
When was it time for you to go to New York?
In 2000.I had done Aspen and Conan, was like “I’m never going to be offered a job if I stay in Boston”. I realized I had to move. I’d been getting stuff and could’ve have stayed but so much of what I do and what I’ve gotten is simply because I was in N.Y. doing it a lot.
Does it suck doing these interviews, talking to people?
It’s literally, totally fine and I do it a lot. It just actually depends on random factors. I generally like to be done after a show. Yesterday we did the interview early, so yeah, it’s like…I enjoy it… it’s fun to talk about comedy. On an off you are working for like 14 hours, and I did shoot a machine gun in between, so at some point you just kinda want to go like “Uhh… like my friend just came in from L.A. to do the show” and you just kinda want to be done, but I know it’s like 12:30 or 1 in the morning.
Anything upcoming that you’d like to talk about, promote, etc…..?
I’m taping a special but don’t know when it will air, so unless people from Atlanta fly to San Francisco June 21st….I’ll also have stuff in the fall and people should buy it all and if I have a T.V. show, please watch it.