Comedian Eugene Mirman
The Bulls eye with Jesse. Thorn is a production of maximum fun dot Org and is distributed by NPR. I'm Jesse Thorn. It's Bullseye Art. You know Eugene Merman. By his voice he plays gene on Bob's Burgers also on adult twins D. located where he played give Guinea Mirror Ski Russian Hitman and aspiring. Stand up in real life. Great stand up comedian for ten years. He ran the Eugene Merman Comedy Festival in New York City. The festival was absurd and brilliant. There was the time that IRA glass got super hammered on stage. They were sessions with a licensed therapist in a bouncy house. The history of the festival is recounted in the new documentary. It started as a joke in comics. Kristen Schaal Kumail Nanjiani. And Reggie Watts talk about how. Brooklyn's ought comedy scene. Grew up around the festival but it's also a story about Eugene and his family moved to La. He stayed behind on the east coast his wife. Katie was battling cancer. She died earlier this year. It's beautiful touching documentary with plenty of laughs to make things go down here. Here's a bit of Eugene Merman. Performing stand up at the final farewell show at the Eugene. Mirman Comedy Festival recently. Told me that when we were in elementary school our teacher told her to not be my friend because I was a loser. That's the eighties for you. And then to prove it. She showed her my test scores. I know what I get that you could show a test that proves that someone is bad at math. But what's the test that proves someone is a loser like what's your favorite food and I was like sour cream. Who's your favorite band? My Rab I kid is Eugene Mervyn. Welcome back to Bullseye. It's nice to talk to you. Thank you very much for having me. Are you talking to me from Cape Cod I am? I'm on Cape Cod right now. In my home talking to you you have to Cape Cod of few years ago. It's an unusual show-business destination How did you end up living there? I I now only focused on recreating one crazy summer. So it's a very move so at the time. Now I don't know twenty fourteen or so my wife and I bought a house here on Cape Cod with sort of the idea that one to be able to see family who's in Massachusetts More to be closer to family. And then when we moved here full-time from Brooklyn which was you know. Probably actually half a year after that. It was with the idea that we would eventually be in the Boston area And sort of split time in we are. I am with my son Partially in Somerville now. Was there a reason that you ended up committing to it fulltime? Yeah it was. I mean there were several reasons. One was that That Katie had terminal cancer and we wanted to be near family That we also wanted to have a son and a child who turned out to be a son It just made sense since we had bought a house on Cape to live in that house and be closer to family so it was a decision to be near family and also not far from where she was going to get treatment which was in Boston and then eventually to be in the Boston area. It's both the time to reconfigure your life and I imagine also like kind of a difficult time to reconfigure your life when you and your wife find out that she has terminal cancer like it's a it's a really big change that's necessary but also you know what a what a hard time to do it. You know what I mean. Yes yeah we did a lot of the things that I guess I mean I guess moving is very. It's stressful But seems seems not a stressful in comparison to terminal cancer. That's very fair. Yeah Yeah I mean yeah. There's like a list of things are stressful. We did a lot of them. We really tried to tick off all the stuff. The could stress people out the one thing that we never got to together was the pandemic. Yeah it's tough. How are you holding up? I am not a fan of the pandemic. I'LL BE HONEST. I'm doing okay but I don't like it and I look forward to it being over in. I don't know one to eighteen months against are the things that you've found in this weird circumstance that you weren't expecting to find in a certain way so much of what we were doing before doing on the Cape is in ways you know sort of what what I've been doing in the years past is partially what I'm doing now. I don't know that I've found I think that right now. There's just a certain unknown like you know will will things open up in two months in more. Will there be some treatments like will are hospitals. Like there's just so much uncertainty that I find that uncertainty with something that we had lived with for six years essentially I mean Katie had had cancer and then it went away through treatment and surgery and then it came back and when it came back it was terminal and her life expectancy was sort of two to five years and she lived for six. And we you know sort of lived month-to-month because we knew that you know that was about how much time it would take for things to you know if she switch treatments or if a treatment stop working you take a month or two kind of to see if the new treatment was working or not and we rarely plan things for more than a month in advance so so in that sense. I think one of the things you talked about this is that I did expect for there to be. You know this idea of figuring out how to deal with grief and how to you know help. Ali helped me. You know and then it's like now we're sort of in a similar situation where it's you know again sort of month-to-month except it's because of a pandemic do you have other family with us or just the two of you we have is on the Cape. Our our our nanny is is here and she's at home corentin with her daughter but but she comes and helps so I don't have any I mean there's family in Massachusetts but I'm it's basically are are sort of little bubble I mean even just just to have a person comes sometimes. It feels like a big difference to me. Having person come sometimes is is is incredible. It is yeah no it's It is great Yeah I think that you know if these energy of like this too dour way but yes probably get less our eventually just sort of ended up. Starting I don't know it's just GonNa be like people. Were like. The idea of people driving aimlessly in their cars being like I was already depressed like this is not helping. I met this interview. This was a comedy show. And don't you have one like what's one nice thing that's happened in? Nothing piece in there is none. No but I have been cooking a lot Because I'm not allowed to go anywhere because of the pandemic I mean I like cooking. I mean I've been I mean successfully Looking up local farms and I found one. Not Far Away that delivers so I've today. I got some sausage and chicken hearts in eggs. I'm not a lunatic But that's what they had but it so I'm doing fun. Projects like ordering chicken hearts and fake. Imagine also figuring out what you do with chicken hearts. Oh you know you grill them. I didn't have. I didn't have chicken recipe that I knew offhand though I've made them before one of the stories in your documentary started as a joke. Which is nominally about the comedy festival that you put on for a decade Eugene Merman. Comedy Festival it started as a joke being reference to the fact that the festival itself started as a joke is that you're a comedian. Who has always done on goofy material? That is not about you personally. Become very much comes from your personal perspective but is not a lot of stories about the life of Eugene Merman in Eugene Merman. Bit unless you you know started writing ridiculous letters to someone and seeing what the replies would be or something. One of the stories in this is in this final festival. You're you're actually working on a little bit of material that is both that and also about this real thing that you were living through your wife's illness how did how did it change your working life. When you're when your wife was sick enough that it was like Gosh everyday counts. Also you know you're a professional comedian. You work the road for living. Yeah I mean to a degree in the truth. Is Mike career involved a lot of different things so anything from recording Bob's Burgers to during doing stand up to you know I did a podcast for awhile. In the truth is I sort of adjusted things and also once our son was born you know I- towards significantly less because I was you know basically the primary caretaker you know. I would do stand up lake. I mean I I would. I would do some stop some stuff locally or I would you know I would sort of like I did the longest thing. I did was a tour for a few for three and a half weeks in the UK with with flight of the conchords. Now maybe two years ago and other than that I did very few shows actually or would do little stints here and there you know we. We tried to mean again at every given point. You're just trying to make the best decision you can. So why toward a great deal less and was home a lot more? But you know part of that Wilson Moving to Cape Cod that that was sort of the expectation anyway. Was it harder for you to find space in your life or defined space in your life to be a goof and generate the kind of goofy stuff that you do on stage well part of it. Is that everything you know? It's true that my standup isn't necessarily that personal always but was sort of about things happening in my life and then so much of my life had increasingly become about sort of you know having cancer be part of it that it felt like it was in there were funny things and things to joke about in. Katie and I joked about lots of things you know you know there was also in twenty fifteen. I put out an album that was nine volumes and a lot of ridiculous stuff and we were recording it in two friends matt savage in Christian recorded in Boston and it had a lot of really really silly things ought of things so in that sense it was an outlet for doing really silly stuff during this time and then yet I mean I think that you just found different outlets but yes I was. I mean it was just sort of focused on being at home more than you know Stand up why do you think you spent a lot of time and effort in the last few years especially together a comedy festival. That was not by all accounts not particularly profitable. And maybe the maybe. The math didn't Stack up if you're matching dollars. Two minutes why was it important to you I mean in general. I think community always been important to me and you know working with friends and so Julian I love doing it but she had lived moved to Massachusetts tonight also moved to Massachusetts in so it you know I think became. I think we'd basically did the festival. Maybe twice ten three times when we weren't living in New York. I mean me certainly. I think that we had sort of had this idea of doing it For ten years. I think once we store started doing it. What was sorry. It was the question why why we keep doing get. I think we only did it two more times after we left and also just everyone was leaving. It was really fun. I mean I mean the answer really is that it was very very enjoyable. It was wonderful to see people and friends and work with friends on stuff and it was lovely to go back to New York and in put on these shows and see people so you know but but as everyone moved to. La In his we left. It became increasingly harder. At one point there were very few flights booked in very little travel and very few accommodations. But then you know eventually. We added accommodations and travel for us. And you know there were just a lot of logistics aside from all the sort of silly stuff we would do so you know. The reason we kept doing it was because it was enjoyable than the reason we stopped is because it wasn't exactly feasible in our lives have become more complicated in you know we had kids then. Katie was sick and it was just not fully realistic to put in all this effort in go go back to New York especially when so many people had also moved. What are some of the? Silliest things that you did it a festival that you are happy that you did We had so we had an eye contact booth. We did it. I think a few times which was basically a cardboard box that I would sit in and you could make contact with me and that was really nice One year. Wait hold on. I one Eugene. I want to hear about the other things but you said did I say that it was normal because I keep thinking like you get it night. Contact booths where you can make eye contact with someone. Obviously I think the part that threw me was not even the fact that you did and I contact booth. I've seen many interesting that you've done over. The years it was that you said was nice like it sounds. It sounds so hard to me to make eye contact with people who come up to your booth. What was mostly that? There was just a slid in it. And you could you know the only part that was Unpleasant is sometimes people would come right to it and just stare at me like it was a staring contest. When the point of it was just to make eye contact and move on I think we eventually some year. I think we did it like three times. And maybe the last year I had to put like a velvet rope or something so that people stop breathing into my I Yeah it was but it was fun because because also like a lot of it was just here people being like what is that. I I think that's Eugene is that Eugene would make contact. We also had an awkward party bus which was a pretty fun party bus and I made a a really great mix and every other song with the Harry Chapin Song and also our friend Theresa who is an actress sat on the bus crying and I had a lot of people. Come up to me. You know there was a sign that said Awkward Party Bus And I had a lot of people come up to be on the bus. It was really weird like there. Was someone crying and music kept changing. Legat with yet is awkward right but it felt somehow like it was an accident two people which was very enjoyable that for some reason even though he said exactly what it was they still were like high. It seems weird here with it. Hard to live somewhere else. After you had invested a lot of your heart into a community that was both both kind of aesthetically driven or personality driven that there was a community of people of like minded artists but also geographically focused that it was like people who lived in New York and especially in in Brooklyn was hard to leave behind What was I think? Really hard as actually leaving the people that are still there behind but so many of my friends had moved to l. a. and so much of the scene in that sense was changing in terms of like for a long time going to shows met also meeting up with your friends and seeing your friends and spending time with them but then as many of the move you know and your life sort of change than you know you you know have a family or eventual family. Then like you know much. Bigger difference in my life was like having a child than than moving to Cape Cod from New York. Innocence because you know I was learning I would have been largely home anyway So so I think that by the time we were moving also by the time we were moving so much in a sense it changed in in our priorities. Were sort of different but yeah it was in a sense. Hard to leave people the end. Obviously the sort of like you know majesty of New York but By the time also like we were coming here. I was like I'm going to if I bought a chair. I could put it anywhere like I don't know if the throw out a bed because I have a chair just a New York. We're just in our apartment was like lovely it had it had the two balconies. There was like a nice deck. You could sit outside. It was it was like you know. I don't know like you could. You could have ten people outside or something like that. So that's like very pleasant and I remember by Bob. Seeing our apartment And just being like. Wow this is like a really nice student apartment which it feels like not wrong you you know what I mean so so. There's just something to like. I have a yard in a swing set here for Ali and like I have a little firepit and it's an it's lovely and also a lot of my friends and family are in Massachusetts. And so you know I I. There is somewhat of element of leaving. You know a beloved professional community behind but there's also trains And we would go visit and people would come and visit us and you know I had when I first moved to New York in two thousand. I remember missing. You know a lot of my friends in Boston a lot and then I was like wait. I can just go there. It's just it's very close by so I think that in general I would put effort into the things that were important to me which says so you know that's that's sort of sit so it was a in one way heart leave. New York but it was also really great to have space in have friends and family able to visit on the Cape more with Eugene Merman. Still to come after the break. We'll ask him what it was like saying goodbye to the Gene Merman comedy festival and what. He has in store for the future. It's Bullseye for maximum fun. Dot Org and NPR. We're spending more time at home than ever before. So now's a great time to finally adopted dog right. Socialization is going to be harder. Because socialization and social distancing Are Definitely at odds. So before you decide to adopt a canine companion during quarantine. Listen and subscribe to. Npr's life kit extra coming thanks. These are real podcast listeners. Not Actors we took the identifying marks off this podcast. Just tell me your impressions. It's really sexy. My first thought is like radio lab definitely something popular yet really popular a hit. Show me to like. Does Tina Fey have podcast or the Marx brothers. Yes this podcast. Radio lab but hosted by the Marx brothers and sexy like shoddy it reminds me of shoddy exactly and they're all writing in a BMW close but not quite take a look behind these panels and then watch this rocket blast off into space. Ooh and there's the pies we made you now. Let's show you the podcast Jordan. Jesse go Jordan. Jesse go hold on. Oh that was five hundred and fourteen. Jd Power and associates podcasting awards. That was really scary. But compelling I guess I should definitely subscribe to Jordan Jesse go Yeah I'd say so Jordan Jesse. Go a real podcast. Welcome back to Bullseye. Jessie Thorn Eugene Merman. Is My guest. He's a stand up comic and actor. You've heard his voice on Bob's burgers where he plays gene. He's also worked on Archer d located and flight of the conchords for ten years. He and Julie Clem. Smith ran the Eugene Merman Comedy Festival in New York City. It was a fun. Weird celebration of Brooklyn's alternative comedy scene. The festival is being commemorated in documentary directed by Clem Smith. It's called it started as a joke. Have you worked on Bob's burgers recently? Do you do you have a booth at your house or you usually go somewhere like so. They sent us like the the Mike. I'm recording now with They sent a stuff just for eighty are for additional dialogue recording so just like a few lines You know to fill in for episodes recorded the stuff. We're recording right now. Or what before? The lockdown was I think largely for next year for episodes for next year. Because I think it's sort of takes nine twelve months to kind of make an episode so I haven't gone in. I do have a booth. We had made in Somerville but not with the intention of recording like stuff for television with the intention of just making weird fun. Things with friends So I I don't know but you know I mean we. We were recording and I was recording in. You know basically we record sort of cure three times a month essentially for for much of the year. Bob's Burgers is a really special show. it's I mean it's for one thing really funny but I think also. It has a sweetness in the heart of it that attracts a really special kind of fan. At least that's my my perception from from the outside that there is this For one thing a lot of kids you know. It's a lot of kids entree into sophisticated comedy but also just just various kinds of of Sweden's just sweethearts love the show. Because it's such sweet show and it's so rare to get a show that has that kind of heart that is also sufficient funny to somebody who really cares about sophisticated comedy And I wonder if you ever if you ever get a chance to interact with the people to whom the to to the show means a lot I do I mean at Kahn. Various random like a at at conventions in general people. Are you know? Send me messages. And Icy people in the world Who say that it that it means a lot to them Yeah I you know I think a lot of that is you know obviously Loren Bouchard who created the show in sort of put it altogether he cast each of us you know and then we together made the demo for Bob's Burgers Over a period of a few years and yeah I I love that. It's something that like families. Watch together and that a lot of people find comforted and they find it to be very sweet you know. I think that's a really ego gray quality of the show. I swear I wasn't leading into this because I only just remembered it just now but you know you were on. I I the coaster the second. An-and another podcast called Judge John Hodgman and there was an episode that you were on and the situation was that a a Dad Dad and his daughter. I believe it was had seen you like in a store. Something like a grocery store or something at the Milwaukee public market. There you go and not said anything because the daughter was embarrassed you know she was. She was like twelve or thirteen. Sure and yet John Hodgman John Hodgman the host of the show. Got these two on the show. They laid out this thing. I think the DAD was trying to be Was trying to be a pushy cool dad and say that she should have talked to you or something and Hodgman called you on the phone and and when you called in the sweet girl and she was really lovely very bright She was in tears. Because because you were talking to her and it was the sweetest thing in the world and you know like we get one we do live shows. We have sometimes kids come to the live shows. Often you know ten twelve year olds is probably our top kid. Demographic sometimes teenagers and they're like always wearing a BOB's Burgers T. Shirt you know what I mean like. It's lease really. It's these really sweet gifted kids. You know what I mean. Yes we're inspiring a new generation of geniuses. Think you might not be inspiring them at the at the very least you're Buyer here for show to watch after school or whatever you know what I mean like what. What a wonderful role to get to play in the entertainment industry it is I mean and also I mean it's you know it's recorded with friends. I've known a lot of the people for a long time. You Know Lauren known when from when he lived in Boston and worked on doctor. Katz Yes so it's you know it is a really wonderful show you know to work on I do feel very fortunate For that into met these people and get to work with them and then it also means so much to all these people making this documentary. Did you feel View feel proud of the work that you've done on this festival over this over this decade. Yes you know Julian I. It's you know I say this because Julie's really she's as much the festival as as I am and she directed the movie but because she directed the movie she could insert herself as much as she wanted but I you know we'd always wanted to sort of documented in some way and then as we were ending it it made sense To try to capture this in Olympia wingate. Who was my manager and now is a producer you know really helped spearhead getting the documentary made and it was. It's you know It is really nice to have this sort of document of both this time in Brooklyn the scene and then also of Katie You know so it's yeah In general it is. It is really amazing. Having this thing exists in the world you put so much into this festival particularly over such a long period of time and I can only imagine how hard the decision as to say. I'm done with that. Do you feel like the end of this festival and the story that this film tells is also You know carries the possibility of opening up for new things. Yeah I mean I guess it's funny because to me Julian I still do stood lots of stuff together so I see that is ending. You know but we'll probably still do events and we'll probably still do shows and you know we will probably start a small comedy record label And maybe do a podcast or you know other projects together so I see that as you know ending because that's you know it's like I'm still friends with with people from with my closest friends are still from college even though colleges over that doesn't mean that like none of can talk interact so. I do think that the community that was fostered in in in that time and in Brooklyn exists and I'm close friends with many of those people in many of those people came and visited Us in Somerville and in the last you know months of Katie's life and would come here often to the Cape and hang out so I think like obviously things move on but it isn't like a clear like will know more jokes now. Now now we live on Cape Cod and we hunt fish. And we're very serious like I. Julia lives an hour from here in closer slightly than that to me in Somerville and so we'll continue to do things and you know me and my friends Matt and Christian Who made the album in twenty fifteen are starting to work on like kids stuff other projects together so I think like You you know. Find ways to work with people and continue to do stuff. That's enjoyable. I mean mostly what's been through line for me is working on projects with friends and I'm continuing to do that though. It is true that I probably won't put on the Eugene Mirman comedy festival in Brooklyn Eugene. Thank you so much for taking the time to be on Bullseye. It was nice to get to talk to you again. And it's been a long time. Thank you very much. Thank you so much for having me. Eugene Merman the documentary of which he is a subject. It started as a joke is available to rent or purchase now. That's the end of another episode of Bullseye. Bullseye is produced out of the homes of me and the staff of maximum. Find in and around Los Angeles California this week. Hey seuss my colleague. Shaved his beard off then kept it that way for a day before shaving the rest of it off. We're all going a little nuts homes in apartments. The show is produced. By speaking into microphones. Our producer Kevin Ferguson. Hey Soussan Brosio is our half bearded associate producer. We get help from Casey. O'brien Jordan. Howling at maximum fund are interstitial. Music is by the Great Dj. W Dan Wally. Our theme song is by the wonderful. The go team thanks to them and their label Memphis Industries for letting US use it. They're working on a new record. So look forward to that. We've been making this show for a very very long time. With hundreds of episodes archives that Maximum Fund Dot Org? If you'RE A BOB's Burgers Fan. We've had several conversations with H Jon. Benjamin who plays Bob on the show? We also talked to Kristen Schaal. Who Plays Louise? If you like adult swim we did a great interview with Jenna Friedman who created the insane documentary series soft. Focus for that network. You can also keep up with us on facebook. Twitter and Youtube just searched for bullseye with Jesse Thorn. And I think that's about remember all greg. Radio hosts have a signature sign off Bullseye. With Jesse Thorn is a production of maximum fund dot org and is distributed by NPR.