We were there: The Fourth Annual Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival
Wed Sep 21 2011
The Fourth Annual Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival came to the Bell House and Union Hall this past Thursday through Sunday, with its usual blend of knavery and jackassery; following are the ten best things we saw and heard over the course of the weekend.
A petting zoo outside of the Bell House on Saturday. A close second: a free buffet the next night featuring meat from every kind of animal that was featured in the petting zoo.
Yet another iteration of the eternal debate between faith and empiricism. During Thursday's An Evening of Science featuring StarTalk Live, surprise guest (and science devotee) Alan Alda bantered with Hayden Planetarium director and master of the theatrical gesture Neil deGrasse Tyson about the ultimate usefulness of theoretical math. Despite his interest in real-world evidence to explain phenomena such as black holes, Alda capitulated and told the defensive Tyson he didn't want the math to stop coming. Tyson, whimpering like a wounded grade-school child on the playground said, "Well, you acted like it!"
At one point in that same show, on the topic of tampering with Mars' atmosphere to make it livable for humans, Alda questioned the wisdom of doing so, wondering if Mars was not some interplanetary cog in the great cosmic machinery. Kristen Schaal butted in: "Oh, Alan, don't be such a Mars hippie."
Jessica Walter primly articulating the words, "BJ for bus pass?" Before the cast of Archer sat to chat about the show Saturday night, they came forward alone or in pairs to perform some kind of talent. Walter and Chris Parnell were pimped into reading weird or racy Craigslist ads, one of which had the aforementioned subject heading. There were also some nice ones about pet-head amulets and flushing someone's head in the toilet while listening to Hall & Oates.
An "awkward party bus" living up to its name. There were just a few people making hushed conversation along plush seating made for 30 people, free corn dogs, obscure Lou Reed songs playing and a mime rotating around a stripper pole silently, in the back, all by himself.
The Talent Show Presents: The Drunk Show deserves an essay in a theater journal involving A.A., broken social contracts and the stinger cocktail. Suffice it to say, as a cast including Ira Glass and John Hodgman got progressively drunker, the scene got hairy. This quote from Ptolemy Slocum—whose blood-alcohol level was .29—sums it up well: "I want you to go back in time and don't go to this show." At which point Mirman hollered, "No negativity! Only failure!"
While the show was having its happy, drunken phase, Leo Allen was made to wear a beer costume and arm-wrestle his fellow cast members. After a long preamble about John Hockenberry, wheelchairs and how it was best to compete on one's belly, Glass got Allen to join him on the ground and then promptly lost. An audience member loudly (correctly) editorialized, "That was the weirdest thing ever!"
Charming visitor Ron Funches's great joke constructions. He likened raising a child to taking care of someone on too many shrooms while you yourself are on a moderate amount of shrooms. "I'm not all that confident in my decisions," he said, "but I'm pretty sure you should not be eating that mouse pad."
Jon Glaser in a ridiculous wig, flouncing around the stage, vamping about having sex with an empty aluminum can in an absurd Southern accent. Oh, he was impersonating usual Invite Them Up cohost Bobby Tisdale.
"I don't want to be a jerk, but this is the least scientific caviar-eating contest I've ever been in," said Leo Allen during the Food Show, as Mirman scooped heaps of fish eggs into bowls for his contestants and mumbled a few numbers from a scale he couldn't read properly. Allen wins the award for most show-saving zingers throughout the weekend. Even minutes later, as he shoveled caviar into his mouth, he quipped, "I feel like I'm trying to get a millionaire to let me marry his daughter."