Eugene Mirman tells us about the final year of his comedy festival

The oddball stand-up and Bob's Burgers star brings the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival to NYC for the last time
Eugene Mirman
Photograph: Courtesy Seth Olenick
By Tolly Wright |
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More than 10 years ago, alternative stand-up star Eugene Mirman (Gene on Bob’s Burgers) launched a festival bearing his name as a lark. Now the annual celebration of Brooklyn’s most jubilantly silly comedians is raging into its final year, with rising NYC comedians taking the mic, along with favorites like Jo Firestone, Janeane Garofalo and Wyatt Cenac. The final edition of the fest includes stand-up showcases like “These Comedians Would Rather Buy a New Air Conditioner Than Repair Their Old One,” live podcast recordings and even a Mike Pence look-alike party. We chatted with the very funny New Yorker about the fest.

Why are you ending the festival?
Well, largely it’s because [festival cofounder and comedy writer] Julie [Smith Clem] and I have both moved to Massachusetts. We’ve both had children, and it’s hard to produce a festival—as a joke, in another state—for no reason other than it’s pretty fun.

Before you started the festival, Brooklyn’s comedy scene didn’t have the same vibe it does today.
No, no, no. And the truth is our [former] weekly show [Pretty Good Friends] started at Union Hall probably three or four years before the festival. I think that was the first sort of staple show [in Brooklyn] where it became a regular thing.

How does it feel to be a Brooklyn pioneer?
I think I’ve always gravitated toward trying to be a part of, and to foster, comedy and artistic communities, so in that sense it’s very exciting to be part of something.

The festival tends to include some wacky elements. Any favorites from over the years?
One year we had a bounce house with a therapist inside and people could get advice. We also created an awkward party bus where every other song was by Harry Chapin and we had hired an actress to sit and cry on the bus. We called it an awkward party bus, but then people would get off and be like, “You know, it’s kind of weird in there, there’s a girl crying.” For some reason it didn’t occur to people that we would hire someone to cry. We weren’t hiding anything! We called it an awkward party bus.

Now that you’re a parent, will your comedy shift to include more personal material, or will it still include a lot of weird non sequiturs?
It will probably be a mix. Maybe I’ll just transcribe one of [Jim] Gaffigan’s albums and do that material. In general my material is silly, but it still has its roots in my experiences; it just involves hanging naked paintings or some weird bits, but it’s still relating to stuff happening to me. In that sense, it will still be a mix of the personal and the absurd.

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