Whole Foods, bombing and free-the-lawn protests: A conversation with comic Eugene Mirman

By Columbus Alive
From the February 6, 2014 edition

Comedian Eugene Mirman has long had a strong connection to the music world. He’s toured alongside Modest Mouse and Yo La Tengo, released comedy albums on famed label Sub Pop, and in a recent phone interview he talked up the influence British rocker Robyn Hitchcock has had on his standup, saying, “I love his blend of sincerity and humor and wit and absurdity.”

It’s fitting then the Brooklyn-based comic, who also voices aspiring musician Gene Belcher on the animated sitcom “Bob’s Burgers,” is set to perform at Ace of Cups — a venue best known for hosting bands — when he visits Columbus this week. Here’s what he had to say when we spoke in late January.

I can’t play music in a way that anyone other than the most forgiving person defining art would actually call music. If I wanted to play music I would have to learn, or not be as tone-deaf or whatever. If you’ll notice, [Gene Belcher is] never quite good at singing, but he does commit his all to it. I love that the character is a musician, because it is so fun to try and sing or play music even though I can’t.

A Whole Foods opened near my home recently and I was there yesterday and noticed they sell record players. They’re really trying to appeal to Brooklyn — and especially the local artists — in a way I think is very funny. They’re actually going to hang up paintings, so I’ve made a bunch of paintings I’m going to try and get hung at Whole Foods [asked to provide one example Mirman answered, “A painting of a gender-neutral child learning about the crisis in Egypt”].

When the Tea Party first began there was this real feeling of, “Is this going to be some Libertarian thing or is it going to be vaguely racist?” And it’s very clear over time … it’s really become an absurdly conservative party that only embraces certain elements of Libertarianism. Like they’re a party that’s super against abortion and homosexuality, but also for gun rights, so ultimately it feels somewhat hypocritical in terms of government staying out of our lives.

There are lots of things on the left I find completely exhausting. I went to a very liberal school [Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts] that had people literally trying to free the lawn by putting rocks on it so it couldn’t be mowed. That is genuinely the work of an idiot. But as you leave college and enter the world there’s less people trying to free lawns and more people trying to limit access to health care.

It is not fun to bomb, but I guess at some point you find places you can try things, and if it doesn’t work it’s not a big deal. Then there’s also bombing where everyone hates you and is yelling at you, and I don’t know if anyone ever gets used to that experience. I once did a few shows in Las Vegas a month after 9/11 … and you could tell the audience was confused why I thought I was doing standup comedy. There was this feeling of, “He clearly thinks he’s doing standup comedy, and we clearly don’t think anything he’s saying is funny, so where’s this disconnect?” I was supposed to do four days of two shows a night, but I did the first two shows and both the club and I agreed there was no need for me to continue.