Interview from the Austinist website :
Eugene Mirman is much funnier than you. A mainstay of New York's alternative comedy scene, Mirman's profile has been even higher of late. In February, his Comedy Central Presents special debuted, and earlier this year, he was asked to cover the New Hampshire primaries for 236.com. He can also be seen as Jemaine and Bret's strange landlord in HBO's Flight Of The Conchords.
A multi-year veteran of SXSW, Mirman is hosting this year's Web Awards at SXSW Interactive and is also performing at multiple SX venues during the music festival.
Austinist recently traded emails with Eugene Mirman to discuss Tom Cruise, John McCain, and annoying SXSW party bouncers.
You're hosting the SXSW web awards. We know that the internet is funny, but how does one riff on categories like "CSS" and "Motion Graphics?"
I didnâ€™t realize I was limited to riffing on those categories. I donâ€™t really know how you would, I guess youâ€™d have to figure out how to tie it into sex (specifically hand jobs) or political corruption.
The Invite Them Up night you helped create in New York seems in retrospect to have given great notoriety to a huge cadre of great comedy performers (including Todd Barry, Aziz Ansari, Flight Of The Conchords, Demetri Martin.)
We'd like to now give you the opportunity to take full credit for everyone's careers.
That would be untrue. However, I did decide to make Vampire Weekend the breakout band at this yearâ€™s SXSW. Just as I made Franz Ferdinand the breakout band in 2004. Wait! I just decided to make it MGMT. Wait! I changed my mind. Itâ€™s Vampire Weekend again.
In covering the primaries for 236.com, did you learn anything about a candidate (or the process) that really surprised you?
Yes, absolutely. I learned that news people try to find the most important person in a hotel bar and stand next to them. Little do they know itâ€™s only Chris Matthews and no one else. And sadly, Chris Matthews has no one to look for and stand next to.
We know you're an Obama supporter, as are we, but we can't help but feel for John McCain. The guy sat in a Vietnamese jail for five years, and worked often on policy with Democrats, but got creamed by Republican extremist shenanigans in 2000 and is now running for president in a year when even lots of conservatives will vote Democrat just to repudiate George W. Bush. So our question is: can you find a joke in all of this? Can a wealthy, successful white guy running for president actually have bad karma?
I donâ€™t know. Sometimes itâ€™s not appropriate to joke around, especially about a smart, likable senator, who has a good heart, and fought to free this country from British rule some 232 years ago.
Um, has Tom Cruise sent you a cease-and-desist yet? (That video was genius.)
No. I donâ€™t know if he knows about my video. I believe Tom Cruise is somewhere focusing on turning traditional self-help and psychotherapy principles into weird postulates that somehow involve aliens.
Will your cleverly named character Eugene break out of his shell at all during Season 2 of Flight Of The Conchords?
Itâ€™s not really up to me. Maybe? I do have a new emotion Iâ€™ve been working on that Iâ€™d love to try out on the show. Itâ€™s a combination of lust and confusion.
You've toured as a support act for a lot of rock bands. Was there any band's audience that you totally connected with? (We're imagining that this is tougher than a regular gig.)
With many of the bands Iâ€™ve opened for it can change from night to night. Iâ€™d say the shows Iâ€™ve done with Yo La Tengo have generally been the most receptive, with their audiences often being the most genuinely into comedy. But it depends more on the venue and city than the bandâ€™s audience (unless the audience is dangerous or sleeping).
SXSW isn't new to youâ€”you've been here before. Have any good SXSW or Austin stories from a past visit?
I donâ€™t know. I have hundreds of okay stories. I probably have about fifteen stories that are funny if you were there. Hereâ€™s one I guess: I think two or three years ago Red Bull had a building downtown that they had a late night party in during the festival. You needed some stupid key or something to get in, I canâ€™t remember exactly. What I do recall is that I went there one night and had a nice time. The next day I came back and the guy at the door was being a jerkâ€”not like a normal jerk not letting us in or somethingâ€”but like an obnoxious self-important caricature jerk you remember years later. (Also, it wasnâ€™t that crowded inside because this was during the film and interactive part of the festival.) Then all of a sudden, the bouncer recognized me and asked how my show at Emoâ€™s was that night. I told him it went well. Then the guy at the door, concerned I might be famous or in a hot breakout band said in some weird code way, â€œIâ€™m going to turn around and walk away and if you come in I wonâ€™t knowâ€¦.â€ (Wink, winkâ€¦.) And I remember thinking that we were both at least 30 years old and he was acting like a retarded spy. He could have said, â€œCome in.â€ But instead, he chose to pretend to turn around and not see me and my friends. So now whenever I think Red Bull, I think â€œdouche bag.â€ Still, my friends and I got in, stole a bottle of free vodka from the bar and hung out in a room with an art installation involving video cameras, monitors and synthesizers. It was fun. Thatâ€™s probably everyoneâ€™s story from SXSW, except Robert Plant, who has had all sorts of adventures.
Finally, we love reading the band list every year at SXSW just for names like This Will Destroy You, Say Hi To Your Mom, Afrobots, and Care Bears On Fire. If you had a band, what would you call it?
If I didnâ€™t have any commercial aspirations, it would be called The Neck Rape Death Fuckers and if I did, it would be called Sunblast 2550.
Eugene Mirman will host the 2008 SXSW Web Awards on Sunday, March 9th and will perform at Esther's Follies and The Velveeta Room on Friday, March 14th as part of SXSW Music. He'll also perform at Emo's on March 10thâ€”tickets are available via TicketWeb.