Though his past stand-up albums had always been stellar, the experience of seeing Eugene Mirman live seemed like a step above and beyond the record in a real way. Though perhaps best known as the voice of Gene on Bob’s Burgers, his absurdist jokes and poignant undercutting of the absurd jokes that masquerade as reality made him a stand-up star. His sets have always featured large pieces, like poster-board signs advertising shapes (“Square … the other rectangle”) — which is to say, elements that carried just a bit more mirthful subversion when seen rather than heard. On record you didn’t get to see him mischievously smirk and raise the large sign, hand out coupons to audience members for things like permission to play truth or dare in their mind, or (as on this album) display paintings he’d made to hang in his local Whole Foods.
Rather than shy away from that sort of experimental show-stealer, Mirman doubled (or perhaps nonupled) down, resulting in a nine-LP set chock-full of ludicrous comedy spectacles, spinning ideas like “digital drugs” and “fuckscapes” into gold. The “basic” version of I’m Sorry (You’re Welcome) is overwhelming in and of itself, and that’s not even taking into account the option to extend that experience to including a bathrobe or chair. That said, even before digging into the platters containing the sound effects catalog and introduction to spoken Russian, Mirman’s subversive, brilliant comedy justifies the sumptuous settings.
(Interview: Eugene Mirman Discusses His New Comedy Album)
Mirman always seem keen to mess with people who take ridiculous things too seriously, and that instinct is on proud display throughout I’m Sorry. When confronted with a Christian zealot handing out cards saying “Get Out of Hell Free” in an attempt to convert passersby, he eagerly takes a handful, surely convincing her for a moment that she’d converted someone, only for him to turn and shout, “Now I can murder someone!” He also details taking on an “Ask a Pastor” email service, first asking several absurd non sequiturs (“I like to think of my dick as a police baton — any advice?”), then updating the old testament story of Solomon (“I don’t just want part of a dead baby like some other Jewish parents … does the bible have any advice on this situation?”). He also equates some Orthodox Jews in his neighborhood to “sad Gandalfs.”
Though religion is a common target of his surreal subversion, the religion of capitalism takes on the full goofy brunt of his ire as well. Everyone knows someone who takes LinkedIn a little too seriously; Eugene Mirman is not that type. “You can put whatever you want, apparently,” he begins. “My job is senior VP of pee-pee at Verizon.” When Whole Foods pretends to be a community organization, asking for locals to submit locally themed paintings to hang in their monstrous Brooklyn store, he delivers “couple under a tree wishing they were biracial.” The fact that these paintings are crudely drawn stick-figures akin to something hanging at a grade school has its own charm — something you can see on his new special, Vegan on his Way to the Complain Store. But the concept of anything fulfilling that title being sent to a Whole Foods store works its comedic magic without a visual.
The other eight records cover a remarkable span of insanity. “Eugene’s Comprehensive Sound Effects Library” includes tracks ranging from “Man Walking in Boots” to “Two Apples on a Rainy Sunday in the Fall Watching ‘Failure to Launch'”. The album called “195 Orgasms” (for which the only explanation given on the press release is “Sorry”) features Mirman approximating the sexual noises for scenarios titled “Guilty Catholics Have to Marry Each Other”,”Let’s Get Your Mind Off the Dust Bowl”, and the like. The fifth LP, titled “Over 45 Minutes of Crying”, is 45 minutes and 18 seconds of Mirman crying.
Nothing quite subverts the idea of a comedy album, an album period, a box set, or the listening experience like looking at your iTunes library and seeing that you’ve just downloaded over 500 tracks full of the audio equivalent of peyote and a comedian reciting the Russian for “your butt is inside a camel.” Plenty of comedians have pointed out the absurdities of life. Eugene Mirman points them out by pushing them even further into the absurd. Though it might seem like an intimidating prospect, he made a nine-LP collection that will wrap you up and seemingly never let go, wide-eyed and chuckling the whole way.
Essential Tracks: “Ask a Pastor”, “The Time I Was Mugged in Mexico with Michael Stipe”, and “Paintings I Made to Showcase at My Local Whole Foods”