Eugene Mirman is probably best known as the voice of Eugene Belcher on the animated comedy Bob’s Burgers, but he’s also a veteran of the alt-comedy world with many albums and countless live performances under his belt. He’s also the subject of It Started As A Joke, a documentary about the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival.
Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To celebrate the recent release of It Started As A Joke, the documentary about his comedy festival and his wife’s battle with cancer, we asked comedian/actor Eugene Mirman to share three things that are keeping him smiling during quarantine. The documentary is available on demand at all the major platforms.
— Josh Modell
1. Coyle & Sharpe
They’re a comedy team from the 1960s that did these absurd street pranks that were amazing. Mal Sharpe just died. They would record people, at first I think with a secret briefcase, and then later as these strange news reporters. They would come up to people and be like, “What would you say to us erasing your knowledge of language, and then replacing it with a language of our own invention?” And then it slowly became clear that they wanted to erase these people’s knowledge of language and then sell them a new language. [Laughs.] It was just sort of these incredible and strange street pranks. They would be like, “Can I grow an ashtray in your brain?” Different sorts of weird things. It maybe was literally the first street pranks. It came about at the same time… One day people started interviewing people on the street, and a little bit later, these guys would say, “We would like to hire you to work in a pit that is a living hell.” It’s just joyfully strange and really fun.
2. The Equalizer
In general, I just like action movies and science fiction. And I feel like that’s a fun action movie that’s underrated. I loved the A-Team, so I feel like Equalizer… I didn’t watch enough of the old Equalizer, but I feel like I should go back and watch somebody right some wrongs. That feels like a good quarantine experience. But I do really enjoy that and the sequel. It’s a fun, distracting thing. It’s just a fun action movie. The premise is that there are people out there who want to turn your farm into a mall, and instead of buying it — which is also totally reasonable — they’re going to put your cab company out of business. I think some of it is that the villainy of the ‘80s is sort of great, and then the revenge of the ‘80s is also great. Updated for today! Also, The Equalizer takes place in the Boston area, so I’m a fan of that.
3. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
People are trapped, and though I could suggest recipes of salad, I think I’d recommend The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Part of this is that in the last year or two, Katie every morning would take her pain medicine and we’d watch a sitcom. We went through tons of sitcoms: Dick Van Dyke, Rhoda, Mary Tyler Moore, Family Ties, Family Affair, Golden Girls — so many shows. So many sitcoms, and such a nice way to start the day, especially now that people are trapped. Mary Tyler Moore was such a great, warm, funny show, but I recommend all those. Go back to the ‘60s, ‘70s, or even ‘80s, and watch the finest sitcoms of their day. Somebody else might want the first two years of Rhoda, or the second two, where they decide to go through a divorce! They really changed up the show. They decide to have her split up. The first season had one of the most watched episodes of television ever up to that point, they had a wedding. It’s great. Anything that brings moments of joy is great.