Eugene Mirman Is the Best Kind of Ridiculous
Basking in the afterglow of his most recent Netflix special, Vegan on His Way to the Complain Store, and his increased global popularity from his role as Gene on Bob’s Burgers, Eugene Mirman decided to do something grand: release a nine volume/seven LP comedy album full of some of the most bizarre shit you’ve ever heard. The box set, I’m Sorry (You’re Welcome), drops today on Sub Pop in several formats — some traditional, some not so traditional. I went through each volume of the new release with Mirman, which led us to discussions of digital drugs, poorly conjugated Russian, and over 45 minutes of crying.
I spent most of the day yesterday listening to the entire new album and now I don’t quite know what to do with myself.
I guess, I’m sorry, you’re welcome.
In the liner notes it said that ten years ago you conceived the idea of a 100 CD album. Not that this release isn’t monumental, but what happened between then and now?
What really happened was that the 100 disc thing was basically a joke. At some point it occurred to me while talking to friends that I could make a seven-to-ten disc thing. If I made a 100 discs it wouldn’t be quite the joke I wanted to make. It would have been this giant, weird thing, the content of which would have inherently just been pieced together. This was like, “I think I can make seven things that are funny and weird.”
How much time did it take to make this thing?
Several years. Three or four.
I want to go through the release in order and discuss each disc with you. It opens with Live in Seattle at the Columbia City Theater, which is a pretty straightforward standup set. It had a lot of the stuff from your recent special. A lot of the bits center around you creating fun for yourself and reacting to things that happen. I wouldn’t call them pranks, but when you’re in these situations, are you looking at them as opportunities where you might be able to create bits?
An ad that’s a letter, yes. That sort of thing I would say, yeah. I’m aware that if I’m going to take out a full page ad in a thing, I’m going to read it and perform it onstage to make sure it’s funny and then take out the ad.
I was surprised how well the visual bits translated on the album, like the Whole Foods art one. I almost laughed harder hearing it on the album than I did watching it on the special.
I think because you can vaguely envision it. I had the same sort of thought. But when we were editing it and the people who were editing — who weren’t at the show — were laughing, it felt like it worked.
The first half of Disc Two is “Guided Meditation for the Thoughtful Body.” This is one that hit home for me. I go to these transcendental meditation yoga classes and when they tell you to release all these burdensome thoughts in your head it’s hard sometimes because the instructor sounds so hilarious in how they tell you to do it. Do you practice anything like that?
No, but I also would. Meaning, I would listen to a meditation, I just happen not to. I live in a world where it feels familiar and thought it would be a really fun thing to do. I made it sort of relaxing. We wanted it to be ridiculous but relaxing.
It worked. I noticed that it was very body positive. Was that intentional? Are you through your comedy trying to encourage people to love and accept their bodies?
It’s funny, I don’t think I thought of it as body positive, the idea of a negative meditation. I guess it could be thought of as funny, meaning, I could have done a mean meditation that I intended to be funny. I guess at the end I say lots of stressful things. I thought that was the way the humor would work best, positive but silly.
It was good satire. It does get crazy at the end, but there’s so much that sounds just slightly off kilter from what you actually hear in guided meditation.
I listened to lots of meditation before I wrote it. That’s also what I meant when I said, “I would.” I listened to tons of these and was like, “Oh, this is pretty relaxing,” and then I was like, “I’m still going to make fun of it.”
The second half of Disc Two is “Fuckscape” which you describe as “an erotic soundscape for lovebirds and adventurous friends.” What was the inspiration behind that one?
There was a 24 hour soundscape at a hotel I was staying at while working on this album. I kind of wanted to make… at first I thought of it as not having music and just being the idea of music that people put on to be sensual, but I would just have words. But it was too weird. In the hotel they had this little plaque about the 24 hour soundscape and I thought the idea of a soundscape to make love to would be really funny. I was also kind of trying to think of a word that didn’t have a swear in it. In the end, none of the things I came up with were as concise as fuckscape.
Disc Three is your “Comprehensive Sound Effects Library.” Is there anything in the fine print that prevents people from using these sound effects?
No, I would like to see people use it. I hope to see people make videos where they use these sound effects. I very much hope for people to do that. I had my iPod on shuffle and occasionally a sound effect short would come on between songs and I was like, “I bet if you put a few those in a mix it would be a pretty fun experience.” I know it’s insane to listen to straight through. I know you did and I hope you enjoyed it, but I also completely think that people will listen to a little, come back to it another time, have friends over, listen with them. I see it as a thing that people will experience over time.
Disc Four is “Digital Drugs.” I felt like I was one of the people that it was making fun of. I’m the kind of person to go on YouTube and listen to four-hour binaural beat videos for sleep and meditation. It actually works. Yours takes the sounds of those videos and adds your voice to create a drug-like experience.
Right. When you say it works, you mean it stimulates your REM cycle or helps you sleep. What you don’t mean is that it creates the effect of cocaine. Just to be clear, I’m not making fun of the idea that sounds can effect your mood. I’m making fun of the idea that people sell other people audio versions of cocaine.
My favorite is Apple Cider Vinegar. My grandma says vinegar can remedy pretty much everything that’s wrong with you.
I will say, that’s also my favorite.
The next disc is “Over 45 Minutes of Crying.” Disturbing and hilarious. Were you acting or legitimately crying?
I guess it’s both. I mean, theoretically, that’s what acting is. I wanted it to sound earnest, but I also wanted it to change up with the types of crying. I thought of sad things and tried to earnestly cry for 45 minutes.
Did you do that all in one take?
Basically, yeah. It was also the first thing I did. It’s a crazy, draining thing. It’s also funny to have a sticker on my album that says, “Featuring over 45 minutes of crying!” As if that’s a thing people have been demanding for years. The thing I didn’t expect was that — I knew I would cry for 45 minutes — but I didn’t expect was that I would have to listen to it over and over to make sure that it worked and didn’t get too loud, you know what I mean?
The first part of Disc Six is the “Introduction to Spoken Russian.” How much do you use Russian in your life?
Whenever I speak to my parents, so, a moderate amount. If I’m talking to my parents or my parents friends, we speak in Russian. A lot of it is accurate within reason, but the truth is, I don’t really know how to conjugate things. I say things wrong. Sometimes I don’t use the best word for something and it’s an approximation. But it’s essentially reasonably accurate.
You have the disclaimer that says, “As taught by someone who left Russia at the age of four.” So I think anybody who really tries it knows what they’re getting into.
I’m not going to say, “Your family smells like trash,” and that not really be what you’re saying. You’re saying, “Your family smells like trash.”
The second part of Disc Six is “Ringtones and Outgoing Voicemail messages for Your Personal Use.” I think people are actually going to use this a lot.
I hope so. Part of the reason I did that one is because I get a lot of emails and tweets that are like, “Can you do my voicemail?” or this and that. It’s like, “Probably not individually, but I’ll make a thing and you can use it.”
The last disc is “195 Orgasms.” How much research went into that one?
Well, no research went into it. A lot of that one — aside from being ridiculous — is that at the time I was recording it, friends were listening on headphones and part of it was just trying to make them laugh with such a limited range of what I could do.
People are getting away from buying box sets and buying more digital content now. But you decided to release this through Sub Pop with a lot of physical elements. Can you talk a little bit about what people can get if they purchase the full package?
You can buy it digitally for a very reasonable price or you can buy the LP version and you’ll have a very nice LP set for less than what someone would normally sell a seven piece set for. There’s also a robe version where the cover is embroidered on the back with an MP3 player sewn into a special pocket. There’s also a chair version that I think there’s only two being made so far. It will have speakers embedded into the chair, along with headphones and an MP3 player with the album preloaded, as with the robe.
And you’re doing a tour to support the release?
Exactly. I’m also bringing my friends Matt and Christian, who I made the album with, and we’re going to try to do some of the album live.
Photo by Brian Tamborello.