Talking ‘Bob’s Burgers’ and ‘Hold On’ with Eugene Mirman
You know when you’re in the middle of telling a good story and your friend interrupts you to ask for more details? Eugene Mirman is that friend, interrupting people like Maria Bamford, Weird Al, W. Kamau Bell, and more in his audio series Hold On from Audible Channels. The show’s first two seasons were originally released exclusively on Audible, but are currently being made available in podcast format on iTunes and other popular audio content providers. Mirman is busy working on season 3 of Hold On, as well as gearing up for the October 1st premiere of the eighth season of Bob’s Burgers. I talked to him about Hold On, why he thinks there can never be too many podcasts, and the sweet, earnest power of Bob’s Burgers.
Are there too many podcasts?
Probably not. In the same way that there aren’t too many TV shows or too many places making french fries. It would be funny if a new band came out and people were like, “This is really good, but there’s enough music in the world.” I don’t know, it’s a medium. No one has to listen to it.
I hear so many people say, “There’s too much of…” whatever. The conversation is usually about things that are good, like great TV shows. I’ll ask someone if they’ve seen Handmaid’s Tale and they’re like, “Oh, there’s just too much TV.”
Yeah, people can make things and not everyone has to consume them. There are things I haven’t seen, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have made them. There are a lot of podcasts, but there is also a lot of music and a lot of comedy, books, magazines. Eventually the market sorts itself out.
Is this your first podcast ever?
Well, this began, and remains, a series for Audible. The truth is that it was created for Audible Channels and then Audible decided to spread it beyond Audible Channels. I’ve been doing this for several years. I’m recording the third season now and Audible is slowly making the first two seasons available through channels other than their own.
Thanks for clearing that up because I didn’t get that from the marketing. It seems like Audible is doing with you something similar to what they did with Lewis Black’s The Rant Is Due.
Right. Audible basically created an audiesque Netflix where they have a reservoir of shows they’ve made and now they’re making those shows available in other mediums for people who don’t have Audible. I’ve been doing it for quite some time, but now it’s available in this other way and people can listen to it however they like.
I saw that you just got back from a U2 concert.
It was really fun. I went with Bobcat Goldthwait and another comic from Boston, Tony V.
Most of the people that you’ve had on your show are comics or comedic actors. What are the chances of getting U2 on the show?
I think it’s very unlikely, but if they have a funny story they’d like to tell they’d be welcome to be on the show. So far the way that it has worked is largely it has been people who have already recorded stuff for Audible in one sense or another. Maybe they were on the show RISK! or a different show and then we listen to the story they’ve told and I ask them more questions as we both listen to a recorded story. But sometimes people tell me the story live in the studio or sometimes live in front of an audience.
Was the idea for the show based off of something that you were already doing at a live show or…
No, it’s something that Audible asked me if I wanted to host.
I was listening to the Weird Al episode this morning. He’s such a good storyteller and I don’t think a lot of people list that as one of his talents. Has there been anyone that you’ve had on who has surprised you in their storytelling or the story itself?
I don’t know that I was surprised in the sense that…I think everybody that has been on the show is someone who I thought would be wonderful. And then there are people who I’ve thought have been really, really great. Weird Al was wonderful. David Cross was really great. Kumail Nanjiani. Busy Philipps told a really, really funny story. Almost everybody that’s been on has been somebody that I know and really like.
What is the plan for releasing the back catalog and then new episodes?
I think there are around thirty-some episodes that have been recorded and are available. I think those will slowly become available weekly on iTunes and various other podcast platforms. The third season that is being recorded now will launch in September or October.
Season 8 of Bob’s Burgers premieres on October 1st. When you first started on that series did you have any idea that it would get as big as it has?
No, not really. Before it came out we worked on it for a year and a half or two years just making an eight-minute pilot. We’d go in the studio, they’d tweak it, we’d come back, record more. It was a long development process where Dan Mintz had first played a boy named Dan and then a girl named Tina. It all sort of developed. It’s been wonderful watching it grow. It’s been amazing to be a part of something that families watch together. There’s something nice about a show that can be odd, but also really connect with people.
A lot of people talk about Pixar movies as having action and visuals that appeal to kids, but also dramatic themes and smart jokes that adults will like. I think Bob’s Burgers is a larger version of that statement.
I think overall it’s a very sweet show. It’s quirky and portrays a very loving family that is somewhere between realistic and, obviously, animated. There’s something very earnest and sweet about it that makes it very funny.
There’s also something very therapeutic about it as well. Personally, if I get home from work or get home late I’ll flip through the channels hoping that it’s on. It soothes me. How important do you think a show like Bob’s Burgers is given the times that we live in?
I think everything is important in the sense that…it’s like when you asked in the beginning if there are too many podcasts. It’s like, I don’t know, are there too many things that engage the world and its issues? Bob’s in a sense has a lot of really great messages. I wouldn’t describe it as political. It’s more just the world it is. But on the other hand, it’s also sort of a distraction from stuff that is immediately happening. It’s not like the show is full of travel ban jokes, but it is a warm and accepting world where there are all sorts of people. At a different time maybe it could have been described as making a statement of sorts. But in a time when everyone’s health care is being robbed maybe it doesn’t seem as politically relevant. Really I just think that everyone should make the thing they want to make and whoever the audience is for it will hopefully find it.