Q&A: Eugene Mirman

Eugene Mirman is perhaps best known as the voice of Gene on the Fox series Bob’s Burgers, but he’s long been a cult-favorite comic. Since 2008, the former Lexington resident has put on the annual Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival in Brooklyn, and this spring, from May 1 to 4, he’s bringing it home to Boston for the second year in a row. Kristen Schaal and John Hodgman will be among the performers, and Mirman will close the festival with a taping of StarTalk, a science and comedy podcast.

Eugene Mirman

Photograph by Matt Cosby

Back when you were starting out, you used to flier around Harvard Square. I guess you don’t have to do that anymore.

You never know. I would completely still do that, and maybe I will for the fun of it. Maybe I’ll stand in Harvard Square and hand out a flier with an article from the Phoenix from 1998 or 1997 about me.

Did you use to have any sort of strategy?

I would actually yell, “Do not make eye contact with me! Do not take this terrible flier!” And it was somewhat effective.

You’ve been doing StarTalk for a while with Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Bill Nye is guest hosting for him at the festival. Do you have any science background?

No, but I love it and I find it super interesting. And the truth is, with both Bill and Neil and the various science guests, I end up sort of joking around and also asking the sorts of questions a layman might ask.

I read that you weren’t the best student. What do you think middle-school you would think of you sitting there with all these famous scientists?

I would think I won. I would be like, “I’m right! You don’t need to do this stuff.” I was always interested, I just hated school and had difficulty focusing. I’m not alone in that. It’s not like I’m the only one who’s like, “You know what, I don’t like junior high.”

In the past you’ve used Kickstarter to help fund these festivals. Are you doing that again this year?

No. This year—and we did this at our last festival in Brooklyn—we’ve come up with a bunch of things that we think would be fun and companies can sponsor those things—like an eye-contact booth. So it’s just me sitting in a cardboard box staring and making eye contact with people. I think we’re going to have mimes in one of the shows. One of the things you can sponsor is playing Connect Four with a dermatologist. At the Brooklyn festival, we had an inflatable castle with a therapist inside so you could bounce and talk about your problems.

Why a dermatologist for Connect Four?

I don’t know, just thinking of fun, silly things. It would be funny if I had a really good reason and I was like, “Well, you understand that through the history….”

You know, Rajon Rondo from the Celtics is a renowned Connect Four master. He goes around to all of the charity events beating kids. I think he’s only lost once.

Oh, wow. Well, I would imagine that somebody who plays a sport would have a strategic mind like that. Now I really want to play him, though. I imagine he would destroy me. Please mention that I’d love to challenge him to a game onstage.

One of the things you offered on your Kickstarter page last year was lunch and a tour of Lexington’s Historic Battle Green. Did you actually do that?

I absolutely did. Yes, that’s completely true.

I know you used to give those tours when you were a kid—did you remember much?

I looked through some of the facts again, but also the tour that I was giving was like, “That’s the tree John Adams used to hide in.” It was full of misinformation. But I’d be like, “300 head of cattle roamed here, this is where George Washington committed suicide,” so some of it was accurate.