Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Brad Kopplin
There is a series of some very classic books, supposedly written by Jerry Seinfeld - though that's never been proven just fabled about, that carry on the theme of the original title, Letters From A Nut and they're deliriously packed with perfect absurdity that meets someone just doing their job. A man writes the Los Angeles Lakers and asks if they can accommodate his health condition that requires him to be underneath a running shower all the time. He writes to a hotel asking if he will have any trouble when he brings his own ice machine to his room when staying at their establishment.
He confronts a municipality through a letter wagging a finger at them for changing their traffic signals so that green is not signified by plaid. He asks, "WHY?" And people wrote back, earnestly trying to help. It's that point of interception - someone acting naturally or being a bit loopy and someone trying to follow orders and carry on so that they can keep their job to another day - where most of the world's greatest comedy comes from. On a day when we mourn the loss of the pot-smoking genius George Carlin - a guy who did the better than anyone ever did (his sharp observations and then riveting interpretations of the human language are without peer) - we should be happy that he inspired so many other men and women to do the same thing, to use brains and wits like rapiers and to make man responsible for all of his ridiculousness.
Eugene Mirman loves ridiculousness. It's a condiment for him. He puts it on everything - makes everything better with it. When he sees a sign that explains that a fast food restaurants chicken nuggets are made with REAL chicken, he tells us that it had never occurred to him that they were made with fake chicken. It's ridiculous, because that sort of thing happens every day. He just thinks it and says it for us. Mirman showed up to Big Orange studio in Austin this past March with a folder tucked under his arm right in the middle of an impromptu ice cream social. Jared Van Fleet of Voxtrot and Sparrow House had gone above and beyond the call of duty by bringing back a grocery sack full of a Texas delicacy. The brand name now escapes me, but it was a slow-churned and creamy blend of ice cream that was eaten with little wooden tongue depressors.
Mirman had already been in Austin for nearly a week as the interactive and film festivals associated with South By Southwest ran into the bigger music festival. He'd been the master of ceremonies for an awards show a few days earlier and was pleased to have had the ability to cut thank you speeches from people in important business fields that have nothing to do with music, comedy or entertainment short or completely off before they'd had a chance to start. He'd do it with a chuckle, but he thought that most people in the serious room didn't get that it was supposed to be funny. He did it anyway. (Why he's beloved!)
When he'd finished his ice cream, he was recorded to tape for the first and only time in his career (until he meets up with us again), reading a letter that he wrote to a government official after he was issued a speeding ticket. It's a story that's never been told anywhere but here and it's classic Mirman - bringing his playfulness, his compelling ability to make everything part of the joke, his ideal vulgarity, his Russian heritage of tear-eating (now with more bread he supposes), his own appreciation for the humor in his tales and some appropriate churlishness into the equation. That fucking district attorney had it coming and how.
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