The Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival
The Bell House and Union Hall
Friday, September 27, 2013

By Julie Seabaugh

StarTalk Live! with Neil DeGrasse Tyson offered a joyous, illuminating opening to the second night of Brooklyn’s sixth annual Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival, the 7 p.m. live podcast welcoming Honeybee Robotics head Stephen Gorevan and surprise comedy guests W. Kamau Bell and Jason Sudekis to the sold out Bell House. As astrophysicist and director of the Natural History Museum’s Hayden Planetarium Tyson debated the definition of robots with Gorevan and introduced the sound-clip contents of a golden record aboard the spacecraft Voyager, Mirman, Bell and Sudekis chimed in with quips about bullying Pluto, the scientific merits of Back to the Future and how a certain indica strain could produce a similar perspective to that of Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. “I would love it if this was just the guy from Police Academy,” Sudekis offered as the intergalactic clips of multi-language greetings, Beethoven’s Fifth and Chuck Berry played overhead, later confirming “There’s nothing worse than a nerd bully.” A giddy mutual-appreciation society of performers in awe of scientists and scientists in awe of performers was evident, making for a unifying show that found generous common ground between impassioned fans of both fields.

startalk live

Twelve blocks away at Union Hall, the 8 p.m. Comics Marc Maron Will Probably Resent in the Next Couple of Years highlighted the up-and-comingness of host Jim Tews, Mike Lawrence, Ahmed Bharoocha, Adam Newman, Kate Berlant and Seaton Smith. Fresh off of this week’s Conan appearance, Lawrence grabbed the packed-to-the-gills audience early on with his comparison of EMCF to “GoogaMooga without food” and his acknowledging the persistent Amber Alert signal emanating from phones  with “You know your life is hitting a new low when you’re getting heckled by an Amber Alert. Doesn’t help that I look like a child molester.”

Visiting from LA, the clean yet deceptively clever Bharoocha noted how humans not only eat the children of cows and drink the food originally intended for them, but add insult to injury with the dissemination of pictures of our missing children, while Newman dissected the lyrics to classic childhood ditty “The Diarrhea Song” and volleyed one-liners including “You guys think if they put Jesus on a penny they’d call it a J. C. Penny?” and “I think a good name for an Asian funeral parlor would be ‘Can You Bereave It?’”  Following the stream-of-conscious commentary of Kate Berlant, the high-energy and mile-a-minute exercise enthusiast Smith called attention to his “thighs like a Ninja Turtle” and broke down his loss of an NBC pilot and adventures as a film stand-in for Chris Rock.

Back at the Bell House for the 10 p.m. reincarnation of defunct Lower East Side staple Invite Them Up, host Bobby Tisdale’s extended mic check and proffering of front-row “Friendship Claws”  was followed by the relating of his daily activities Upstate and his introducing of Boston’s Mehran Khaghani, a mercurial, pro-alcoholism Iranian with the distinction of being “Eugene’s first gay.” “I was 14; he was 16. I approached him and was like, ‘Do you like Madonna?’ He was like, ‘No,’ and that’s why I’m here!”

Back in NYC from the second leg of his Crowd Work Tour, Todd Barry riffed on a guitar-shirt-wearing guitarist and a woman who hoped to conduct fitness analyses on comics by countering “Let’s separate fitness and comedy… Why did I ever write a joke when I’m so good at this crowd-work shit?” Of a man claiming to be a TV and film designer, he countered, “I’ve never met a TV designer on any of the 900 TV shows I’ve been on.”

Michael Che, recently back from a month of solidifying both his material and rising-star status in Edinburgh, admitted “I’m prejudice; I see four or five kids on the train all wearing the same colors, I’m like, ‘Oh, shit…I hope they don’t start breakdancing.’” The difference between paying taxes versus having taxes taken and the national debt we’ve accumulated (“We don’t owe China shit. We owe Sprint $90. You must’ve been roaming,”) were at the foreground of his mind, as well as the folly of going to war over oil when a liquid like printer ink remains far more costly and valuable.

Accepting Invite’s traditional “30 Seconds of Stand-Up” challenge, Saturday’s Hot Tub co-host Kurt Braunohler regretting being “too drunk to pull down my pants” in an effort to verify the size of his…endowment; Mirman subsequently read the indignant letter he’d written to the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, who’d dared ticket his backed-in car for “parking in the wrong direction.” And following a massive response to the intro of Michael Ian Black, the  Stella and The State co-founder took issue with both NYC housing and the program’s Mirman-penned bio depicting him as someone who “loves his family, which is why he sometimes takes jobs on shows you don’t like.”

Closing the show, surprise musical guest Neko Case performed three lush, impassioned numbers before Mirman encouraged attendees to check out the “DJ battle between…the UK and Sweden…?” in the lounge. Outside, the bar was packed, the bouncy castle (housing a licensed therapist) flanking the venue busy, and the audience, contrary to Black’s haranguing, perfectly content to live in a place offering such memorable weekends.

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