The comedian gets by with a little help from his friends
By Katie Johnston Chase Globe Staff
It's a drizzly Friday night, and Charlie's Kitchen in Cambridge is packed. Comedian Eugene Mirman is standing at the bar with Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang talking to a Canadian author and his friend, whom they met earlier in the evening at a Harvard Coop book event.
''Is he funny?" one of the men asks, referring to Mirman.
''I wouldn't be here if he weren't funny," replies Yang. She and her husband, Krukowski, of the local dream-pop band Damon and Naomi (and formerly of Galaxie 500), met Mirman on a swing-state tour before the 2004 presidential election. (''It didn't work," she says.)
Mirman, who grew up in Lexington and now lives in New York, is in town to do a show at the Middle East, but tonight he's off the clock -- mostly. He spent an hour or so at the Coop helping Hal Niedzviecki promote his new book, ''Hello I'm Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity." At the end, when Niedzviecki asked people in the audience to define what made them special, one woman listed her diverse array of magazine subscriptions, which included something called Backyard Poultry; and a man with a thick African accent claimed he could answer any question, although he was completely stumped when Mirman asked him the name of Paul McCartney's band after the Beatles.
''People are so much crazier than people who are really crazy," Krukowski said after it was over. Mirman stood beside him holding a red umbrella and a copy of his upcoming CD, ''En Garde, Society!" (out May 9), and a red umbrella. ''My mom made me bring this," he says.
Now they're sitting at Charlie's drinking three different kinds of whiskey -- Dewar's (Mirman), Wild Turkey (Krukowski), and Maker's Mark (Yang) -- discussing the time Krukowski and Yang invited Mirman to a poetry reading.
''I wrote a poem about it," Mirman says.
When Matt Savage, Mirman's friend from Hampshire College, shows up, Mirman recalls when they worked together at an online ad agency in Kendall Square. One of his proudest achievements was turning his office into a bar and selling fake stock to fund it. He also managed to sneak a slogan for gingerbread men onto
Mirman in hang-out mode is much like Mirman onstage: low key, sarcastic, sharp, and sublimely goofy. During his act, he likes to play phone conversations he's had with telemarketers and act out bizarre impressions, like Abe Lincoln delivering a pizza in a hurricane.
While everyone else eats double burgers and sandwiches, Mirman, who ate earlier with his parents, helps himself to Yang's french fries and talks about the advice book he's writing based on the weird questions people ask him: ''Some of it is like, 'I'm a monkey lesbian, and I don't know how to get to space.' "
Around 10 the group leaves for the Paradise to see Wolf Parade, a hot band from Montreal that shares Mirman's agent and record label. The band is in full primal thrash by the time we arrive and are escorted to a roped-off section with a ''Reserved for Eugene Mirman" sign on the table. ''I didn't ask for a section to be cornered off," he says.
After the show, Mirman and his friends head backstage to meet the musicians. Savage, who sings in a local group called Joy, is a bit starstruck in the presence of this much-buzzed-about band. ''This is Wolf Parade's celery," he says, eyes widening, as he picks up a pale green stalk from a neglected vegetable plate.
A roadie counting a wad of cash looks over at Mirman, who extends his hand and introduces himself. ''You're really funny," the roadie says.
The conversation turns toward celebrity and how it changes people. Generally, Mirman says, it's ''so insanely reasonable": ''People get a little drunk and talk about the government." Indeed, as he is saying this, someone over on the couch pulls out a bottle of Gold Bond Medicated Powder, and a guitarist wanders by examining the label on a can of Planters nuts. ''Are these almonds?" he asks nobody in particular. Yang is telling one of the band members about an Italian bakery in Providence, where Wolf Parade is playing the next night.
So this is how rock stars party -- pretty much just like the rest of us do.
Around 2 in the morning, Mirman and Savage pile into Krukowski and Yang's white 1992 Saab -- with 210,000 miles on the odometer -- for a ride to Harvard Square, where the college buddies hope to find a late-night meal back at Charlie's. Savage is convinced that Mirman, who he says is ''experimenting with celebrity," won't lose his authenticity as he becomes more well known.
So far, he seems to be right.