Serious(ly Funny) Like Cancer






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Publication: The Stranger
Author: Mirman, Eugene
Date published: February 11, 2010

Eugene Mirman Talks to James Mercer About Cancer (Sort Of)

Defriending Cancer: Isaac Brock, James Mercer, Todd Barry, Neil Hamburger, Eugene Mirman, Natasha Leggero, Tig Notaro, Tim Heidecker

Thurs Feb 11, Moore Theatre, 7:30 pm, $28-$48, all ages

This week, a bunch of musicians and comedians are getting together to finally-FINALLY-take a stand against cancer (so tired of all those pro-cancer musical comedy acts). How

will they fight cancer tonight? With laughter (the best medicine). With music (the genericbrand medicine). And maybe, just maybe with musical humor (basically, a prescription speedball). In anticipation of the event-and to set a romantic mood for Valentine's Day-The Stranger thought to moderate an interview between funnyman Eugene Mirman and singingman James Mercer (the Shins, Broken Bells). Only, there was some miscommunication, and no one really had any questions ready for anyone else. Here's the best bits of what happened. ERIC GRANDY

Eugene Mirman: Where are you now? Are you at home?

James Mercer: I'm in L.A. I'm down here practicing for Broken Bells stuff.

Nice! You'll never guess-I'm also in L.A. I'm now going to turn around and see if you're behind me. But you don't appear to be.

Because I often am right behind you. Yeah, I'm here for six days of rehearsing and putting together a band.

Nice. Are you looking for a person who can't play the flute to be in your band? Because I would like to nominate myself.

You can play the flute?

Can not. Cannot play the flute. Yes, it's unlikely that you're looking for a person who has a flute but can't play one, but I'm just offering my services.

[Laughs] Okay. We'll think about it.

Well, that's great. What's the project that you're doing?

So, Danger Mouse-you know, the famous producer and Afro-wearing dude-is my other half in this duo. He and I have formed a band. We're called Broken Bells, and we did a record, and we got signed to Columbia Records. So for the next year, that's what I'm going to be doing.

Do you think there's any way we could get Danger Mouse to do a mashup of the first Shins record and my first record?

[Laughs] Yes.

You know, no promises. Just look into it for me.

What else should we talk about?

The Stranger: Well, you guys are both actors now.

Really? I mean, yes, I am. I'm aware. I'm doing a voice on a new show for Fox, actually, called Bob's Burgers, that's going to be exciting. It's by the guy who produced Home Movies and Dr. Katz, Loren Bouchard. And you? What's your acting career, James?

I acted in a movie. I didn't have a huge part, but I actually did act, in a movie by Matt McCormick called Some Days Are Better Than Others. It's playing at SXSW, actually.

And is this movie, would it be fair to say that it's the fourth film in the Bourne series, or is it totally unrelated?

Um, I don't get that joke, but it's probably totally unrelated.

Oh, it's a great joke. [Laughs] I'm just wondering if the movie-[laughs] there's nothing really to the joke, other than I was asking if it was related to the Bourne series, but it isn't, because the title has nothing to do with the Bourne series. There's four movies, and everyone's greatly anticipating the fourth Bourne movie, and I was hoping that it was simply mistitled. That's all.

[Laughs] Oh, yeah. Well, yeah, it is actually the fourth one.

Oh, so I'm right. Well then, this is very exciting. And I'll definitely see it, considering that it's the fourth in the Bourne series.

It's also a tie-in with Star Wars.

That's perfect! That's what I've been looking for, something that brings those story lines together in a tight way-with also, maybe, beautiful cinematography. Perfect.

We should go, on a date.

[Laughs] Let's go on a date, did you say?

Yeah. [Laughs] You're very funny, Eugene. You're a funny guy.

Yeah, that's my thing. I'm also polite and don't swear in public. Those are the two things that make me, I guess, fuckable Should we talk about the benefit?

Yeah, what are you guys doing, respectively?

I was gonna do a cover of "New Slang." No, I'm going to tell standup-comedy jokes. I might play a video, I haven't decided. And you, James?

I'm going to be doing my singing bit. I've been practicing the new Broken Bells thing, so I might do some of that stuff. We'll see how it works out.

See, with comics, people only want new stuff. Nobody wants to hear my killer joke from '98.

Yeah, and of course with music, nobody wants to hear anything new.

No, they're mad just at the notion that you're writing new music, let alone that you might play it. I'm not, though-I'm looking forward to it, James. I'm an artist-I understand what you're going through. You're welcome.

Let me ask you, Eugene, when you're doing a show with a somewhat serious subject like this one, do you switch up your routine at all? Try to include anything topical?

I would say it's the opposite. I just did a benefi t for Haiti, and obviously you're not going to joke around about Haiti-unless it's killer, unless it's really something great. So in the same way that I'm assuming James isn't going to work the word "leukemia" into any of his songs, I probably won't work it into my jokes.

Maybe you talk about Haiti when you're doing the leukemia thing.

Maybe I will. Maybe I'll really stick it to Haiti this time. Or at least Pat Robertson for saying they made a pact with the devil to defeat France in 1791.

Who hasn't?

Who hasn't made a pact in 1791? I have. I did. That's why I'm fortunate enough to be pitching TV shows to FX. I hope they read this.

Are there going to be any musical comedy bits at this? Any collaborations between the two disciplines?

If your question is: Might I buy a bear suit and do something while James is onstage? You never know. I wonder if I should make this promise: If someone brings me an awesome costume, I will possibly wear it onstage. Okay, yeah! If someone brings a costume, I promise a 95 percent chance I will wear it. Unless it's like a silly, I'm-dressed-like-abelly- dancer thing. I mean like a bear, a dragon, some real shit.

A gorilla.

Gorilla? No. That's in the 5 percent. If it's a gorilla costume, I'd be like, no thanks. But a horse, a dragon, or something, you know. A gorilla's too silly. I'd be offended.

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