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Eugene Mirman

God Is a 12-Year-Old Boy With Asperger's

(Sub Pop; US: 6 Oct 2009; UK: 12 Oct 2009)

Like some of his contemporaries—Patton Oswalt and Brian Posehn come to mind—Eugene Mirman has a nerdy charm that, despite all its awkwardness, can be pretty hard to ignore. Also much like those guys, Mirman spends most of his jokes taking about everyday absurdities that, until he points them out, seem too obvious to notice.


But his unique perspective often hones in on the foolish rhetoric that surrounds us. And much of God Is a 12-Year-Old Boy With Asperger’s is spent delving into all the lazy and misleading language that we get bombarded with day in and day out. He takes on ambiguous protestors’ signs, vaguely racist television polls, and even online banner ads. Mirman’s greatest attribute as a comic is how concise his jokes can be; he offers quick one-liners that get right to the heart of some pretty complex humor. His list of imagined banner ads, where he asks divisive questions to drive traffic to his site, includes questions like “It is better to be racist at night?” Or “Should George W. Bush be Bill Cosby instead?”


And when he’s not taking on language, he’s attacking bureaucracies large and small. From a confusing run-in with his gas company, to Apple’s getting in the way when he tries to return a stranger’s iPod—an act, by the way, he deems “the nicest thing anyone’s done since the underground railroad”—to a lengthy and tiring battle with a major airline (the name gets bleeped out on the disc), you have to at least applaud Mirman’s stubborn will to battle with these people. Even if it is usually after the fact, and for the sake of a joke, Mirman will write the angry letters and make the phone calls the rest of us only bitch about doing. And then act them out on stage.


But while the jokes all tend to land true on Mirman’s new disc, the release itself is perplexing. For one, it is awfully short, clocking in around 35 minutes. Sure, less is more in comedy, and I wouldn’t want him to stretch this out forever, particularly where his jokes themselves are so contained. But the real problem is that his airline run-in takes the better part of the second half of the set, and involves some audience participation—he hands out postcards for them all to mail to the airline, pledging to boycott in the name of Eugene “Horse Cock” Mirman”.


And, listening to it on the album, you end up feeling a little excluded. The story itself is absurd and funny, but overly long in the way none of his other material comes across. But you get the feeling that, for the audience, hanging it there to be included in the joke makes it worth it. And since you, the album listener, aren’t at all part of the experience, it’s hard to get into it. It’s not that it’s not funny, it’s that you had to be there.


Still, God Is a 12-Year-Old Boy With Asperger’s is the work of one of the great comics going. Aside from all the hilarious material already mentioned, the story from which the album’s title comes from is perhaps the funniest thing you’ll hear all year. At least about religion. But as funny as the funniest parts are, as a whole this album doesn’t showcase Mirman’s talents quite as much as it could. Nerdy may be charming, but sometimes it needs more than a half-hour or so to reach its highest potency.

Rating:

Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


Media

Eugene Mirman - 2009 LHS Commencement Speech
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