Whatever preconceived notion you may have of a typical comedy album, I’m pretty sure that comedian Eugene Mirman just urinated on it with the arrival of I’m Sorry (You’re Welcome). The title alone should be a dead giveaway. Half apology, half self-congratulatory pat-on-the-back, this nine volume, four-plus hour, 540 track blue whale of a release is stupid — and Mirman is well aware of that fact. He calls it “staggeringly unnecessary”, among other things. It’s one of those preemptive strikes that absurdists launch all the time, as if admitting that your craft is a little dumb somehow absolves the act of time being wasted before you even get started. I’m Sorry (You’re Welcome) is not funny all the way through. In fact, some of it is just tiresome. But there are genuinely funny moments that Mirman almost makes you work for, as if the holistic approach is the only way to appreciate his brand of humor. It’s not as multi-faceted as it may seem, since the central theme to about two-thirds of this “album” is probably something along the lines of “let’s see how long I can get away with doing this.” With the exception of the first volume, it is one pretty consistently gray lump of coal.
Eugene Mirman gives the listener an easy start with a 50-minute stand-up set recorded in Seattle. It’s not unlike his other stand-up albums, combining absurd stories, wandering topics, and a screed against a high-profile target towards the end. An example of the first: yelling out things in the supermarket to make strangers think his girlfriend is crazy, like “you know what, I am going to get toilet paper, I don’t think it’s a waste!” An example of the second: Brooklyn Jews as “Gandalf the Sad”, followed by a humbling trip to Guitar Center. And much like his tirade against [bleep] airlines, Mirman registers his disgust with those in charge of parking violations in Portsmouth, New Hampshire: “Fuck you, don’t steal my money!” The main difference between this albums and others is that Mirman picks a random couple out of the audience and marries them onstage. His authority? Some website somewhere where you enter your name and suddenly your ordained (I think I did a similar thing in college).
But that’s just one LP out of seven blobs of wax total. After the live album comes “A Guided Meditation for the Thoughtful Body”, which is 21 minutes of Mirman walking you through some highly specialized relaxation techniques set to new age music, like “Now, think of someone from high school who might have been mentally ill…and wish them a good morning.” On the flipside is “Fuckscape”, a far less decipherable concept that allows Mirman to talk about sex, in a way that most of us outgrew by the time we reached high school, against various musical backdrops. The music to “A Guided Meditation for the Thoughtful Body”, “Fuckscape” and “Digital Drugs” was thrown together by Christian Cundari and Matthew Savage, and the sense of mischief they bring to the album is, dare I say, more palatable than what Mirman brings. Each track of the “Digital Drugs” segment is supposed to simulate the effects of various drugs. For instance, while “Marijuana” has pleasantly reverberating guitar strums and a confused monologue, “PCP” is full of synthesizer stabs, bells, and weird utterances. “Heroin” summons the sitar (I would have thought it to be a weed instrument, but what do I know?) while Mirman proclaims that he cares neither about his homework nor coastal flooding. This goes on for a solid half hour.
The volumes with with just Euguene Mirman’s voice with no music or effects are the true test. “Introduction to Spoken Russian” is mildly amusing since Mirman admits upfront that his Russian is more than a little rusty (his family emigrated when he was very young) and the words and phrases he translates gradually evolve from “hello” to “shame is the fuel of perfection!” and “I love throwing cutlets.” “Eugene’s Comprehensive Sound Effects Library” is Mirman making 197 sound effects with his mouth in 30 minutes, starting with “Horse” and “Duck”, traveling through “Grand Wizard Can’t Find A Sock” and “Mice Making Fried Rice”, and ending with “The Czech Republic Has an Upset Stomach” and “Silly Billy Goat Got a Heroin Addiction”. But 98 different ringtones and pre-recorded phone messages can’t prepare you for “Over 45 Minutes of Crying” (which is exactly what it is, nothing more) and the orgasm library. Yes, “195 Orgasm” is the sound of Eugene Mirman making 195 different orgasm noises over the course of 32 minutes. Listening to the whole thing creates a whole new numbing effect that you can easily sidestep just by reading the names: “It’s Not a Slumber Party Without Thor”, “I Went to High School in the Boston Area”, “Glad the Town Approved Your Slurping Permit” — you get the idea; the more outlandish the name of the orgasm, the more it sounds like all the others.
I managed to listen to the entire crying volume, just hoping to catch any subtle joke or Easter egg. Amid the sobbing, I heard Eugene Mirman’s overdubbed voice give a web address. The password is given to you at the end of the sound effects library. As of this writing I could not get the password to work. So all I got from listening to 45 minutes of Eugene Mirman crying was…45 minutes of Eugene Mirman crying. To say that a move like that and the grunting of 195 different orgasms is absurd for the sake of absurdity gives I’m Sorry (You’re Welcome) too much credit. I’m fully convinced that there is no subtle joke or hidden nuance. It’s just Eugene Mirman playing around in front of a microphone for too many hours. And though the man himself proclaims I’m Sorry (You’re Welcome) to be a “truly ambitious and utterly stupid”, Mirman can safely place this collection in the dumpster marked “failed experiments” — or, less charitably, “stuff only I found to be funny.”