No one understands the complexities of modern life better than Eugene Mirman--claims Eugene Mirman—and anyone seeking guidance from a man who has lived through everything (except the Great Depression, the Spanish-American War, and Jerry Lee Lewis's sex scandal) won't resist this charmingly hysterical guidebook.
Eugene, Who Are You, and What's This Will?
"My book is very funny, but disorganized. I think in the end, people will compare me quite negatively to a retarded Mark Twain."
—Eugene Mirman, drunk in a swimming pool, March 2008
As you know, a good book starts with a good anecdote. The same is probably true for a bad book—that's the fault of formatting. Before the anecdote, you'll often find a preamble about humanity, followed by the answering of several rhetorical questions. Look no further than the book (not film!) version of Clear and Present Danger, or the liner notes of any Velvet Underground box set. Though my examples may be untrue, I've certainly prepared you for a preamble, an anecdote, and a rhetorical Q&A, so that's good. Information is best sneaked into people's minds, not told.
Our society is at a critical point in history (if you believe in linear time). Some believe that America and the world are on the verge of global self-destruction—morally, environmentally, sexually, and/or gastrointestinally (foie gras—more like, f-uh-oh gras).
However, optimists look at mankind and see a civilization on the verge of interstellar space travel, world peace, and the end of poverty. (Those people, of course, are Gene Roddenberry, Bono, many college undergrads, and a handful of charming scientists. Oh, and Bill Clinton!)
Of course, there are those who don't care either way—they simply want to make out in a bar with an okay-looking friend-of-a-friend. (I am very much in all three camps, which is why Forbes magazine voted me the third-most well suited to write a life advice book.)
Throughout our history, humanity has been plagued with questions, and also plagued with regular plagues. I don't know much about biology, so I can't speak to actual plagues. However, I can answer all kinds of questions: moral, ethical, job-related, child rearing, party etiquette, romantic, technological, stuff about boobs, and my three faves: How do I have sex with someone and not talk to them again?, Can you hit a kid for a very, very good reason?, and of course How do you get a self-righteous asshole to shut the fuck up, even if they're right?
Sadly, like many life coaches, psychologists, preachers, and philosophers (Mind Thinker alert!), no matter how much I "get it," it's almost impossible to apply that knowledge to my own life. I'm not so arrogant as to overlook that fact. (On a quick side note, I would argue that—much like Samuel L. Jackson—I am not arrogant at all; I'm just actually really, really great.)
It's easy to sit on a mountaintop and tell people what to do and how to be happy. I have chosen to do that. Not because it's easy, but for a different reason, which I would reveal, if your mind was ready to handle it, which it isn't, which is also very convenient for me.
Often, what people need in their life is an outside perspective—someone who can tell you how it is. Sadly, since life doesn't take place inside the TV show Buck Rogers or the movies Crazy People or The Matrix, and you don't have the luxury of either a wise-ass astronaut from the 1970s, truth-talking mental patients, or Laurence Fishburne helping you see things differently, you need me.
I am a traditional outsider. I am an immigrant (from Russia!) and a Jew (sorry). I am a comedian—a role historically known for entertaining through its critical, outsider look at society and for popularizing fart noises on stage and screen (but disregard the second reason since it does not help with my point). Here I am, like in the days of olde, when jesters were granted special permission to tease kings and right wrongs. (I think that's only part true.) Alone I come with the tools and teases you need to survive school, find love, get a job, reach nirvana, or whatevs you like. Kind of sort of? No! Definitely sort of!
Still not convinced I'm an outsider? Or not convinced I can help? Well, let me address your first doubt with a story. (The second doubt can only be assuaged with a leap of faith and a box of wine. . . .)
A Story About Someone from High School
A few years ago I got an e-mail from someone I knew growing up. He was always very mean to me (because I was a weirdo, a Russian immigrant in the '80s during the cold war, terrible at lacrosse, and not very sexy). In tenth grade science class, he threw fire into my hair. It's important to note that he wasn't an emotionally troubled pyrokinetic (which I would've forgiven even at the time), but simply a crappy kid who lit a bunch of paper with a Bunsen burner and threw it into my hair.
We fell out of touch after high school, because (1) we weren't friends, and (2) he threw fire at me and was mean to me for about a decade. Still, I once ran into him our sophomore year of college, and he seemed perfectly nice and was studying law. Also, a year prior, he sent me an e-mail congratulating me on a commercial I was in. It was a really great commercial, so I understand why someone would want to reach out and congratulate me. That was it, though.
Seventeen years later, he e-mailed me wanting to meet up, get a cup of coffee and talk. I was a little nervous. I knew he wasn't going to hit me or throw fire in my hair, but I was worried he wanted to start an improv troupe. (The spouses of cops and soldiers fear getting a call that their loved one has died; comedians mostly fear a call from someone from their past wanting to start an improv troupe.) He told me he would come anywhere to meet me. I told him I lived in New York. He said he'd come anywhere in the Boston area to meet me.