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Q&A

Comedian Eugene Mirman on grief, food, and life with a toddler in quarantine

The voice of Gene Belcher on “Bob’s Burgers” has been documenting his quarantine cooking on social media.

Eugene Mirman
Eugene Mirman

In his Daily Quarantine Routine #32 posted to Instagram, comedian Eugene Mirman recommends beginning the day this way: “7 a.m. Wake up and make tahini.” Mirman’s packed to-do list also includes getting an MBA. It ends with: “Eat ramen and organize a closet, as if that’ll solve things.”

The tahini entry might actually have been true. Mirman, who splits his time between Somerville and Cape Cod has a lifelong love of comedy and food. He has been documenting his quarantine cooking on social media.

For 10 seasons, Mirman has voiced food-loving Gene Belcher on “Bob’s Burgers.” The new documentary “It Started as a Joke,” released in April, chronicles the final year of the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival and recalls the first meeting of the future “Bob’s Burgers” team — over a stolen, half-eaten pork chop at the former bistro Chez Henri in Cambridge.

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An important part of the documentary is Mirman’s wife Katie Westfall Tharp and her decade-long battle with breast cancer. Tharp passed away in late January, shortly before the film’s release.

Mirman talked about the comfort of cooking now from his home on the Cape, where he is quarantining with the couple’s 3-year-old son.

Eugene Mirman is the voice of Gene Belcher on “Bob’s Burgers.”
Eugene Mirman is the voice of Gene Belcher on “Bob’s Burgers.” CR: FOX

I guess the first question for everyone these days is, how are you doing?

Me and my son are all right. We’re on the Cape right now. There’s an unknown that is just a constant. But at the same time that things are stressful, we’re also sort of OK.

What does your actual day-to-day routine look like with a 3-year-old?

Well, I do get up at around 7 a.m. every day, which is why the Quarantine Routine always sort of starts then. It’s basically waking up, and having breakfast and filling our time. Also, our nanny lives here. She’s quarantined at her home, and so she comes and helps sometimes during the day.

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Are you working?

I’ve recorded some of Bob’s from home, so working somewhat. I don’t know when stand-up will literally be safe. So, I’m mostly writing those Quarantine Routines and at some point will try to make a book or something. I feel the same way everyone does to a degree, which is you’re trying to get through each day and fill it with stuff that may be enjoyable, but also just feeling sort of listless and lost.

You’ve also been doing interviews about the documentary. That must be difficult.

It’s just extremely strange processing grief in this. In a sense, all the things that I’d hoped to do, which involved really being with friends and family, is not a safe thing to do. So it’s been strange, but the truth is cooking and thinking of projects, in whatever limited way, has been one of the nice things. Because at any given point, even in sort of great sadness, you can try to make things a little better for yourself in whatever way you can. So for me, remaining interested in cooking, I can to certain degrees gauge how depressed I feel. If I am very not interested, then it’s like you’re losing interest in things that normally would occupy you. But it has been a thing that I found to be nice, and one of the few things that you can do while under self house arrest.

Have you always been a cook?

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I would cook as a kid, not really with recipes. But yeah, I have always loved it. Once we left New York, it was much easier. I had an apartment that was almost like dorm room-ish. Well, it had a large dorm room fridge. Getting out and having a regular refrigerator and counter space, made it much easier to cook.

Are you able to get ingredients for cooking projects now?

There’s a farm off Cape that I found that has various meat and eggs. I get stuff from them every one or two weeks. For a lot of the cooking, I see what I can order from some places and then be like, “OK, well I can get sesame seeds, so maybe I’ll try to make tahini.” I try to think of fun meals or things to try. I made my son a steak and cheese, like with shaved steak, and he enjoyed it. That was very exciting for today. So that’s like a very minor accomplishment.

Is your son showing signs of being a food guy?

He eats the things he likes, and he largely tries stuff. But he doesn’t judge my curry sauces. He’s not like, “I need Camembert. This cheddar is not my speed.”

What else have you been trying out?

Hot chicken was really fun to make. Getting long flat barbecue skewers and making kofta was really fun. I can’t get ground lamb, so I had used pork and beef. And I’ve “waffled” several things, as one does in quarantine. The sticky rice waffles turned out really good.

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What are you looking forward when quarantine loosens up?

What I’m looking forward to is the point at which it’s safe to be around a small number of friends. I do really love food, and it is such a great way to bring people together. I’m very sad for, like, what the future of restaurants will be. So much of my time in Boston and Somerville is with friends that like wonderful restaurants, and I hope they’re around.

What have you learned while isolating with a 3-year-old?

I think he’s actually at a sort of convenient age where he’s OK with largely spending time with me and one other person. I feel like if he was a little older and needed friends, this would be much, much harder. But he’s kind of fine with playing next to a 45-year-old. Sort of.

“It Started as a Joke” is now available for viewing on Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, FandangoNow, Sony, Microsoft Xbox, and on iTunes.

Interview was edited and condensed. Michael Floreak can be reached at michael.floreak@gmail.com.


Michael Floreak can be reached at michael.floreak@gmail.com.