For years, Eugene Mirman’s friends would ask if he planned to move to Los Angeles like so many of his fellow comedians. His response was always the same.
“I’d tell them I was more likely to move to Cape Cod,” says Mirman.
Then he did. After living in Brooklyn for 16 years and becoming what one writer has called “the comedian king of Hipsterville,” Mirman abruptly retreated a year ago to Woods Hole with his wife.
It’s worked out. Despite being “moderately off the grid,” Mirman is busier than ever, voicing characters on two popular TV series, doing stand-up shows, appearing on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s science podcast “StarTalk,” and hosting the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival, a variety show of sorts featuring some of his funny friends. Best of all, Mirman and his wife now have a kitchen big enough to fix a proper meal and a backyard for their 9-month-old son, Ollie, to enjoy.
“I still get inside an airplane and go to LA and Seattle,” Mirman says. “But it’s nicer being here.”
Friday, Mirman will get inside a Subaru and drive 80 miles to do a headlining set at Boston Calling, the three-day music festival that has expanded its comedy stage this year. And next month, he’ll tell a few of his absurd stories at the Solid Sound Festival at Mass MoCA in North Adams.
That he hasn’t sacrificed professionally is just one upside of being on the Cape. Mirman, who grew up in Lexington, attended Hampshire College, and honed his skills at the Comedy Studio in Harvard Square, is nearer family and friends now. And then there’s the delectable Monsta Lobsta Roll at Quahog Republic, a dive bar in a Falmouth mini mall. You can’t get that in Brooklyn or LA.
Since arriving in this country at the age of 4 — his parents were refugees from Russia — Mirman has rarely made the conventional choice. It was evident early on that he wasn’t going to be a mathematician like his father, or a programmer like his mother. An underwhelming student at Lexington High School, Mirman spent a lot of time listening to stand-up — Steve Martin, Emo Philips, Bobcat Goldthwait, you name it — with the idea of becoming, to the mild chagrin of his parents, a comedian.
“Is it anxiety inducing to have your son do comedy?” says Mirman, 42, sitting at the dining room table in Woods Hole. “Like, probably. But my parents literally brought us to America to do what we wanted, and if the thing I wanted to do was comedy, well . . .”
After graduating from Hampshire, where he created his own major (comedy), Mirman lived in Somerville, did stand-up, and developed ideas with friends, including Loren Bouchard, a Medford native and one of the producers of the animated Comedy Central series “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.”
One of those ideas was an animated show about a family of cannibals. A houseful of flesh eaters is hilarious, right? Maybe not. Bouchard instead settled on a hamburger joint run by the Belchers, and the Fox hit “Bob’s Burgers” was born. On the show, now in its seventh season, Mirman is the voice of Gene — Bob and Linda Belcher’s goofball son, a wannabe musician who likes to record fart sounds.
“Eugene is an especially great choice to play a kid because he’s childlike,” says Bouchard, who had Mirman in mind when he created Gene. “I don’t mean in an unsophisticated or simpleton sort of way. He’s just in touch with the childlike aspect of his personality and he mixes that naturally with an adult sensibility.”
Mirman records “Bob’s Burgers” in Boston. Once a week, he drives to Soundtrack, a studio on Columbus Avenue, where he stands at a microphone and becomes an insolent, yet lovable 11-year-old, uttering lines like: “You should know when you hold hands with me, you are holding hands with everything I’ve ever eaten.” With the show’s other voice actors — Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, Larry Murphy, John Roberts, and Kristen Schaal — reading along in studios in New York or LA, each script takes about six hours to get through. Mirman also records “Archer” — he voices multimillionaire Cecil Tunt on the FX animated spy sitcom — at Soundtrack.
Mirman has known many of the people involved with “Bob’s Burgers” and “Archer” for several years, and he says it’s no coincidence they’re all working together. He’s happiest when he’s doing something with pals.
“In terms of what I actively pursue professionally, I’d say collaborating with friends,” says Mirman, whose wise, slightly mischievous eyes and prominent beak give him an owlish appearance.
“Eugene is a person you immediately want to know,” says Wesley Stace, an English singer-songwriter who has performed with him many times. “Eugene is not one of those funny-on-the-outside, sad-on-the-inside people. He has a humanity, an attitude toward life that I admire very much.”
Mirman has a lot of friends, like Stace, who are in the music business. In part that’s because he performs in rock clubs. Mirman has opened for bands such as the Shins and Modest Mouse, and released a couple of comedy albums on Sub Pop, a label better known for putting out records by Nirvana, Beach House, and Sleater-Kinney. (His 2015 album, “I’m Sorry [You’re Welcome],” is an epic seven-LP set that includes a sound effects library voiced by the comedian and an introduction to useful Russian phrases.)
“Really, Eugene is one of the founders of the alternative comedy scene,” says Goldthwait, who directed Mirman’s Netflix special, “Eugene Mirman: Vegan on His Way to the Complain Store.” “By doing something other than the traditional comedy club thing, he gave voice to a whole bunch of other original people.”
Sub Pop CEO Megan Jasper has known Mirman for more than a decade — they were introduced by comedian David Cross — and he’s become one of her favorite people.
“Eugene’s very sweet and very funny,” says Jasper, who grew up in Worcester and attended UMass. “When he has an experience that for you and I would be an eyeroll, he sees it as an opportunity for comedy. And then it makes its way onto the stage.”
A good example is the bit he does about a letter he published in a Portsmouth newspaper after receiving a $15 ticket for backing into a parking space. “I foolishly looked around for signs, both real and from God,” Mirman wrote with mock outrage. “I saw nothing, but I heard God’s voice, and he said, ‘This is [expletive]. You need to write them a letter.’”
Mirman’s latest project is being a parent, which means being home more to help his wife, Katie Westfall-Tharp, raise their son. Westfall-Tharp was a set designer in New York — the couple’s couch would look familiar to viewers of “Inside Amy Schumer” — but she grew up in Western Massachusetts and, like Mirman, was eager to be closer to family. (The couple got married at a friend’s house in Woods Hole in 2015.)
“We thought, ‘Why not live in a place we love and travel from there?’ ” she says. “But it’s an adjustment, for sure.”
For example, when Mirman wanted to try out new material in New York, he could walk two blocks to a comedy club. Now he has to drive two hours to the Hong Kong in Harvard Square to do 10 minutes. But Woods Hole is hardly a wilderness. Mirman sometimes writes at Pie in the Sky Bakery and Café, or Coffee Obsession, in Woods Hole, and Grumpy’s Pub in Falmouth has become a favorite late-night spot for a drink with friends. And, for now, that’s all he needs.
“If my goal was specifically to be further from a T.J. Maxx, I could do it,” Mirman says, “but sometimes everyone needs a pan.”