My parents brought me here [from Russia] in the late ’70s, and I grew up at a time when there was a stand-up boom. We came here with the idea of becoming anything we wanted and genuinely believing and pursuing the American dream. Not to say that [my parents] probably weren’t concerned, but they let me go to Hampshire College, where I majored in comedy. My thesis was a one-hour stand-up act. It was actually an incredibly practical decision in terms of how much I’ve applied all the things I learned in college.
New England fosters the idea that you can be anything. Massachusetts is sort of Good Will Hunting-y — there’s a lot of things that are smart and a lot of things that are sort of tough. Not that Lexington was necessarily tough. But definitely growing up during the Cold War, I was fairly unpopular. I think [my sense of humor] probably, like with a lot of people, develops as sort of this defense mechanism, and then it turns out it’s this great career. Who doesn’t want to turn their defense mechanism into a job?
I’m very excited for the shows. A lot of festivals tend to group either ethnicities or religions or sexual orientations or whatever. The truth is, if I were to think of a bunch of comics who were either gay or women or Jewish or whatever, I don’t think they would actually have the same material. We have a show of immigrants, but [we are] all radically different. A lot of festivals do it, and I think the reason is people know that they might enjoy seeing, you know, naughty moms talking about naughty mom stuff. In fact, I’m now upset I don’t have a show called “Naughty Moms Talking About Naughty Mom Stuff.”
— As told to David Brusie (Interview has been edited and condensed.)
SEE HIM The Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival runs Thursday to next Sunday at The Sinclair in Harvard Square and the Berklee Performance Center in Boston. 800-745-3000; ticketmaster.com or eugenemirmancomedyfestival.com/boston