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Eugene Mirman and Pretty Good Friends @ Prospect Park - 6.17.10

By: Paul Gale

Last Thursday, Brooklyn's Prospect Park Bandshell was home to Eugene Mirman & Pretty Good Friends, the latest installment in BRIC's mostly free and totally awesome Celebrate Brooklyn! series. The two hour show was a fun and relaxing combination of comedy, music, and friendship. Mirman, who performed at the top of the night, was a refined and generous headliner, acting more as a host than a star. He seemed to genuinely enjoy and believe in his friends, and with supporting acts like Kumail Nanjiani and Michael Showalter, why shouldn't he?

Even in a venue of 1,000+, Mirman, thanks to a large projector screen, employed his signature take on prop comedy, showing nonsensical posters that he made for the Tea party ("Liberty / Don't Tread On Tea!" among other, and funnier ones that I didn't write down).  In between acts, Mirman performed small bits, including one in which he handed out homemade, mostly Robin Williams themed, Father's Day cards. ("You are a better dad than the one from Dead Poet's Society.")

It was Showalter's 40th birthday, and, picking up one of musical guest Blitzen Trapper's guitars, the Brooklyn resident gave his 12-year-old self a present by miming an excerpt from "Sunday Bloody Sunday," while sloppily singing the lyrics. But the festivities didn't stop there.

At the end of Showalter's set, which mainly consisted of him giving away some of his old books by throwing them into the crowd, Mirman brought out a life-size cat cake with Showalter's face on it. Michael humbly accepted the bizarre gift, acknowledging his love for cats; minutes later, he came back out and presented Mirman with the cake's severed head, a fork, and a napkin.  

Michael Showalter gives Eugene a slice of birthday cakeSpecial surprise guest Jim Gaffigan owned the audience with his cadence and repertoire of voices--his exploration of themes coupled with a sharp delivery, was amazing to watch. Contrarily, John Hodgman's act felt somewhat dull but his appearance as a surveyor of all things Park Slope helped to bring more life to his set; for some reason, his scholarly demeanor wasn't holding up.   Janeane Garofalo's set was pretty entertaining and I'm excited to see what Kumail Nanjiani is capable of down the road; Kumail shares Mirman's sense of childlike wonderment that makes him so fun to watch.

The night's most poignant moments occurred after Jerry Minor came up against some major technical difficulties with his laptop, in an attempt to sing with Auto-Tune over a beat. It wasn't clear whether or not those difficulties were planned and part of the act, especially after he started the song for the fifth time. However, the reality of the mistake was confirmed when, after Minor told the story off the cuff of how he dedicated himself to comedy at a young age, Mirman asked for an extra round of applause for his friend. I'm sure, like all seasoned comedians, Mirman's had a night like that before, where the whole act crumbles as a result of a small variable.  

Eric Earley of Blitzen Trapper

Closing musical act Blitzen Trapper also encountered technical difficulties, leaving the Portland natives to resort to more of an acoustic-sounding set. Following in the spirit of the rest of the show, the band was  low-key, playing  "Furr," "Heaven On Earth," and finishing up with "Black River Killer." All of the performers, besides the understandably stressed out Minor, seemed to have a good time joking and bonding about what it's like to be a part of the warm Brooklyn community. Celebrate Brooklyn!, indeed.

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