A Guide To Mustering 'The Will To Whatevs'

Comedian Eugene Mirman is not qualified to give people advice, but he does it anyway. Mirman talks to host Robert Smith about his new book, The Will to Whatevs: A Guide to Modern Life. Mirman explains that the secret to everything is confidence. And if you're struggling to muster some, he has a tip: Just imagine the people around you crying in their underwear.

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ROBERT SMITH, host:

Eugene Mirman, I need your advice.

Mr. Eugene Mirman (Author, "The Will to Whatevs: A Guide to Modern Life"): Yes.

SMITH: How do I start out the segment so that people don't get bored and immediately turn off the radio?

Mr. MIRMAN: Too late.

SMITH: Eugene Mirman is a New York-based comedian, actor, and the author of a new book, "The Will to Whatevs: A Guide to Modern Life." Did I say that correctly?

Mr. MIRMAN: Sort of. I don't emphasize the whatevs. I say it as if it's truly a toss-away word.

SMITH: The comedians I've known are not the most well-adjusted people. So, why should anyone take advice from someone who writes jokes for a living?

Mr. MIRMAN: Well, first of all, let me just say that most of the book is lies. So, if you do take the advice, it's mostly because you didn't pick up on that. But otherwise, I feel like it's very easy for - you know, comedians are the critics of anything. You know, they sit and they look at things, and their lives are messed up. But their advice and their sort of perceptions are flawless, especially mine.

SMITH: Well, no one here at NPR has any problems, but we went down the street from our studios, where people have a whole heap of things on their minds, and we asked people their burning questions for you. We have a question from Terrance McCreary(ph), who lives in Maryland.

Mr. TERRANCE McCREARY (Resident, Maryland): Eugene, do you have any tips on a long-lasting marriage?

Mr. MIRMAN: I would say to always find a way to rekindle that spark, maybe go hunting together, you know, with just knives or something, spears. Not like guns because anybody can kill with a gun. But a couple that can trap an animal with knives, that's a couple that's in love.

SMITH: Well, I'm sure when you go out and peddle this book, I'm sure people want your dating advice from you. Is that the number one thing they're asking?

Mr. MIRMAN: You know, yeah. That's either the number one thing. Sometimes it's, you know, just school related, like high school- or college-related. And then, other times, the question doesn't make any sense. They'll just be like, I'm a monkey. I'm on fire. And then I'm like, I can't help you.

SMITH: Well, we actually have a question from someone who is about to go to college. Austin Harrison(ph) is 18 years old, and he's headed for the University of Mississippi.

Mr. AUSTIN HARRISON: What would be good advice for an entering freshman in college? What is one tip that you could give me?

Mr. MIRMAN: Well, the one thing I would do is if there's a group of people chanting, drink, don't do it. Don't do that.

SMITH: Well, in general, perhaps you should avoid anything that a large group of people are chanting for you to do - jump.

Mr. MIRMAN: Jump, drink, anything, basically, that's a verb. If people are chanting a one-word verb, don't do it.

SMITH: Now, you have actually been taking real questions from real people on your Web site for some time. What's the key to giving advice on something you know nothing about?

Mr. MIRMAN: Confidence. Confidence is the key to virtually everything. It's just deciding that you're qualified because once you decide you're qualified, everything else becomes very easy. The only thing that doesn't really work in is medicine. You shouldn't decide you're qualified and then go to a hospital and start fixing stuff.

SMITH: You talk about confidence, but you know, it's easy to say, be confident, but it's harder to figure out how to do that. So you know, let's say you're going to a party, and you want to be able to fit in and be relaxed.

Mr. MIRMAN: You know, how to relax you're supposed to, you know, imagine people in their underwear, and then you - sort of the pressure and the sort of status of them goes away. Well, what I think you should do is imagine people in their underwear but then also imagine them crying, and that - that is truly relaxing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SMITH: Any advice on how to end this interview?

Mr. MIRMAN: I think we should end it with me complimenting you because you're a guest host. You've been doing a great job, and through some sort of miracle of science, you have mastered the NPR voice and tone. It's incredible.

SMITH: That's doing wonders for my confidence, that and picturing you crying in your underwear.

Mr. MIRMAN: Exactly. See, you're a master.

SMITH: Eugene Mirman is the author of "The Will to Whatevs: A Guide to Modern Life." He's also a stand-up comic in New York City, and plays the landlord on the HBO series "The Flight of the Conchords." He joined us from the studios of WGBH in Boston. Thanks so much.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MIRMAN: Thank you.

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