Currently working on the podcast Starring Eugene Mirman and Susan Sullivan, here’s a chance to sample some of the gorgeous, quirk-filled, sardonic, and hilariously wide-ranging themes and sketches of Eugene’s show. Whether he’s playing a woman trying to rectify her bad habits as a parent, or a super-traditional bigwig who can’t relate to LGBT culture, TV viewers have been treated to Eugene’s distinct brand of humor for years (or decades, if you count his film debut, the awesome 1999 cult hit, Mr. Wizard).
But thanks to this collaboration with Star Trek: Voyager star Jeri Ryan, Eugene has taken his quirky and crazy sensibility to another level. We chatted with the actress, who joins Eugene on the first episode of this new BBC America series (because obviously all the people in science fiction know how to make good television), about the novel idea behind it, what brought the two together, and how we’ll meet future Klingons.
Tell me about the concept for J/O/N. Why are you doing this new collaboration with Eugene?
I grew up in an apartment in Brooklyn. It was very messy. And then me and my husband [actor Bruce Witt] renovated it so it was very clean. Now we live in a huge estate, and we have nothing but boxes in it all the time. So what I would do is call it a brilliant idea, because the show doesn’t take place in any kind of studio where any of that stuff exists, but it did focus on the messiness and the chaos of life. All of our stuff in our house is scattered all over the place. And it was really fun to talk about that–how messy it is in our house–to an audience that kind of knows our life a little bit better.
Did you get to improvise any of your characters with him?
He’s a guy who is totally the opposite of what the characters in Star Trek or Cheers are like. He’s not a gentleman, and he doesn’t have a very nice skin. And what I got to do was read this script and play this character that’s very changed by his environment and this new adventure.
So how did you become involved with the project?
Eugene called me up and he’s writing [the podcasts], and I told him how lucky I was to have this home, and that I’d read the script and that I thought it was funny. And then he came to my house and we wrote it together.
You’ve worked on television in a variety of ways, including on Star Trek: Voyager. Was the experience of working in comedy different than other mediums?
The only role that I’ve actually played in television is this one. So what I’ve learned about TV that I haven’t really learned in film or in live theater is you have to be honest with what you have to say in this medium. In films and in live theater, the actors get a lot of room to express who they are. There are a lot of stage directions in film, and television would rarely be interested in a role that wasn’t interesting for the actor who played it. As an actor in television, you have to speak, but not as much.
Why do you think people like the show so much?
Eugene is really embracing different forms of comedy in this podcast, and he seems to be very familiar with many kinds of comedy in this medium, and I think that’s why this has become this sensation. And it’s funny because there’s so much material on every front with this podcast. But you don’t really get to see a side of Eugene that is something else, and we get to hear, ‘Oh my God, what is he doing? Do you think he is that person?’ I love being able to poke fun at that in the interview.