Getting a parking ticket is seriously the pits. But for comedian Eugene Mirman (who you know and adore as Gene on hit cartoon Bob’s Burgers) simply waving his fist at the sky and cursing his own careless sign reading, a recent parking ticket was not something to be tolerated or paid. Instead, he took out a full page ad in a local Portsmouth, New Hampshire newspaper to give the parking police a piece of his mind.
The offending ticket was placed on his windshield while Mirman was out for a walk with his girlfriend. When he got back and found said ticket, he noticed there was still an hour left on the meter. Of course, he hadn’t actually gotten the ticket for overstaying his welcome — he had “parked in the wrong direction.” The fine? $15.
So what’s a guy to do? Clearly, write a long letter to the City of Portsmouth and place it in the local paper! And lucky for us, it’s chock full of Gene Belcher-esque witticisms.
“When we returned to our car, on the windshield was a ticket,” Mirman writes. “‘What could this possibly be for,’ I thought. I paid for three hours of parking (but only used two — you’re welcome, Portsmouth.) Is it a crime in Portsmouth to not use all of the parking you bought? How’d you know I’d be back early? Do you have a PreCrime division? Why are your PreCogs working on traffic tickets? Shouldn’t they be out preventing Street Performers before they happen? But no, I read the violation—we backed into a spot and were being fined $15 for being ‘parked in the wrong direction.'”
In case you are wondering if he just kind of blew this whole thing out of proportion and should have paid the $15, fear not! He goes on:
“You’re probably thinking, ‘Well, if before visiting Portsmouth, like everyone else — you’d simply gone to the City Clerk’s Office website, clicked on City of Portsmouth ordinances and looked in chapter seven — Vehicles, Traffic and Parking. Right there in section 7.316: BACK TO CURB, it says, ‘No vehicle shall remain backed up to the curb.’ Similarly, if you had gone to my website before I came to your city and clicked on Eugene’s ordinances, you’d know that in Chapter One under ‘F%#K You Don’t Steal My Money,’ in section 8.215 is says, ‘F%#K You Don’t Steal My Money.'”
But Mirman doesn’t just rely on his own experience to muster sympathy. He even makes this $15 ticket about New Hampshire’s identity and history:
“Lastly, as you know, New Hampshire‘s state motto is General John Stark’s celebrated quote, ‘Live Free or Die,’ … If John Stark was alive today, he would be 287 years old — also, right after learning about cars, General Stark would then be disgusted ti discover that Portsmouth doesn’t even give people the freedom to back into a spot — which by your own state’s twisted logic, turns my $15 ticket — into a fight to the death.”
After that, he signs off “with great disappointment.”
Okay, so maybe this is all very over the top. But it also isn’t the first time Mirman has been the anti-authoritarian mastermind of an elaborate act of comedy. In 2011, he took on Time Warner Cable with a $1,100 ad in The Observer. And as it happens, I was at one of his shows in 2009 when he handed out postcards to every single member of the audience detailing how an air carrier lost his luggage. He encouraged everyone to send it in to the airline (but for shame, I did not because talk about a souvenir).
When Twitter user @boscop asked Mirman if he’d please record a reading of the letter to Portsmouth, Mirman replied quickly that, yes, it was going to make it into his next special and album. So it’s safe to say that Mirman is playing the long game when it comes to his next stand-up routine. But here’s the real question: Did he ever actually pay the ticket?