Just be glad you have someone dear to spend the quarantine with. Many don’t get to. And for comedian Eugene Mirman, it came as tragic as it can get. His wife for almost five years and partner for a decade, Katie Westfall Tharp, passed away, succumbing to cancer that came with a vengeance, on January 29, 2020.
And through this tough time for him as well as the world (for those who care), he’s had to balance being there for his 3-year-old son as the only parent and bringing comic relief to this godforsaken world. He’s surviving one day at a time.
Mirman targeted It Started As a Joke to be a documentary for his Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival finale, but it instead turned out to be more than just that. Julie Smith Clem, the co-director, just wanted to shout out his and wife Westfall Tharp’s love story on the documentary, the more she filmed for it.
Katie Westfall Tharp Was Diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2011 & She Initially Overcame It
Eugene Mirman’s wife, Katie Westfall Tharp was born in Greenfield, Massachusetts, in 1980 and graduated from Parsons School of Design. She met Eugene in Brooklyn, and she knew what she was getting into. Managing a comedian’s household was tough for obvious reasons, but she got through with it.
Eugene’s late wife Katie attended the ‘It Started As a Joke’ Premiere in March 2019.
Photo Credit: Michael Loccisano, Getty Images for SXSW
Tharp is a set decorator, having being involved with the likes of Inside Amy Schumer, The Electric Company & Human Giant, and she did it even after her cancer appeared. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, and she went through many, many treatments, including chemotherapy.
Even after diagnosis, she was giving up on her dreams. The couple got married on Labor Day 2016 and had a son Oliver Mirman in 2016. They were settling down with their home between Woods Hole and Somerville before she designed and built a house for her family after their son’s birth.
Mirman and wife Katie’s son is turning four this year. (Note, not their son Oliver “Ollie” Mirman in the picture.)
Photo Source: Imgur
She knew it was a crazy household, but she learned to love it. And she was friends with Julie as well as she too worked with her on the documentary. When she couldn’t work professionally anymore, she used her creativity to design the houses and weddings of her friends even until her death.
Under the advice of the doctors, they decided to stop the treatment as it was terminal already. She was moved to her home, where her entire family, including parents from Nebraska, and friends were there to say goodbye on her final day.
‘It Started As a Joke’ Tells the Story of Mirman’s Comedy History & The Life He Built with Wife Tharp
The documentary It Started As a Joke literally started as a joke between Mirman, fellow comedian Mike Birbiglia, and friend Smith-Clem. It was completed before Tharp’s death and would turn out to be a farewell project for her. It was graceful of Smith-Clem to include Mirman’s wife as much as possible during the direction as their story and life after her cancer diagnosis was also remembered.
It was necessary for Mirman to open up about his personal life while filming the documentary, now available on demand. For Clem, she wanted to tell Mirman and Westfall-Tharp’s love story as much as possible and explain what they were going through.
“Katie was a very good friend of mine as well,” Clem mentioned, according to the Boston Globe. “We wanted to share part of that story, but we didn’t really know how much. Part of that was working with Katie and figuring out what she was comfortable with.”
Towards the end of the documentary, Mirman’s wife Katie Westfall Tharp is seen at home reflecting on the fact that despite spending so much of her time with her son, he is just too young to remember it right now. Mirman tries to console her, saying he will be able to seem him in the movies. According to the New York Times, the way she sarcastically responded with, “I really want him to know about comedy,” was the best line, with a perfect dry delivery.
Mirman Is Just Living a Day at a Time
When thinking of all the loved ones of the deceased family members due to COVID-19, Mirman says with all seriousness that his heart breaks. It has been pretty strange for him too, to social distance without his wife.
“It’s so strange going through this without her,” he told The Daily Beast‘s Matt Wilstein via Zoom. “But all you can do is go on to the best of your ability at any given moment, so I guess that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Mirman will make sure he knows who his mom is.
Photo Credit: Michael Loccisano, Getty Images for SXSW
And these days, his morning routine starts with making breakfast for his 3-year-old son. “I see it as surviving and doing it a day at a time,” Mirman also told The New York Times via Skype. “We just have to get through it. I think it’s important to find any moment of joy. So when people ask, ‘Is this a time to joke around?’ It definitely is.”
“I’ve just been in a place where I’m trying to make sure my son is as OK as he can be,” Mirman continued telling Wilstein. “And we talk about her and remember her. And then the world all of a sudden is on hold and you go from just making sure he’s OK to being like, by the way, door knobs are very dangerous now. I think there’s a lot of just getting through each day.”
We feel you, bud.
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