Sept. 10, 2008
Watching comedian Mike Birbiglia at Music Mill Wednesday made me feel like a kid having a sleepover with a new friend who was a gifted storyteller and had enough great stories to keep us up way past bedtime. Even though he played to a packed house, the atmosphere was intimate — as warm and comfortable as it was funny. After the show, I met him briefly in the autograph line and told him all that. He smiled and said that was along the lines of what he was shooting for, a feeling of sitting around a campfire at night.
His stories deal with awkward moments, many of them flat-out painful, but you keep laughing even as you empathize with him, because he knows how to talk about his life without seeming to be self-absorbed. He is self-deprecating without sounding self-pitying. He knows how to convey the humor in each anecdote without coming off like he's working the room. He rarely swears, so when he does, it packs a punch.
Birbiglia's topics are unique. No complaints about airline snacks here, this guy talks about “Hulking out” in Walla Walla, Wash., irritating Roger Clemens at a baseball-related function, dealing with recurring dreams of wild animals that can levitate and much more. A lot of the stories deal with his sleep disorder, as he prepares for his one-man off-Broadway show, “Sleepwalk with Me,” which begins previews Oct. 17 at the Bleeker Street Theatre in NYC.
The comedian is a frequent guest on “The Bob and Tom Show” and a friend of mine from the program told me that watching Birbiglia perform over the past few years has been fascinating. What looks so relaxed and free-flowing on stage now, he said, is the result of years carefully honing his craft. The hard work paid off. Birbiglia's show is captivating, hilarious, a bit otherworldly and quite satisfying. A sleepover. A night around the campfire. Great stuff.
If you can't make it to New York, you can catch snippets of his shows on YouTube or go to www.birbigs.com and sign up to receive his celebrated Secret Public Journal by e-mail. He also has two CDs and a DVD for sale. Take your pick, but do check him out. Mike Birbiglia is special.