Mike Birbiglia: Funny in His Sleep

NUVO | April 1, 2007
By Marc D. Allan

Mike Birbiglia saw fellow Massachusetts native Steven Wright perform standup comedy 10 years ago and said to himself, "This is what I've gotta do."

Fast-forward to today: Birbiglia's growing list of credits includes two Comedy Central Presents half-hour specials, a CD called Two Drink Mike and another on the way (My Secret Public Journal Live), an NBC show in development based on his "Secret Public Journal" entries (which you can read and subscribe to at mysecretpublicjournal.com) and a new one-man show called "Sleepwalk With Me."

"This show is better received than any show I've ever done -- and not in an intellectual sense," Birbiglia said in a telephone interview. "There's 20-year-olds in the audience and there's 75-year-olds in the audience and everyone has the same laugh because it's all human stuff."

Here's more of what he said:

Q: "Sleepwalk With Me" isn't typical standup, is it?

A: The show is essentially 10 stories strung together thematically and building to the ultimate story of where my sleepwalking issue got so bad that it almost killed me. Believe it or not, it's a hilarious story -- the craziest sleepwalking story you will ever hear. I don't want to spoil it, but the gist of it is, I ended up in the emergency room.

Q: Is your sleepwalking cured?

A: Not cured, but diagnosed. I take a pill for sleeping at night and I see a sleep specialist regularly.

Q: You read your "My Secret Public Journal" entries on Bob and Tom. How did that come about?

A: They're these diary accounts I've been e-mailing to people for years. Tom started reading them and e-mailed me and said, "What do you think about reading these on the show?" Then he made this theme song for them: "It's his public journal/and every word is true/we've got him on the phone/and he's gonna read for you." Tom thought that since I'm kind of soft-spoken for a comedian, it would be great with this big, Broadway-style music.

Q: Birbigs.com is great, and having a good website seems to be important to comics these days. Did Dane Cook make it so?

A: You could say he did, but you could point to a lot of bands that did. There's this band I like called The Format, and they have 130,000 Myspace friends. I don't think they’re on the radio right now. The web democratizes everything. If enough people go to your website and listen to you and show up to your shows, you actually can sell out more shows than somebody who has a sitcom or has a movie career.

Q: Do you have a new joke you can share?

A: The baseline of "Sleepwalk With Me" is that I tell all these stories about embarrassing moments like failing classes in school, losing your virginity in an awkward way and how, when I was 19, I had a benign tumor in my bladder and I thought I might die. By telling all these stories you normally wouldn’t tell anyone, they're actually the funniest stories any of us have. I tell this story about how I got engaged essentially just to avoid getting into a fight with my girlfriend, and people gasp. I say, "How do you think I felt? You guys get to leave after the show. I have to continue being me."


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