Mike Birbiglia might not enjoy the superstar name recognition of comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld, Steven Wright or the late, great George Carlin. But the 31-year-old funnyman is definitely on the “up-and-coming” list, mainly because he shares a crucial quality with the all-time greats: He takes seemingly mundane aspects of his life and makes them hilarious. Check it out for yourself Thursday, Jan. 21 at the Lincoln Theatre on South Beach.
What can we expect from your show?
I’m always working on new material. My live shows tend to be some blend of my CDs “Two Drink Mike,” “My Secret Public Journal Live,” my show “Sleepwalk With Me” and the hour of new material I developed on my Comedy Central tour this fall. Every show tends to be different.
How’s your film “Sleepwalk With Me” progressing?
It’s coming along really well. I’m writing the script now and it’s an exciting process. We’re hoping to shoot it this year, possibly this summer. I’m actually writing a book of personal stories at the same time, tentatively titled “Sleepwalk With Me and Other Stories.” It should be out in the fall.
Your shows are very autobiographical. Is everything in them true?
It is, yeah. People often ask me that after shows, and I’ll say, “Yeah.” And sometimes they’ll ask again. They’ll be like, “Was it?” and I don’t know how to respond to that. Sometimes I think I should say it louder. Like, “YEAHH!!” They’d be like, “It’s probably true. He said it louder.”
Is there anything about yourself you’d be reluctant to include in your act?
Not really. I think one of the coolest things a comedian can do is make something boring seem funny, and one of the most interesting things a comedian can do is make something sad seem funny.
What inspired you to become a comedian?
Other comedians: Steven Wright, Mitch Hedberg, Jake Johanssen, Kathleen Madigan, Brian Regan, Bill Cosby. I watched “SNL” a lot as a kid, particularly that Dana Carvey era that was so good.
Name an old-school and current comedian you really admire.
Old-school: Richard Pryor. Every comedian loves Richard Pryor, but there’s a reason: He was honest and just so damn funny. If you can do those two things at the same time, you’ve got a lot. Current: I love a lot of comics. I really like Doug Stanhope. He’s very brave. He says a lot of stuff people don’t want to hear, and it’s funny as hell.
Your humor doesn’t rely much on cursing. How do you feel about cursing in comedy?
I’m fine with it. I mean, I don’t curse a lot onstage because I don’t like to use one word more than another. I wouldn’t say the word “dragon” 95 times in an hour, so I don’t use the word “f—” 95 times, either. I might say it twice, three times at most, but I’m not against using it, either.
You seem comfortable in front of a crowd. Was it always like that for you?
No way. I was always very nervous, and as a result, early on, my TV stuff feels too character-y for my taste. Almost like this guy who’s afraid of the world – a little jittery. It makes me cringe watching it now. But now people come to my shows and they think I’m so comfortable that they think I’m drunk. But I’m not. I’m just trying to be myself in the way that I am when I’m not onstage. I think people assume comedians are supposed to be all like, “And now…MY ACT!!!” and I’m not like that. So they assume I’m drunk. But i’m not. It’s just a choice.
Why do you think audiences respond so well to you?
Well, thanks. I mean, sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. I think my fans kind of get me at this point. My goal is to just be as candid as I can and in the process kind of connect with the audience. Sometimes comedians try to connect with the audience through disconnection of some kind. I like to watch that, but it’s not what I do. I try to just talk about things in my life that are relatable.
If no one thought you were funny, what do you think you would do for a career?
When I was a kid, my goals were to be a poet, a rapper, a breakdancer, a teacher, or the owner of a pizza restaurant where third graders could hang out. So, you know, probably breakdancer?
- The Mike Birbiglia contest ended at noon on Wed., Jan. 20, 2010.