We stumbled quite by accident into the world of Mike Birbiglia (buhr-BIG-lee-uh). We had watched some comedians on Netflix, and that site gave us one of those If-you-liked-X-then-perhaps-you'll-like Y suggestions. It was a Birbiglia comedy special--My Girlfriend's Boyfriend (link to My Girlfriend's Boyfriend), which you can stream on Netflix. And we were hooked, both of us. (I wrote about this "discovery" somewhat earlier--here's a link to that previous post.)
I reported back in June that I'd scored some tickets to see Birbiglia's new show, Thank God for Jokes, part of his 100-city tour, at Cleveland's Palace Theatre.
We drove up there this past Saturday night and had a great time--nothing happened to diminish our fondness for him, but lots happened to increase it. After a short set by another (young--and good--comedian whose name I've already lost ... dotage), Birbiglia came out--a bit pudgier since the last time we saw him--but looking like an ordinary guy in most ways, except for his uniquely expressive voice and face. And those eyes. Pretty cool eyes. (Hope Joyce didn't notice!)
I don't want to give away anything about his set (I hope it's on video soon). I'll just say that he talked about words, about religion, about jokes, about his gigs, his embarrassments (he is always very self-effacing about his failures, which seem almost to form a centerpiece for his sets). He breezily and easily interacted with the audience, gently drifting from left to right across the stage, even as he shifted subjects, then, unobtrusively, showed us how it was all interconnected.
He is not really a traditional comedian--not in the sense of being a jokester. He is a storyteller, a gifted one, who has learned what great storytellers have always known: It's a narrative that draws us in, that keeps us attentive. We wonder: What will happen next? What will it mean?
He uses profanity very sparingly (and, thus, very effectively), and often finds a clever way to suggest that it's someone else who used those words--not he.
I'd not heard of him before that serendipitous discovery on Netflix last June--and I'm guessing others have not heard of him either. I hope that changes.