I first heard of Mike Birbiglia a couple weeks ago while listening to This American Life‘s 551st episode, “Good Guys 2015.” Host Ira Glass used a portion of one of Birbiglia’s sets as an “act” in the radio program, and later said you could hear more in Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend. I found My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, filmed in 2013, on Netflix, but was surprised to never hear the joke featured in TAL, one about Birbiglia not being creepy towards an attractive woman on a bus. It’s funny when he talks about it, trust me. Anyway, it turns out Boyfriend is entirely retrospective and without a bus story. And I loved it.
Admittedly I’m not a stand-up connoisseur, but I haven’t ever heard something so set in past events. We begin close to in medias res– Birbiglia starts off slow, making some typical introductory jokes, but then tells us he was in a car accident. And next thing you know he’s talking about how in middle school everyone but him was making out. We learn about his first crushes, middle school carnivals, high school dances, and his first kiss, which he couldn’t tell anyone was his first kiss since he’d lied to all his friends and said he’d had his first kiss “all the time.” Eventually he circles back to the accident. Watching Birbiglia is like sitting across the dinner table from your funniest friend– it is simple story telling at its best. But imagine your funniest friend also physically giving his or her all (maybe he/she already does that, I’m not sure). Birbiglia performs as The Scrambler (a carnival ride) perfectly, dances in a strobe light (1/5 of his moves are shown, of course), runs with an invisible suitcase through the airport acting as both himself and the suitcase… The physicality came as a shock every time, making the stories that much better.
Because I knew I wanted to watch Boyfriend, I didn’t bother reading Netflix’s description of it, so when the show ended and I realized the entire hour was dedicated to a love story, I was floored. Was that entire set based on Birbiglia finding love? Did I spend an hour listening to a guy describe milestone moments in relationships, or lack thereof? Yep. And Netflix will tell you just that if you bother to read the brief summary. Typically a man’s search for love wouldn’t make my queue– what’s the fun in listening to a guy talk about his girlfriends for an hour? This weekend, though. I learned that if it’s Birbiglia talking, it’s a lot of fun.