Gigglin’ with Mike Birbiglia
A&E sits down with comedian before his weekend at the Paramount
Comedian Mike Birbiglia has gained critical acclaim from past standup tours “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend” and “Sleepwalk with Me” — the latter of which was transformed into a film of the same name, which Birbiglia both starred in and directed. With critics and Birbiglia himself both deeming his latest routine, “Thank God for Jokes,” the funniest he has ever performed, Charlottesville is ready to welcome the funny man, along with special guest Chris Gethard, to the Paramount Theater Saturday.
The Cavalier Daily got a chance to ask Birbiglia about his tour, awkward encounters and his best bits. And if you’re laughing by the end, you’re in luck — tickets are still on sale for the show.
Arts & Entertainment: Do you like performing [in front of] college students more or less than adult audiences?
Mike Birbiglia: One of my favorite shows of my career was actually at U.Va. in 2006 with John Mulaney. It was a college tour and one of my favorite shows of my whole life. It was in a recital hall, the crowd was super excited, super smart. Everyone who we dealt with was so nice, and the campus is just breathtaking. I’m very excited to be coming back to Charlottesville.
A&E: What makes the best type of audience?
MB: I like all kinds, to be honest. I like doing international shows. I liked doing “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend” in London and Canada. All audiences are different, and it’s the same material, but it’s heard in a different way, because everyone has a different experience of the stories. It’s interesting for me as a storyteller to hear people respond in different ways. I have a bit about the movie “Top Gun,” where I think of the movie “Top Gun” as, like, “this is who I am.” Some of them get what “Top Gun” is, and some of them don’t. Different types of shows are important in order to understand what’s most humorous about your stories — or not — to most other cultures.
A&E: What’s different about this tour compared to your other shows?
MB: My goal was for [“Thank God for Jokes”] to be the funniest show that I’ve ever made. With “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend,” it’s really about the narrative. I have a story to tell. But with this one, I want to make the show as funny as it can be, and if there is a narrative, that’s cool too. It’s secondary to the jokes, though. A typical response is that, “I’ve never laughed so hard for so long,” and that’s the biggest compliment I could have asked for.
A&E: What’s your favorite thing about being on tour?
MB: Traveling makes your mind stir. It makes you think about a lot of your life, because you can’t get fully [settled]. I made a mistake about college — I should have gone abroad. I think everyone should go abroad. It gives you perspective.
A&E: Have you had any particularly rough shows?
MB: No, most are great. Though I toured a casino, which is like, fine. Some people are there to see you, and some people are there to gamble and drink, and you’re there too. You’re the break in between the gambling. You’re telling people stories and they’re thinking about how they just lost $95,000 and how their kids aren’t going to go to college.
A&E: How often do awkward encounters happen to you? How do you know when a situation can become good material?
MB: I have this theory about jokes that you can’t tell jokes to anyone other than your friends. It never goes well to tell a joke to a stranger because either they’re offended by it, or they think you’re flirting with them. This weekend, actually, I was at a restaurant in Charleston, [and] this girl said, “I want to come to your show tonight but I couldn’t afford a ticket.” I wanted to smooth it over, so I said, “This conversation we’re having is funnier than a show anyway.” And she said, “Well, I have a boyfriend.” And I said, “That is not a response to anything I have said.” So that happens a lot. Life is a never-ending well of comedy.
A&E: You have recently appeared on the talk shows of Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien. Between the three of them, marry, f**, kill?*
MB: Oh, man, that’s a tough one. Well, I love Conan and I would never do anything to hurt him. You have to print that or I will sue you. But you have to kill Conan, because he would die so humorously, with his hair and his long arms, he would look like a Halloween horror movie character. And, of course, [then f***] Jimmy, ‘cause he’s the best looking. And Seth just seems like a good domestic partner.
If you would like to fully experience the self-described combination of Matt Damon and Bill O’Reilly for yourself, I suggest you head to the Paramount on Saturday.