Mike Birbiglia’s standup is delightfully mundane.
This isn’t a backhanded compliment: He’s one of the rare working comics who can talk about the absurdity of everyday life and somehow give us a new perspective.
Jokes about marriage and parenthood have made their way into his new show, aptly titled The New One. “I was writing privately in my journal about my reluctance to be a dad, and how I felt like I was failing at it,” he admits when asked how he came up with his new material. “At a certain point, my wife Jen convinced me to talk about it onstage. To show her perspective, I started including some of her poems in the show... we collaborated so we had both of our perspectives on the same story.”
Birbiglia’s early standup featured one-off lines about everyday life, like meeting new neighbors and going to the laundromat. Eventually, his work shifted to extended one-man shows like Sleepwalk with Me, which covered more serious topics, such as his REM behavior disorder, which has led to bouts of injurious sleepwalking.
The thing is, Birbiglia has always performed meticulously crafted standup about the absurdity of adulthood. Though he’s moved from comedy clubs to theaters, he remains hilarious.
Birbiglia hails from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, a middle-class Boston suburb. He credits New England’s weather for helping form his comedic worldview. “I’ve always heard a theory that it has to do with the weather,” he reflects. “That the change of seasons and the weather leads to a cycle of you’re out there, you’re observing life, and then you’re shut in for months.”
He believes weather is a contributing factor for the Twin Cities creative scene as well.
“You’ve got Mitch Hedberg and Bob Dylan. You’ve got Maria Bamford. Countless comedians and musicians are from Minnesota,” he says. “I feel like I’m a kindred spirit.”
He also credits his family’s unique blend of personalities with helping him develop his comedic tone, which balances innocence with darkness. “My mom is Irish; she’s a real storyteller,” he says. “My dad is very analytical. He’s a doctor. And there’s something in that combination that I think led to what I do, because I tell stories and then there’s a lot of jokes and analysis and observations in the middle of the stories.”
With its focus on fatherhood and its implications, The New One seems to be a perfect example of that delicate balance. Birbiglia agrees.
“I’d like to think that this show, and all my shows, really, are analytical without being cynical, and have some sense of hope and positivity,” he says. “I mean, this whole show is about how I never wanted to have a child, and then all the reasons why no one should have a child, and the second half of the show is about how I had a child, and how I was right but, more importantly, wrong. And that part of the show I think is redemptive, and sometimes emotional. People sometimes cry at the show, which is unusual for comedy, but it’s something I’m proud of.”
IF YOU GO:
Mike Birbiglia: The New One
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday