13 April 2008

What I Should Have Said Was Nothing

What I Should Have Said Was Nothing

"I have this habit of making awkward situations even more awkward. A few years ago, I was moving a new bed into my apartment and a woman who lived in the building opened the front door for me with her key. And she said, 'I'm not worried because a rapist would never have a bed like that.' This is how she starts the conversation. Now, what I should have said was nothing. What I did say was, 'You'd be surprised.'" — Mike Birbiglia
Storytelling is becoming a lost art in standup comedy. These days it's all about observational humor (Dane Cook) or being a redneck (any of the comics from the Blue Collar Comedy tours). In the right hands, the former can be brilliant (Jerry Seinfeld, Mitch Hedberg); as for the latter, well, I remember being told when I was younger that if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. Mike Birbiglia, then, is something of an odd duck on today's comedy circuit, an old-fashioned storyteller, with an affable, self-deprecating Everyman persona. Oh yeah, he's also one of the funniest comics around.

Through his popular blog, "My Secret Public Journal," and two CDs, Two Drink Mike (2006) and My Secret Public Journal Live (2007), Birbiglia has built a substantial following. He might not be a household name, but earlier this year he scored his first hour-long special for Comedy Central, What I Should Have Said Was Nothing, now available on DVD. The main program consists of material from My Secret Public Journal Live: stories from his childhood (his parents and older brother "Joe Bags" are major characters); tales of some of his most memorable (and worst) shows; and evidence that Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley is evil ("Chalk up another save for the Eck!"). I only recently discovered Birbiglia and a comedian hasn't made me laugh this hard since I first heard Mitch Hedberg. I feel a positive vibe coming from the stage. He's always clever and funny, but never mean-spirited or obscene.

The DVD has two extra features: bonus concert footage, most of which is Two Drink Mike material (including his hilarious song "The Guitar Guy at the Party" and his proposed rock music for the different religions of the world) and a tour documentary that shows him to be just as likable off stage and features the famous Joe Bags.

We might get to see a lot more of Birbiglia very soon, as he canceled a string of spring tour dates to develop a pilot for CBS. I have hope because his act should translate well to the sitcom format. His world is one I wouldn't mind visiting on a weekly basis. Until then, What I Should Have Said Was Nothing is a wonderful representation of a gifted comedian.

Visit Mike's Web site to receive new entries in "My Secret Public Journal" via email.

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