Birbiglia tells stories, gets laughs at MU event
The comedian recounted tales of his past and offered tips of the trade.
Sep. 15, 2009
There is a commonly held stereotype about comedians — they learned to be funny in high school as a way to stand out and gain attention — every comedian started as a class clown. Mike Birbiglia, who performed to a packed Jesse Auditorium last Friday made it clear this idea is a misconception.
"The class clown was always the guy who walked into the room and said 'You're fat, you're gay, I'm outta here!' I was always a little fat and a little gay, so I never got along with that guy," Birbiglia said.
As a result, the focus of the majority of Birbiglia's work is not the shortcomings of others, but rather of himself. With brutal honesty, he details awkward encounters of his: one in which he implies to a new apartment-mate that he might well be a rapist and one in which he throws up on a carnival ride called "the Scrambler" while on a date with a middle-school crush.
In another, he detailed the concept of "the Safety" — the one kid in class you're guaranteed to do better than on exams. But before "the Safety" could appropriately become the butt of the joke, the focus swiftly shifted back to Birbiglia as he detailed how he learned from "the Safety" that he had missed one of his finals.
This isn't to say school wasn't a formative part of Birbiglia's development as a comedian. He traces the origin of his career to the alphabetical seating arrangements in middle school, which placed him behind his first crush.
"I sat behind (this girl) in class, and every night we would talk on the phone about our homework," he said. "She had all these other suitors, but one night, I made her laugh, and I decided to do that more. So I continued to make her laugh, and then one night, she said, 'Mike, you gotta stop, I'm gonna pee' — and that was the closest I had ever been to a vagina. So I spent the next 22 years trying to make (her) pee."
He continued to pursue such endeavors throughout college, where he was a member of the Georgetown Players, an improvisational comedy troupe at Georgetown University. It was through that troupe he met John Mulaney, longtime friend and fellow comedian who would later introduce Birbiglia on his first release, "Two Drink Mike."
Birbiglia's college experience was also reflected in his set, with remarks about the awkward situation that occurs when you have to describe your roommate to your parents via phone, with your roommate present.
His advice to budding comedians is simple: Be yourself.
"Bad comedy is, it's insincere, somehow," he said after the show. "It's when someone performs and you think to yourself, 'I don't buy this,' which is why I like to be very frank with my audiences and just tell stories."
His plan seems to have worked out pretty well so far. A few years ago, he told one of his stories to his middle school crush.
"I'm pretty sure she peed," he said.