My Girlfriend's Boyfriend | Mike Birbiglia
Born in 1978, Mike Birbiglia is a comedian, writer (best-selling novelist and currently screenwriter amongst other literary pursuits), actor and sleepwalker. Not the most flattering photo advertises My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend – it’s like he’s been surprised by a camera, holding three melting ice-creams – naive and oblivious to how this looks. And it looks bad. It looks sad. But in fact it is hilarious.
In fact, Mike Birbiglia looks like any other guy. The kind of guy who you probably don’t notice standing in the queue in front of you at the movies, or the bar, or when buying ice-cream. Average height. Collared shirt ‘n’ t-shirt, jeans and sneakers… it’s the uniform of a stand up comic - or the average thirty-something-year-old man enjoying some down time on the weekend. But, Birbiglia’s has a story, and a way of telling this story, which you will have absolutely no choice but to be drawn into and entangled in his confident self-deprecating humour and his hilarious turn of phrase.
He seems genuinely surprised to see a wall of audience looking at him when we walks onto stage on opening night. Kept safe in the circumference of a follow spot, he makes his way across the stage, like a shy student about to present a book report.
The usual “please turn off your mobile phone” request is not a disembodied voice of God – but an appeal is given by Birbiglia that sets the tone for the show… an anecdote about phones complete with anthropomorphic phone impersonation in dialogue with Birbiglia is impossibly sweet, smart and awkward as he is. The anecdote finishes, and he sums up in a sentence “So that’s why you should turn off your phone.”
Birbiglia’s show is based on a combination of personal confessions his relationship with women, kissing, relationships and his own unwavering need to be right/win an argument. He tells the story of how, on two occasions, he has had relationships with women, that have been seeing boyfriends other than him. Excruciatingly self aware and brutally honest Birbiglia’s charm lies in his uncompromising intellect and his ability to make you like him, even if he’s being a bit of a jerk. It feels like he’s telling you a love story – where he is the fool and the fallen – and perhaps that’s because he is.
Unlike some comics, Birbiglia’s style is not bombastic, overt, aggressive, loud or cocky. He’s telling us a love story – and every now and then he stops, drops his voice and utters a sentence which resounds throughout the room, like a penny dropping. He admits his failures – even when he’s put in a lot of effort, some could say too much effort in defending or asserting an unwaivering principle. The sublime in Birbiglia comes from his ordinariness – his normalness, and for this normal person to encounter and handle the pain of everyday injustices, disappointments, embarrassments.
Awkwardly hilarious, brutally honest and beautifully tender, Birbiglia’s My Girlfriends Boyfriend is a brilliant piece of storytelling about love and learning to compromise.
Sydney Festival 2011
My Girlfriend's Boyfriend
Venue: Everest Theatre | Seymour Centre, Chippendale
Dates: January 13-16 at 8.30pm
Bookings: Seymour Centre 02 9351 7940 | Sydney Festival 1300 668 812