Mike Birbiglia's My Girlfriend's Boyfriend is a delightful piece of performance storytelling, taking stand-up comedy material and crafting it memorably into a larger narrative with moments of emotional depth and insight. And vomit jokes.
Birbiglia begins his solo show in medias res, with a long-term relationship in crisis, an unshakeable personal belief, and a near-fatal car crash. We then go back to hear the history of romantic failures and personal misadventures that led to the present moment. The material itself is standard comedy fare – relationship difficulties, moments of personal humiliation – but Birbiglia's storytelling smarts and deadpan delivery imbues these familiar moments with fresh relatability. This 'universe in a grain of sand' quality is no doubt why he is so often featured on This American Life.
His style is halting and slow, self-effacing but not shy. He is relaxed on stage and not afraid of silence. In fact, it is one of his comedic weapons. He likes to let the audience get ahead of him, sometimes he will trail off and pause while we process the implications of what has just been said. At one point, he tells us about a young romance when he was blindly in love, just happy to be wanted. One of the biggest relationship red flags I should've noticed, he says, was when she told me I couldn't tell anyone else about our relationship. He pauses, and several people start to giggle. "I know..." he says in a slow sympathetic drawl, "I'm in the future also."
He has a wit and a warmth that's endearing and by the end of it many of us wanted to take him home. In a comedy culture that so often relies on cynicism and shock, Birbiglia is a welcome change of pace – a long laugh you can feel good about.
My Girlfriend's Boyfriend
Venue: Fairfax Studio | Arts Centre Melbourne, Melbourne
Dates: 28 Mar – 04 Apr , 2013
Tickets: $28 – $38
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 660 013
Part of the 2013 Melbourne International Comedy Festival