Mike Birbiglia Knows Funny, And Tells You Why


It’s a common belief that analyzing what’s funny is not particularly funny. Mike Birbigliaproves the exception to the rule in his new solo show at Off Broadway’s Lynn Redgrave Theater. The show places him among the top tier of smart-funny comedians whose humor comes from a sly, subversive and introspective place.

Birbiglia’s latest opens with a film clip of Jimmy Kimmel introducing the comedian, who was the host of the 2012 Gotham Independent Film Awards. When Birbiglia, most known for his play, book and film “Sleepwalk With Me,” steps out on the stage in “Thank God for Jokes,” he looks the opposite of a slick jokester set to chuckle-up the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Amy Adams and Claire Danes, in a place where “every possible topic would be a minefield. “

“I’m a niche thing,” says Birbiglia, noting his non-A-list status, but with a profile that’s growing a bit with a recent stint in “Orange Is the New Black.” (Amongthe opening night crowd at “Thank God for Jokes” were Seth Myers, Nathan Lane and Ben Stiller.)

Wearing a plaid shirt, rumpled slacks and sneakers, Birbiglia comes across as a lumpy Matt Damon: engaging, aging-boyish and sweetly matter-of fact.

As Birgilia recounts how stressed he was at the prospects of telling jokes to this Hollywood crowd, he begins an easy-going yet often hysterically funny examination of what a joke is and what makes it funny — or not. “Jokes are a volatile thing,” he says. “All jokes are offensive, to someone.”

Birbiglia often takes the audience on a circuitous route from his standup-as-thesis, talking about people who are late for everything — and doing a terrific riff on several unfortunate audience latecomers — to a visit to his urologist (always comedy gold), to the time he and his wife met the President and had a conversation about baby poo.


ReviewsFrank RizzoVariety