Thursday, January 31, 2013

Storyteller Mike Birbiglia is a comedic sweetheart

Posted By on Thu, Jan 31, 2013 at 7:59 PM

HAVING A SIT-DOWN: Mike Birbiglia.
  • HAVING A SIT-DOWN: Mike Birbiglia.
Mike Birbiglia headlined the Straz Center last week and was utterly charming as he made full use of the stage, ebbing and flowing from mellow to manic and quiet again.

His latest show "My Boyfriend's Girlfriend" is themed around his frustrations and hard-learned lessons about love. Before launching into his elliptical narrative, he warmed up with localized shtick — as comedians are wont to do. He mentioned a tweet from one of the gals at the show who lamented that the "Straz ticket lady who didn't know who @MikeBirbliglia was."

Birbiglia also recounted about his ride from Vero Beach to Tampa (on what was most likely State Road 60). He described it as a two-lane highway with nothing but orange groves for miles and miles — with the exception of a "humongous shopping center" with a New York Nails and a shop called Christ Central.

Birbiglia also ranted a little about how call centers have placed him on hold for too long, leading to screams of "Agent!" into the receiver — a well-worn topic, for sure — but Birbiglia infused his spiel with a special kind of insanity, acting out a hypothetical scenario of five slack-jawed, stoner-like call workers leaving the phones unmanned, ignoring millions of customers — that they alone service — to call an impromptu meeting. A woeful condition he blamed on call centers replacing operators with "American robots" and "Indians ... Indian Indians."

His main act took us through the awkward early stages of his relationship, a breakup and reunion. Though he remained steadfast in his disbelief in marriage as an institution, he showed us glimmers of redemption that you don't usually get from a stand-up comic. His physical comedy was on point, especially when he ambled in circles — a clever motion with a twist (literally) once repeated: He spun around to demonstrate a nausea-inducing fair ride the first time, and the second go 'round reenacted an airport-maze mad dash while dragging a suitcase on wheels that kept flipping over. (We've all dealt with that at least once, right? I know I have.)

At the climax, he sat on the edge of the stage and enjoyed a strategic pause, showing us he's quite skilled at both comedic timing and telling a story. There was a subtle musicality to his narration, and his stories through full of dopey and hilarious gestures and/or mimicry were believable and relatable.

After the show at Ferguson Hall, Birbiglia signed autographs in the lobby of the Straz's second-largest venue. He sold limited-edition posters that I wish I could have purchased and promoted the DVD release of his movie Sleepwalk With Me.

His touring act is a sequel of sorts to his film, he told CL in our recent interview.

Look for a movie inspired by the show soon — perhaps, a good flick to watch, dare we say, on Valentine's Day 2014.

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