Friday, August 01, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend’s Boyfreind (2013) ****

NR, 75 min.
Director: Seth Barrish
Starring: Mike Birbiglia

Mike Birbiglia’s stand up concert film “My Girldfriend’s Boyfriend” should go down as one of the great stand up films. Along with Richard Pryor’s “Live on the Sunset Strip” and George Carlin’s “Carlin at Carnegie” and even a little bit like Spalding Gray’s “Swimming to Cambodia”, Birbiglia’s comedy concert transcends mere stand up comedy and ventures into performance art and autobiographical enlightenment.

That’s not to say that it is too serious to be funny. It is hysterically funny. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so continuously throughout a stand up routine. What it is to say is that this is not a movie about a man standing on stage, holding a mic and telling jokes. Birbiglia tells a single story that runs throughout his entire set. In fact, I think to call it a set would be an erroneous representation. “A set” suggests that he plans to tell this joke and that leads into that joke and then he throws in that bit. No. What Birbiglia has constructed here is one single bit that takes 75 minutes to perform. There are moments when it seems like he’s going off on tangents to tell a different story, but every side road is a way to more efficiently and more humorously arrive at his final destination.

He goes into some incredibly personal stuff here. Unlike Pryor’s work, the heavy stuff never actually places the audience in the same dark places as Birbiglia, which allows us to continue to laugh despite the fact that we understand that this was all really crappy for him. It was also all really good, and that’s how the complete journey of what Birbiglia takes the audience through is so important. It isn’t just a bunch of jokes, but he has so keenly observed his own life and failings here that we can all relate—not because it is similar to ours, but because we feel we live it along with him. Well, we live it from the side where you can look back and laugh. Isn’t that what comedy is for?

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