Review: (Montreal) Mike Birbiglia: Thank God For Jokes
Smiling for 75 minutes by Chad Dembski @surpriseperform
Until two years ago I had barely heard of Mike Birbiglia other than he was one of the many stand- up comics from New York. Then I saw his film Sleepwalk with Me (2012) and was blown away by the mix of humour, vulnerability and fantastic storytelling ability. I quickly followed up that film with his previous Off-Broadway show My Girlfriend's Boyfriend (2013) that really cemented him as one of my favourite modern storytellers.
At the Gésu Theatre last night he came on stage and instantly began a conversation with the audience about latecomers. He is an on-time person but both his parents and wife are laties (his term), and he began by talking to a couple who arrived a few minutes late to the show. The majority of us had arrived early for this general admission show and were loving the gentle grilling Mike was giving them. It turned out this couple was actually brother and sister and not a romantic couple. Yet this awkward introduction only seemed to fuel an evening of stories around telling jokes. While most of these stories begin from a personal place they often come to a universal place where a majority of the audience is laughing in agreement.
Mike Birbiglia touches on his family, a vacation with his wife, going to Catholic church as a kid and a host of other experiences that lead him to this point in his life. I think one of the most appealing aspects of his comedy is his ability to take a regular story and spin it into a hilarious adventure. His testament that not everyone can tell jokes well is demonstrated constantly during the show where he turns everyday events into fantastic stories. I’m not sure if it’s his timing, his clumsy but fantastic ability to imitate the people in his life or the feeling he takes his audience on the journey with him.
Towards the end of this constantly entertaining show he talks about trying not to use profanity in his shows. This leads to a recent story at an awards show he hosted that is again both awkward and hilarious showing his originality and ability to play the clown in even the most public of situations. There are three shows left of Thank God for Jokes at Just for Laughs and I highly recommend Mike Birbiglia to anyone who has seen his work before but maybe not live or the curious first-timer who craves a deeper stand-up comedy experience.