'Mike Birbiglia's "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend"' – Everguide

I think Mike Birbiglia just violated me.

When I bought a ticket for his show My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend at the Comedy Festival, I expected to laugh like I did when he visited Jimmy Fallon on Late Night, or like I did out of a combination of anxiety and horror as I watched his face fall in that second episode of Girls when Lena Dunham’s Hannah accuses him of college date-rape. I did not expect to be on the verge of tears as if I were watching Tom Hanks resignedly confess his love for Meg Ryan in a Nora Ephron movie (either one, take your pick).

I’d ask for my money back if I didn’t enjoy the experience so much.

My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend is a classic one-man show, in which Birbiglia tells the story of his romantic life leading up to his union with his wife, Jenny. It is one full of missteps that include – but are not limited to – a vomit-filled date to the carnival with a girl he’d hoped to share his first kiss with, a disappointing review from the girl he actually shared his first kiss with, a near-death car crash, an accidental hickey and not one, but two visits to meet his girlfriends’ parents (yes, two sets of parents belonging to two different girlfriends) during which another one of her boyfriends is in attendance.

This comedy of errors is masterfully told by one of the US comedy scene’s most beloved members, one who has built a career on harvesting often-painful romantic experiences for on-stage fodder. For those out of the loop, let me paint a brief backstory: After a solid few years as a stand-up comic living in New York, Birbiglia debuted a one-man show called Sleepwalk With Me in 2008. Over the next four years, the show would also take the form of a segment on This American Life’s 361st episode ‘Fear of Sleep’ (2008), a book (2010), a comedy album (2011) and a feature film, which made its debut at Sundance last year and is in cinemas now. 

The film is an incredible romantic comedy, which follows New Yorker Matt Pandamiglio as he deals with launching a career as a stand-up comic — his dream — while trying to hold onto his college sweetheart Abby (Lauren Ambrose working milkmaid braids like no other). Abby is eager to marry him, but the very idea of marriage is something he is terrified of. During all this, he also begins to have increasingly dangerous sleepwalking incidents. These parts, believe it or not, combine into one of the most even-handed romantic comedies in recent years, and is one of few managing to give the elements ‘rom’ and ‘com' equal preference in writing, directing and performance. (Birbiglia did all three.)

I was lucky enough to see the film at its Melbourne premiere just two days before I settled into my front-row seat for My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, and together they created the perfect double-act. After Sleepwalk set the scene for Mike’s fear of and resistance to the institution of marriage — something he couldn’t bring himself to go through with, no matter how in love he was with ‘Abby’ — My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend offered a satisfying ending. Resting on his trusty stool after 80-minutes spent working up a sweat on the small stage at the Arts Centre’s Fairfax Studio, Mike finishes by sweetly telling us that despite not believing in marriage, he did believe in Jenny.

Nora would be proudly crying/LOLing from Heaven.

Posted on Everguide, April 2, 2013.