Sleepwalking with Birbiglia

Photo courtesy Mike Birbiglia

Ashley Goetz

Photo courtesy Mike Birbiglia

âÄúSleepwalk With MeâÄù With Mike Birbiglia WHEN: 7:00 PM and day, September 12 WHERE: Pantages Theatre TICKETS: $26.50. www.hennepintheatredistrict.org A handful of years ago, Mike Birbiglia âÄôs girlfriend awoke in the middle of the night to find her boyfriend standing on the bed. He was frantically practicing Karate âÄî an art heâÄôs never learned âÄî and trying to scare away a floating insect-jackal. He was sound asleep. Around the same time he awoke from a dream in which he was competing in a made-up Olympic event of dust-busting. But he wasnâÄôt in bed. He was in the living room, on top of his shattered TiVo . He had jumped onto the device from a shelf above. The TiVo was destroyed, but he had won third place in the imaginary Olympics. Mike BirbigliaâÄôs one-man show, âÄúSleepwalk With Me,âÄù comes to the Pantages Theater in Minneapolis this week. The show recounts many of BirbigliaâÄôs nocturnal mishaps, in addition to some other similarly autobiographical stories. Birbiglia got his start in the early 2000s after winning a college comedy contest, and since then heâÄôs gone on to produce two Comedy Central specials and appear on the gamut of late-night chat shows. But over the years, his routine has evolved. What began as mostly observational comedy morphed into more personal insights when Birbiglia released his ironically titled CD âÄúMy Secret Public Journal Live.âÄù This show, which will play off-Broadway after a national month-long tour, works in that vein. Birgbiglia realizes that audiences donâÄôt necessarily know how to categorize his most recent show. âÄúSome people say, âÄòOh! ItâÄôs a play,âÄô âÄù says Birbiglia, âÄúAnd some think, âÄòHey! ItâÄôs standup comedy!âÄô But it doesnâÄôt matter. What matters is that they laugh.âÄù Though most will be laughing, BirbigliaâÄôs show has more weighty elements than some straight standup work might. What his set ultimately revolves around is BirbigliaâÄôs penchant for ignoring important things in life, such as his sleepwalking disorder, and instead opting for the faux-comfort of denial. It wasnâÄôt until a near-fatal sleepwalking incident, later humorously recounted on âÄúThis American LifeâÄù and now on the âÄúSleepwalkâÄù tour that he realized he had to get some help. As a dramatic writing major in college, Birbiglia was used to infusing humor into his writing. A couple of the plays he wrote were particularly sidesplitting. He said he remembers the peers he shared his work with responded more to the humor than to the actual play. So Birbiglia took the playâÄôs comedy and transformed it into a standup routine. But his dramatic writing training still resonates in his work; most of his jokes have a larger effect on the overall narrative, and what truly stands out is his ability to craft a story. Disjointedness is not in his game plan. ThatâÄôs why Birbiglia is often compared to humorist David Sedaris , who writes well-crafted anecdotes that highlight his sense of humor. BirbigliaâÄôs observational humor also earns him comparisons to Jerry Seinfeld . But what Seinfeld lacks in the strange department, Birbiglia makes up for with his seemingly inherent absurdity. With his provocative yet charming delivery, the fact that Birbiglia is something of an oddball is easily forgiven. ItâÄôs the combination of his personality and idiosyncratic perspective that could soon make BirbigliaâÄôs hard-to-pronounce name sound commonplace.