"I don't curse. And it's good for a date! Unless you feel like the relationship is on the rocks and you feel like the show might bring up too many questions about where the relationship is going," said comedian Mike Birbiglia in a recent interview with the New Times regarding his new one-man show, My Girlfriend's Boyfriend.
On Friday night, Birbiglia packed the Coral Springs Center for the Arts with folks ready to embrace the charmingly self-deprecating comedian's tales of love and marriage. This comes as no surprise as the success of his very personal movie, Sleepwalk With Me, left many wanting to know what happened next for the comedian. Birbiglia has mastered the art of stringing together stories from the past and present, placing the audience in a time machine through his life.
The show began with a typical rant on cellphone usage, a bit of riffing with the crowd, and ramblings about the mysterious location that is the city of Coral Springs. Casual jokes to get the crowd in the mood and warmed up to what lie ahead of them. After a mixture of amusing observations on his body image and bad customer service, Birbiglia smoothly transitions into his role as a magnetizing storyteller for the evening.
The act is framed similarly to Sleepwalk With Me, as Birbiglia bounces back and forth between his current relationship with wife Jenny and nostalgic romantic encounters from the past, intertwining them seamlessly with humor. The story opens with a tale of a car crash and a fight with his girlfriend, Jenny, before rewinding back to the point in his life where the romantic troubles and rejections began. For the next 90 minutes, you forget you're in a theater watching Birbiglia spin and flail around stage like he's on a carnival ride telling the story of the time he threw up on a first date. Or when he paints a picture of the school dance in which everyone slow-danced to the sounds of Led Zeppelin and he finally lands his first kiss.
"And she had artillery because she had braces," Birbiglia points out about his first kiss at a junior high dance.
Each moment is carefully told in a way that evokes both fits of laughter and empathy for the struggling teenager that still lives inside of us. And while his long-winded tangents might have felt random at first, they all perfectly fit the story and were connected to the bigger picture.
Despite his awkward and self-deprecating onstage persona, Birbiglia knows how to reel in and work with the audience's emotions. He has a gifted ability of taking a crowd from being in a roaring laughter to absolute silence with the simple change of tone. At just the right moments, he'll step outside of his own story with a smirk and clever phrase, "I know, I'm in the future too."
Both witty and captivating, by the end of the My Girfriend's Boyfriend -- without even realizing it -- you'll be emotionally invested in the rollercoaster that was Mike Birbiglia's love life.
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