We could waste this introduction telling you how consistently funny Mike Birbiglia's new solo show Sleepwalk With Me is, but why not just let the man's comedy stylings speak for themselves? Here's a totally unrelated Birbiglia riff on our 43rd President: "I think Bush seems like that fun guy. You know, that guy you invite to the barbecue because you know he'll start the whiffle ball game. He's like Whiffle Ball Tony! You're like, 'Yeah, Whiffle Ball Tony's here! Alright, alright. This is cool.'
"And then one day, somebody's like, 'We're gonna put Tony in charge of EVERYTHING.' And I'm like, 'We are? I dunno if that's such a good idea.' Because he's very competitive. He starts going to the neighbor's lawn and challenges them to Whiffle Ball. He's like, 'I heard you wanna play Whiffle Ball, bitches!' And they're like, 'We never said that!' But he starts chucking hamburgers at them. We're like, 'Tony! What are you doing, man!?' He's like, 'They were gonna chuck hamburgers at me!' Then it turns out that they don't even have hamburgers! They have hot dogs, but they only throw them at each other, so it's cool. Then people get upset and they're like, 'Well, maybe we should've gone with Bookworm Steve... but he's so boring!'"
So, honestly, is it really true? How much of your play actually happened? Did you really [REDACTED]? Yes, but don’t tell anyone. I want people to know as little as possible coming in.
How does performing in an off-Broadway theater differ from doing standup? And do you prefer one over the other? Well, for one thing they listen. Or fall asleep. The young people listen. And the very old people are either enthralled or fall asleep. I’d like to think that means they’re enjoying it.
How upset are you that Obama upstaged you in the Times by winning the election in the same edition your big profile appeared? I think it’s hilarious. That Times article was one of the more exciting things I’ve had happen to me. And the Obama election was distinctly the most exciting thing that’s happened in my life. So the fact that I’m in that issue gives me an excuse to have the paper framed on my wall. I’m planning to print this interview and frame it on my wall as well—of course, next to your coverage of the Obama election.
Does knowing there are critics in the audience affect your performance? Hmmm. Yes. But I kind of guessed what the critics would say before they reviewed it and it ended up being better than I expected. I guessed they would say, “It’s funny but it’s not theater.” But they actually said, “It’s funny and it’s theater.” I was very surprised by the Times review. I thought they were going to slam it but they didn’t. My manager Stephanie said, “They’ll pan your next one—when you’re well known.” Maybe she’s right.
How did Nathan Lane get involved in producing Sleepwalk With Me? Well, he came to one of my shows at Caroline’s. He already my CD, My Secret Public Journal Live. We became friends. And I asked him if he’d consider presenting my show. I’m a bit delusional as a person so I’m sometimes willing to ask for things I don’t deserve. He said yes because he’s generous and believes in the show. (I’m assuming!)
What's your favorite part of doing this as a play? It might sound overly sentimental, but when someone is genuinely moved by the show. That means a lot to me. I went to see All My Sons and I was very moved by it. So when I think that the show I wrote actually is moving someone, it’s just exciting.
How long have you spent working on Sleepwalk With Me? It’s been about 4 years. I’ve been sculpting it with my director Seth Barrish for about 3 and a half. It took a while. Sometimes you don’t know what something is about until you know what it’s about. And sometimes even then you’re wrong.
I believe you describe the internet as "an infinite well of nothing" during the show. That doesn't apply to every website, does it? There are several exceptions: Etrade, Ebay, Gothamist, etc.
I saw a photo of you in your pajamas standing behind a Nasdaq sign. Were you ringing the bell at the stock exchange? Yes, that happened. That reminds me, I should write about that in my secret public journal.
Do you have a favorite bar or restaurant in NYC at the moment? I love this place in my hood called PJ Clarke's. I also love Union Hall in Brooklyn. That place to me is quintessential New York.
If you could change one thing about NYC what would it be? I would introduce an ordinance that makes my apartment bigger. Lately, a lot of interviewers come to my apartment to see where I sleep. You know, because of the sleepwalking stuff. They always have this look on their faces like, “Where’s the rest of your apartment?”