And all while he may or may not be asleep. He’s comedian Mike Birbiglia, bitches, and he’s here to–at long last–take his rightful place as the next big thing.
If you’re already a friend of MamaPop you are clearly intelligent, hip to the jive, incredibly good looking, face-meltingly-charming, and (perhaps more to the point) in the know about great comedians. Birbiglia is probably old news to you. But then you also know that Birbigs is a little like Patton Oswalt, Louis CK, Katt Williams, and Kevin Hart: the insane success and TV specials (or Emmy-nominated series or Terry Gross interviews or sold-out theaters or YouTube cred to buy and sell Bieber)…
…don’t always add up to what you might call “Water Cooler Recognition.”
If you don’t know Mike Birbiglia, his schtick is pretty average: the self-deprecating everyman who can’t quite believe people are interested and, furthermore, is surprised to find that the weirdest and worst things in his life are what interest people most. But there’s something behind the schtick that makes him exceptional: an intelligence, a gift for anticipating-unplugging-upending audience reaction, and [the key to any comic's true success] a medical condition.
Birbiglia has had some absurd experiences as a sleepwalker, several that he should not have survived.
And those stories led Birbiglia to create, first, a hit off-Broadway show and, now, a semi-autobiographical comedy Sleepwalk With Me. He wrote, directed, and stars in the film. His buddy Ira Glass, Ye Olde Nerdy Purveyor of Yupster Essays/host of This American Life (on which Birbiglia has been featured half a dozen times) produced the film. And it’s this little film–above Birbiglia’s near-constant touring in the late aughts, above his gem of a cameo as an uncomfortable interviewer on Girls, above his near-miss at the Thurber Prize for American Humorists–that could just change everything for this great comedian with the just-okay profile.
This weekend Sleepwalk With Me expands to 110 screens. The expansion is almost entirely due to a social media and radio campaign asking fans to demand the flick in their home town. Its opening weekend (August 31), it posted a per-screen average take of $68,801. Joss Whedon’s The Avengers? $47,698. Okay–as EW points out in its coverage of the video diaries and public trash talk that amounted to a hilarious Whediglia faux feud –Avengers had over 4,00 screens and Sleepwalk only one, but who’s counting? Besides, it’s at least a *wee* coup.
But on beyond Whedon-beating: what a one-weekend pile of cash and a jump from one to 110 screens in two weeks means is that American movie fans aren’t as dumb as your local marquee thinks we are. And it means that an insanely talented smart funny guy is getting his due. And it means my week is vastly improved by a vote in favor of humankind.
It means the smart kids are winning.
And all of this means that it is possible for moviegoers to reward hard work and good content with new careers…so now the question is: who’s up next? Who is your favorite un- or under-sung moviemaker or performer just itching [deservedly, natch] for what we will surely now call her “Birbiglia Moment”?