Why Mike Birbiglia Sleeps Wearing Mittens

Matt Pandamiglio is notgoing to get married until he’s sure that nothing else goodcan happen to him. So goes the film adaptation of Mike Birbiglia’s one-man show, Sleepwalk With Me, co-starring Lauren Ambrose as Abby, the girlfriend to whom he won’t get married. Like most stories by and about stand-up comedians, Birbiglia’s first-person narrative flitters between his self-pitying isolationism and the genuine fact that the world shits on him constantly.

It’s easy to knock the comic; they need your adoration and they’re stingy in dishing it back. But the point of stand-up comedy is that they’re the ones tapped into what everyone else is presumably thinking, and they somehow have the courage to get up in front of a couple strangers in Burlington and, for twenty-three dollars, remind them that the only thing worse than divorce is staying married for forty years.

Between gigs, Birbiglia, or Pandamiglio, suffers from R.E.M. Disorder, which prompts the physical manifestation of dreams. That is, if he’s yelling at a jackal in his dream, he winds up actually yelling “jackal” at his laundry hamper. And if he jumps out a window in his dream, he actually winds up in a hospital for jumping out a window. And to further delay any proactive response is his condescending father (played by James Rebhorn, for the hundredth time) insisting that he do something about it. The dream scenes are done with notable reverence for how dreams actually feel (i.e. as though they were real), as per the request of Ira Glass, who co-wrote and co-produced the film and has stated in umpteen interviews that he loathes “dream sequences.”

And then there’s his girlfriend of eight years, whom he admittedly treats with an unfair amount of disregard, dragging her through a relationship that’s plagued by his own preoccupation with, you know, forging some kind of dignified life for himself. Flashback scenes paint the relationship as something he had pursued emotionally, while she, reluctantly and then casually, agreed to it in a way I guess you’d equate with this campus “hook-up” culture that journalists describe as something empowering for girls (“she’s the one who wanted to have sex!”). But presumably, there comes a time where even the autonomous ones start compulsively TiVoing wedding shows. And there comes a time where boys who graduated from liberal arts colleges ten years earlier realize they still can barely take care of themselves, let alone another person. What the film professes is that these kinds of people don’t need to get married. They need to stop pitying each other.

The whole film reminded me of a recent letter by the comedian Chris Gethard, a rambling but beautiful meditation on the fear of performing that culminates with this gem: no success we achieve will ever feel as great as we think, and nothing shitty will ever be as painful. Sleepwalk With Me hits this note. Birbiglia’s character doesn’t overcome his problems, but rather learns to deal. That’s maybe the best thing one could hope for. That, and having Ira Glass make a movie about your life.

The Stepfathers Are Gods of Improv Comedy

This week, we’re bringing you video interviews with some of the most respected names in New York comedy. While many think of comedy shows as cheesy affairs featuring lame stand-up comics and two-drink minimums, a new crowd of performers are changing the game by hosting their own shows to showcase their own talents as well as those of their friends, colleagues, and heroes. Today, we check in with Michael Delaney, Will Hines, and Connor Ratliff of Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre’s The Stepfathers. 

One of the highest achievements in improv comedy is being on a weekend house team at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. When you’re billed as a "supergroup of improv veterans" like The Stepfathers, the stakes are even higher. Unlike other popular shows at UCB that begin with an interview of an audience member based around a theme (family, hometown, crime, roommates, etc.) to draw on, The Stepfathers waste no time getting their one word suggestion and it’s pure free-association right out of the gate.

The most recognizable face might be Zach Woods, who plays Gabe on The Office, but he is hardly the senior member of this formidably intelligent group. Michael Delaney, Chris Gethard, Will Hines, Connor Ratliff, Sivija Ozols, Andy Secunda, and Shannon O’Neill qualify as improv royalty, but at this level, egos and scene-stealing are not a concern. Delaney, an improv sage if there ever was one, stresses that playing honest and making your partners look good is the ethic. 

Improvisers always talk about "A-to-C" reasoning (as opposed to "A-to-B"), meaning they jump off one topic and bypass the most obvious connection to get somewhere interesting. The Stepfathers’ cerebral approach makes this look effortless as they weave scenes together, in and out of various games they set up at the beginning.

You’ll experience a hilarious, fast, and loose show and probably leave wondering, "How the hell did they do that?" The Stepfathers perform every Friday at nine, but you’ll have to reserve your tickets by Wednesday or Thursday because they always sell out.

Check Out Real Estate’s Hilarious Video for “Easy”

At this point every indie rock band should hire WFMU DJ Tom Scharpling to direct their videos. First we had the epic video for Ted Leo and the Pharmacists’ "Bottled in Cork," and then The New Pornographers’ "Moves." He’s back again with a hilarious clip for indie rockers Real Estate. 

Starring as the band’s street team are comedian and author Chris Gethard, Videogum‘s Gabe Delahaye, and Leah Giblin. Roaming around the city in a Real Estate-branded van and hoodie, the trio affix swag to anything (or anyone) who stands still long enough, taking brief breaks to pelt cheese puffs at passers-by and kidnap Jake Fogelnest. All in a day’s work!