Mike Birbiglia is an interesting comic. He has a sort of dry sense of humor . I think this really works in his favor with his delivery. In 2008, he started an interesting routine that eventually became a nonfiction book then a 2012 comedy film. I originally heard his story on podcast from The Moth. The show, book, and movie are titled Sleepwalk with Me, and chronicle his denial, anxiety, and eventual REM Sleep Behavior Disorder. His body would fail to paralyze him when he slept, allowing him to act out whatever dream he was experiencing. The standup performance is very funny and worth a listen.
The independent film was written, directed, and starred Birbiglia. He lived with is girlfriend of 8 years in New York and was trying to make it as a standup comedian. Like many men today that movies try to convince you exist (I’m not), he was very noncommittal in his relationship, struggling as a comic due to his own laziness, and generally didn’t know what he was doing with his life. Maybe it’s a sign of the times, but this character archetype has begun to annoy me. I realize that many people (myself included) try to decide what they want to do with their life well into their 30’s and 40’s. However one chooses to go about doing this is irrelevant, as their are infinitely many ways to find your place in life. Doing nothing however, is never one of them. Idealizing these aspiration-less people only helps validate the wayward masses. Needless to say, I was instantly turned off.
Birbiglia’s standup of the story is about 10 minutes long, and makes it mostly comical, talking about 3-4 instances of his sleepwalking. This performance was amazing and told a very funny story. I won’t spoil it here but there was a final incident with his sleepwalking that finally caused him to seek professional help. It is hysterical to hear, and had me curious to see the movie. I had some trepidation watching the film as it was 80 minutes long. How could he turn 10 minutes of material into an 80 minute feature? Mostly by giving a lot of pointless backstory and set up. We learned what type of person he was and how this anxiety manifested in his sleeping disorder. Serviceable, but not necessary.
Even the moments from his standup that I was looking forward to seeing fell flat. It’s not that they weren’t still funny, it was the execution. Seeing them acted out lessened their humor for me. I think it was how they were played up in a more serious context. The moments weren’t talked about, he just mostly ignored them then decided to go on tour, or marry his girlfriend. Things I didn’t really care to see.
Opinions for the film vary. I’ve heard most loved it (causing me to check it out), while others marked it as passable. Personally, I’d put it in the latter category, not because it was bad, but because I am sick of the character types. I recommend at least giving the podcast a listen.
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I’m going to watch a John Wayne movie.