Quick Q&A with Mike Birbiglia
The comedian visits Clowes Memorial Hall on September 15. We chatted with him about sleepwalking, local pizza, and The Fault in Our Stars.
You tell a lot of funny stories about yourself that involve personal injury. Why do you get hurt so much?
“I don’t know if I get hurt more than other people. Maybe I just document it a lot more carefully. Actually, I recently broke my shoulder after falling down the subway stairs, and I was pretty stoic about it. I didn’t go to the doctor for a week. When I finally saw him, he said to me, ‘People who have broken shoulders usually walk in here screaming in pain.’ I told him, ‘That’s how I feel on the inside, all the time.’”
Where does your comedic material usually come from?
“Lucien Hold, the legendary booker of the Comic Strip in Manhattan, told me that if you write about yourself, no one can steal that from you. That’s been an adage of mine. I tell personal stories and try to find the jokes within them. In my stage shows, I string them together to essentially create a single story, so people can experience it either on a single-joke level or a macro level.”
You’ve acted in a lot of shows but never had your own. Have you ever pursued a central role in a sitcom?
“I went out to Los Angeles to create a television series for a network based on my life. I worked really hard on it, and we had great actors. Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad) played my brother. We shot the pilot, but it didn’t get picked up. So I decided to go back to New York and double down on my own projects, including my one-man show Sleepwalk With Me, which I’d been writing over the course of five or six years. I decided to really go for it and mount it on Broadway, and it was a big success. In a lot of ways, the luckiest thing that ever happened to me was that television show not getting picked up.”
How often do you visit Indy?
“I’ve been coming to Indianapolis for 15 years. The first time I performed there I was 24. I played Crackers in Broad Ripple and went on the Bob and Tom Show. Later that morning, I ran into Tom Griswold at Starbucks as I was writing my blog on my laptop. He subscribed to it, and then he emailed me and asked if I would read the posts on his radio show occasionally. So I got this semi-weekly segment that really put me on the map.”
Anything you particularly like about the city?
“I have a big affinity for Bazbeaux and Some Guys Pizza.”
You played a role in The Fault in Our Stars film. Are you going to look up John Green when you’re in town?
“I will. When I read that book, I very much related to the relationship between humor and sadness in it. The characters never wallow in their own struggles. When I met John on the set of the movie, I really felt like he was a kindred spirit.”
You suffer from rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, which causes you to have very vivid dreams in addition to walking and talking in your sleep. Once, you jumped out of a second-story window at a hotel. What precautions do you take?
“I sleep in a sleeping bag, and for a long time, I wore mittens so I couldn’t unzip it. But now I have a new thing: A theater designer helped me make what I call a sleep sheet. It’s essentially a fitted sheet with a hole for your head. It basically pins me to the bed. I have four of them.”