Days before his hour-long Comedy Central special premieres (Feb. 9 at midnight), Punchline Magazine checked in with quickly rising comedy star Mike Birbiglia.
Do you have any viewing party plans?
I’m going to my girlfriend’s friend’s wedding, so no. Actually, we might have a few friends over to watch it, so maybe. I don’t know.
Is the wedding during the day?
Yeah, it’s at 4 p.m., so it’s kinda borderline. It premieres at midnight after American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile. American Pie is a franchise now where they don’t even make anything; they just present movies.
I watched the network version of the special. Have you seen it yet?
Yeah, my preference of the two versions is the uncut DVD version [out April 8] because it has more of a flow to it. The album that I’m drawing from [My Secret Public Journal Live] is a series of stories that very much tells one story. And on television in the middle of it, it’s like ‘Carlos Mencia is breaking the rules!’ And it breaks the flow of what your soft-spoken comedy is trying to purvey. What did you think? How did it look?
I thought it looked good. I was there at the taping. I think that seeing it live obviously comes across better than something on television. There were parts where I swear I remember you tagging jokes with certain lines and when I watched the special, things weren’t there.
Definitely. What’s so hard is when you turn an hour of content into 42 minutes of content and you’re trying to smoosh it into these formats of a few minutes each. You definitely loose some of the nuance of the performance. This is really smart of me; I’m insulting my own special.
Nah, It’s obvious that something uncut is going to be better. If the heavily edited version is better, then the talent isn’t so good.
Yeah, and hopefully some people will buy the DVD, which is uncut and has the encore, where I do the best of Two Drink Mike. It has a documentary too called Strictly for Fans, which was shot when John Mulaney and I did my campus tour in 2006. So the DVD is definitely worth its weight.
Did you prepare any differently for the Comedy Central hour than you would’ve for any other headlining performance?
I played guitar a lot that week because the secret behind my shows– and this is for true comedy fans — is that I’m not really good at playing guitar. So I have to practice or else it sounds like broken glass. But if I practice, it sounds like what a guitar should sound like. I use the guitar as a means to an end. I think that it’s nice.
The “Put it on Paper” song I like. It brings some closure to the hour of comedy that would be hard to achieve without it. The same thing goes for “Guitar Guy at the Party,” and “Christian Rock.” I could tell those jokes but I do think that the guitar enhances what it is I’m talking about. So I practiced guitar and I jogged a lot. I got in shape.
That’s a very Seinfeldian thing to do.
Yeah, in an interview he had talked about running while getting ready for Carson.
Have you continued working out?
I lost 10 pounds actually. It’s funny. When I’ve done TV specials, I get in shape. Sometimes I let myself go on the road. People are very unveiled in their comments about my weight. They’ll have no discretion in saying something like, ‘You looked different on TV.’ Different, eh? If you need to get in shape for one day, it’s not that bad. It’s hard to do it 50 weeks a year.
The last time I interviewed you, it was a little over two years ago. Before Secret Public Journal was an album, you were developing it for a series on Comedy Central around that time.
That’s right. And that fell apart so we sold it to NBC and then that fell apart. I shouldn’t say ‘fell apart.’ The NBC thing was actually funny. They were really into it and then the president of the network, Kevin Reilly, got fired. And he was our biggest proponent. We were just cooked because the new guy in charge just didn’t know me. Now we’re discussing shooting it with another network. I don’t want to say which one right now.
Besides the hour special, how’s 2008 shaping up for you?
I’m very excited about this year. In the past there’s been a lot of variables. This year, I’m excited about the new live show I’m doing, Sleepwalk with Me and all the paths that could appear from that show. I’m workshopping it now and getting it ready for an off-broadway run. Also, people have started to come to my shows on purpose. That’s a lot of it. As long as people come to the shows on purpose, I’m fine. I don’t need to be a sitcom star or a movie star. I could hopefully just keep doing this and get better.
Mike Birbiglia’s one-hour special, What I Should’ve Said Was Nothing premieres on Saturday, Feb. 9 at midnight on Comedy Central. The uncut DVD version is out April 8. For more info, check out birbigs.com.