In 10 Words or Less
Average guy comedy from a pretty average guy
Loves: Stand-Up Comedy
Likes: Mike Birbiglia
For those not familiar with the comedy stylings of Mike Birbiglia, he's something like Brian Regan, but a bit darker. his act is rather low-key and more like a conversation with the audience, than a one-way stand-up act, and his delivery, which mixes high-energy jabs with lingering, almost Emo Phillips-like drawl, is often as important as what he says, as he expertly paces his punchlines inside of longer stories. It's a quality that would seem to make him a natural monologist.
This 55-minute special, shot in New York during a recent tour, shows he is rather adept at just standing on stage and telling stories, as he shares tales from his blog, "Mike Birbiglia's Secret Public Journal." It's a perfect extension of his stand-up career, as his classic bits, like his set about performing at a cancer benefit, fit in perfectly with new stories about his experiences as a comic and a young man growing up in Massachussets, like his time as the brother of Joey Bag O' Doughnuts. The stories he tells are highly universal, like his issues with sleep and his nighttime employee Sleepy Karl, or his love of pizza and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
The thing that strikes you immediately on this DVD is how political some of the material is, as he talks a lot about President George W. Bush in very unflattering terms, though couched in hilariously unsubtle stories. I'll never forget the story of Bush's attempt to build a deck. It's probably the paper-thin veil Birbiglia puts on his criticism of the Bush administration that makes it so funny. It's like when you talk about yourself, but say "I have a friend who..."
Of course, his true-life stories are just as enjoyable, especially when he's thrust into an uncomfortable situation, as there are few comics who can portray awkwardness the way he does. Whether it's something small like saying the wrong thing to a new neighbor or something big like insulting baseball legends, he brings the same sense of endearing humility to the story, which is always told with a folksy charm. Even a story that's a staple of stand-up comics, like his parents struggling with computers and the internet, have a unique flavor to them. In one very funny segment, he compares what he does to bad jazz music, but he's a bit off, because he makes it all sound good.
A one-disc release, this special is packaged in a standard keepcase, with an insert that lists the chapter stops. The DVD has an animated, anamorphic widescreen menu, with options to watch the show, select scenes and check out the special features. There are no audio options, no subtitles and no closed captioning.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer looks very nice, with the limited palatte presented well, with a high level of detail that makes even the wrinkles in the backdrop clearly visible. The image overall is crisp and sharp, though some of the camera angles look better than others (using his hair as a basis for comparison.) There's nothing noticeably problematic about the image, as there's no dirt, damage or digital artifacts visible.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track does the job of delivering Birbiglia's voice and keeping it front and center, with proper separation from the audience.
There's a pair of decent extras included on the DVD, starting with a 25-minute encore that wasn't shown on TV (and which Birbiglia states is for the DVD.) Among the routines included are his bits about rap (and Scrabble,) the C-word, gadgets, the A-Team van, drugs, drinking, sex, homosexuality and the classic Wiffleball Tony, as well as a song about Christian rock. Taking requests from the audience, it will certainly appeal to fans of his CDs and stand-up.
The other extra is "Strictly for Fans," a 25-minute documentary that follows Birbiglia and his crew on their "Medium Man on Campus" tour. Even if you don't have a crush or mancrush on Birbiglia, you can still absolutely enjoy this tour movie, as you get to see him riffing on stage and chatting while on his tour bus, which makes for an interesting view inside the world of mid-level stand-up road comedy.
The Bottom Line
Mike Birbiglia's comedy is the type that just about anyone can sit down and enjoy, because everyone, at some point, knows what it's like to feel a bit awkward. The great thing is, Birbiglia's not a loser, just your average guy who gets caught in situations we'd rather avoid and manage to make worse by not keeping our mouths shut. The way he relates these stories makes for comedy gold, and this DVD presents several excellent examples, in solid quality and with some genuinely entertaining extras. Anyone who know his work will want to check out this new direction, and anyone unfamiliar should give it a look.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.