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Telling Tales – Mike Birbiglia

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We at Funnies are big fans of the Soho Theatre. What was once a champion of new writing on the fringe theatre scene has become a mecca for brilliant comedy and its baying audiences. On Tuesday, safe in the knowledge that excellence awaited us, we trotted on over to US comedian, Mike Birbiglia’s one-man show My Girlfiend’s Boyfriend. Described by him as “a sort of cynical look at marriage and a series of events in my life that led me to getting married”, such introspective storytelling is usually found in the smaller basement venues of the Edinburgh Fringe, accompanied by an audience of one. However, Mike is a master of his craft – his 2008 off-Broadway show “Sleepwalk with Me” ran for eight months and went on to become a feature film which premiered at Sundance this year. Soho wouldn’t let us down.

With a voice somewhere between John C Reilly and Barney from the Simpsons, Mike started his story with a car crash – his own – before flashing back to his pre-teen years and the first time he kissed a girl. He went on to weave a tale of self-deprecation through riotous demonstrations of his most embarrassing experiences with the opposite sex. Gyrating around the stage, he explained how he came to vomit (Popcorn, peanuts, candy floss, aka Carnival salsa) over his first date on a fairground ride called the Scrambler, “previously known as the shit-ur-pants-urator”. This was later followed with an introduction to his girlfriend’s boyfriend’s parents. And the man still got married?

Only the greatest of raconteurs can wax about their personal lives for an hour and still have an audience at the end of it. But Mike’s wit and wordplay, “I like to dress down so as not to perpetuate the myth I’m a fixer-upper”, his energy and honesty as the self-confessed unpopular kid gave him a command over his audience that bonded the whole room together – even a hot, sweaty, overfilled one. He explained to Time Out earlier this week “It’s like extending friendship to a group of strangers. It’s basically like saying “Here’s the worst thing about me. Do you still want to be friends?”

Having begun in regular stand-up, Massachusetts-born Birbiglia changed his approach in 2003 after being asked to perform at a live storytelling show. “It was one of the most exposed feelings I’d ever had. But after it was done it was wildly invigorating. I thought: I enjoy this so much more. And I think the audience does too”. We do Mike, we certainly do.

My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend runs until Saturday 26th May at the Soho Theatre, London

Mike performing from “Sleepwalk with Me”

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