What an absolute delight to spend 90 minutes in the company of a truly intelligent and desperately funny comedian who doesn’t rely on overused four-letter words and smutty innuendoes to get a laugh.
Who would I like to invite to dinner? For me, no question – Mike Birbiglia! He’s entertaining, as opposed to boring; stimulating, as opposed to predictable; and sensitive, as opposed to crass.
The Fairfax theatre’s intimacy was perfect for his show and he knew how to use the space. His casual entry to greet his audience and take up a seat on his only prop, a small stepladder, reminded me of one of best Australia’s best comedians, Dave Allen. Birbaglia didn’t need a glass in his hand to carry on Allen’s tradition, but added to it by leaving the seat to walk the floor and make eye contact with his audience.
OK, so I’m mature-age, but so were many in the audience and they laughed even harder than those half their age, whereas younger men may have been cringing at the exposure of some inept behaviours in their past as he ranted against the “flambouyant pageantry of marriage” and the fixation of the teenage male to ‘make out’ no matter what the cost.
It’s a pity there isn’t a better substitute for the side microphone but as well as allowing Birbiglia control of his voice, from almost a whisper to full throttle, it also gave him freedom to round the floor like a whirling dervish to demonstrate the questionable pleasure of riding on a spinning contraption at a fun fair.
Speaking in public is said to be one of humanity’s greatest fears, yet how many times are we subjected to dull speeches even from highly educated people. Thankfully, many universities can be breeding grounds for people to marry a sense of humour with important knowledge and learn to present it on their feet. Undoubtedly Birbiglia’s years at university helped him hone his craft to the perfect art form it has become, so that he is able to show people of any age how to laugh at themselves and the whole painful process of growing up to deal with some of the irritating realities of life.
No wonder his film Sleepwalk with Me has been such a resounding success, as was his performance last night.