Mike Birbiglia is something of a comedic Renaissance man, dabbling in many methods to produce laughter: film, theater, stand-up, radio and a book.
His 2010 memoir, “Sleepwalk with Me: and Other Painfully True Stories,” has been republished with a new foreword from Ira Glass for the wide release of his movie, “Sleepwalk with Me” (for which Glass was a co-producer and co-screenwriter).
Birbiglia shares traits with some of today’s top comedians. He has Louis C.K.’s intrepid honesty, without the intense cynicism toward relationships. He has Demetri Martin’s low-key personality and subtle delivery. And he has Jim Gaffigan’s all-American appetite. (“I would marry pizza, but it would just be an elaborate ploy to eat her whole family at the reception,” Birbiglia quips.)
For Birbiglia fans, the book doesn’t contain too much new content, and that’s a blessing and a curse. Readers who are familiar with Birbiglia’s two appearances on “Comedy Central Presents” and his extended special, “Mike Birbiglia: What I Should Have Said Was Nothing — Tales from My Secret Public Journal,” will recognize the vast majority of his popular jokes. However, Birbiglia followers will enjoy seeing how jokes translate from stand-up comedy performances into text, and where Birbiglia places emphases while telling them.
Although Birbiglia’s style is often personal — sometimes uncomfortably so — he gains emotional traction with his audience by exploring his familial relationships to a greater extent than he has ever done in stand-up.
Those unfamiliar with Birbiglia’s body of work can expect depictions of awkward experiences from his childhood and adulthood that most sane people would strain to repress. What’s best about Birbiglia is that he looks his audience square in the eye, and then proceeds to detail his most embarrassing memories, from his first make-out session to his infiltration of a NASCAR focus group in order to snag some free cookies.
This is what makes “Sleepwalk with Me” so appealing — it’s a no-holds-barred look into the psyche of an average guy, who, through his own modest nature, is exceptionally funny.