Monday, August 27, 2012

Talking to Mike Birbiglia About How Comedy is the New Punk Rock

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2012 at 9:30 AM

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Not to get you in trouble with any of your comedian friends, but who are some of the comics that you think are doing really groundbreaking stuff these days?
You mentioned Louis C.K. Judd Apatow.

Kristen Schaal?
Kristen, absolutely. She is so odd and so funny. I’ve known her for a long time, and she has been doing amazing work all along. It does feel like she’s being really brave, really out there sometimes. There have been times when I’ve just watched her and gone [mimes mouth dropping open] “Did she really just do that?” Coming out in a Superman cape, or whatever.

Lena Dunham is brilliant, obviously. Lena is a friend of mine, and she was a real help to me when I made this movie. First because she just told me: “Go ahead, you can do it. Just make it!” And also as inspiration. Tiny Furniture was the first movie I’d seen done with that low a budget that was that funny and that emotionally honest. I love Woody Allen’s movies and Judd Apatow’s movies, but I know what kind of budgets those guys are working with, and there’s no way I’m ever going to get that kind of money.

Woody Allen said recently that he wouldn’t get that kind of money either to make the movies he’s made if he were starting out now.
Oh, absolutely not. No way.

Sleepwalk with Me started as a one-man show off Broadway at the Bleecker Street Theatre, and a thing you did as performance art in The Moth, and then it got onto radio on This American Life, and now it’s a movie. Way to milk your experience!
Yeah, really. Really.

Why did you think this story would make a good movie after doing it in so many other media? And now that you’ve made that movie, do you think you were right?
Well, people kept telling me I should make it into a movie. Any time you do a Broadway show, everybody tells you that. But after a while, I’d heard it from so many people that I decided to see if it could work. So I sat down and started plotting out how I’d make it into a movie, and I really liked where it was going.

What could you do with this story as a movie that you couldn't do in those other formats?
Just show what sleepwalking really is. Sleepwalking has not been shown accurately at all in the movies. You mostly see people with their arms out straight in front of them, walking into walls or whatever. Real sleepwalking isn’t anything like that, and you can’t really show it right on stage either. But in the movies, I could. I also liked the idea of showing my dreams. Dreams in the movies are usually so dramatic and weird. My dreams aren’t like that at all. They’re just like my regular life, where stupid stuff happens and I get frustrated, and then I get in trouble because I start thinking it’s real.

Do you want to make more movies?
I do. I’ve got one I’m working on now called My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend. Ever since I started this movie, I’ve been keeping notes for my second movie. I have a Word document on my desktop called Instructions. Practically every day I write down a new thing that I think of: “Oh yeah, I gotta make sure I don’t box myself into festival deadlines.” Or “Oh yeah, I gotta make sure I hire my department heads earlier in the process.” “Oh yeah, I’ve gotta make sure I shoot coverage of each person just having kind of a listening stare.” I’m making a book for myself.

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