The crowd was cool and collected on Saturday night when comedian Mike Birbiglia performed at the Palestra for Meliora Weekend.
Opening act Chris Laker at first struggled to draw laughs, but soon had the audience howling with commentary ranging from the undeserved criticism of millennials to his past as an accountant.
After warming up the crowd, Laker was replaced by comedian Jacqueline Novak. Wearing a tight skirt and strutting across the stage so the audience members could “appreciate the female form,” she transitioned the audience from Laker’s self-deprecating humor to a bold commentary on male genitalia. The audience seemed restless for the main event, but Novak managed to speak to the females in the crowd with her lengthy, sexually charged analogies.
The males surrounding me didn’t seem to find her jokes particularly funny, but this only made me laugh harder as Novak riffed on the very feminine qualities men possess in certain “anatomical structures.”
Finally, Mike Birbigilia took the stage with little fanfare, joking about his hopes of making the night “even better.” Not only did he screw up the motto, but he also kept pronouncing the event as “Meel-iora.” His somewhat clueless attitude won over the audience instantly.
Beginning with light banter about the odd characteristics of a couch and the absurdity of furniture, Birbiglia soon moved on to more serious content about his health issues and marriage. He started with his sleepwalking disorder that once caused him to jump out of a window, describing in hilarious detail the sleeping bag contraption he has to wear zipped up to his neck to avoid “potentially murdering someone.”
“Apparently those afflicted with the disorder have been known to be beating off a wild animal but wake up and find a person instead,” said Birbiglia.
The bulk of his content revolved around his extreme reluctance to have children. Comparing parents to zombies, Mike Birbiglia hilariously imitated his friends who encouraged him to give parenting a shot.
“It is the greatest joy,” he said in a monotone voice while swinging his arms in zombie-like fashion.
Recounting tales of hiding in the bathroom from his nephews who tried to torture him, Birbiglia cleverly constructed his set to make the audience think he had no plans of ever entering fatherhood.
However, Birbiglia’s story took a turn when his wife sat him down on the couch one day and he realized the zombies got her: She wanted to have a child. By this point in the show, my belly was aching from laughter, as Mike moved into a long commentary on his wife’s fertility struggles and subsequent tests to have his semen examined.
He could barely keep it together while the ASL interpreter translated his recount of his doctor’s appointment, during which she acted as him ejaculating into a cup.
“This is the real show right here,” he said gesturing to the interpreter..
Birbiglia moved away from the script again when he realized who the audience was.
“This must be so uncomfortable right now,” he said, referring to the mix of students and parents.
His elaborate stories mixed with an ability to find humor in the moment made Birbiglia a huge hit.
The final part of the show had a sobering effect on the crowd as Birbiglia talked about the birth of his daughter, Oona. He relayed the struggles of his marriage with a new baby to take care of. It was clear he had the audience wrapped around his finger at this point. The divergence from humor might have been the downfall of another comedian, but for someone as genuine as Birbiglia, it only enhanced the set.
He left the audience with the presentation of a photo, one of his family shopping for a couch together, his daughter smiling up at him.