There’s something both blissfully simple and wonderfully complex about listening to Mike Birbiglia. For anyone who’s never heard Birbiglia’s stand up, it’s been growing and developing over several releases but My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend has to be the crown jewel of his comedy career to date. To best explain the delivery on this special and style of Birbiglia, it’s much like listening to a feature length story on NPR, much akin to Ira Glass, David Sedaris, or Sarah Vowell but with a stronger emphasis on the humor portion of the story telling.
Unlike most other comedy specials, My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend is a collection of bits that all tie together to form one cohesive bit: Birbiglia’s romantic growth from adolescence to now and his pursuit of Jen Stein, his distaste for marriage, and how to overlook the things that you feel strongly about in the interest of finding solace. Birbiglia performed this set an astonishingly 81 times to sold out audiences in New York City prior to going on the road to perform this set in 70 different cities and this set was recorded on the last night of the tour.
The set opens up with “I’m Right”, an explanation of why he feels marriage is the worst thing ever that ends in Birbiglia in a car accident. There’s a lot of grey area there that he’ll fill in as the set goes on. It’s seldom that you find anyone that’s more a storyteller than a comedian that can suck you into the story and have you hanging on every word that’s said the entire way through. In the next bit, you find out about how he meets Jen and then you rewind with him, reliving the ups and downs but mostly downs in his romantic life from the time that he was a pre-teen growing up in Massachusetts. The story sways back and forth, talking about his attempts to make Lisa pee her pants, riding The Scrambler and comparing high school dances at an all boys school to a cattle call, and then you wind back around to Jenny again.
The relationship between Jenny and Mike is broken down in a series of major events, documenting make ups, break ups, blow out arguments, and finally coming back to the car accident referenced in the very beginning of the set. In the last three bits of the set, everything comes full circle to give you the final resolution to the story. The tumultuous ride Mike takes you on is a gut-wrencher, but you can’t turn it off. You want to hear the end of his story. You want to know what happens. That itself is the best thing that any story teller could hope for.
For a closer experience with the release, you can watch it out on Netflix.