Here’s the thing about Mike Birbiglia: He’s not one of those comics who is hilarious on stage, but in person becomes an introspective, self-serious, brooding type. He’s not going to go on and on about his own mortality while smoking a cigarette, or whatever. No, here’s Mike Birbiglia doing his impression of Animal from the Muppets, just for me. This isn’t even being filmed. I literally have to type out Birbiglia’s impression of Animal so you can try to read what that might be like. He’s putting on a one-person show for one person. It’s great. His humor is often filled with such wide-eyed earnesty, then he hits you with Animal cursing. It’s impossible not to laugh.
In 2012, Birbiglia directed the critically acclaimed Sleepwalk With Me. (I speak from experience, I was one of the people who “acclaimed” it.) Birbiglia turned a story about his relationship, career, and an often very frightening sleep disorder into something funny and touching.
Now, four years later, Birbiglia has directed his second feature film, Don’t Think Twice (which played this week at the Tribeca Film Festival and will be released this summer). On the surface, it’s about a member of an improv comedy troupe (Keegan-Michael Key, whom we also interviewed lately) who is tapped to be a cast member on Weekend Live (the film’s version of SNL) – and the jealousy and fallout that follows within the improv group he left behind. But everyone has felt professional jealousy at one point or another. It’s tough to watch someone else fulfill your professional goal. Don’t Think Twice taps into those emotions better than any film I can remember.
So, yeah, you get all that and, in person, an Animal impression. (Be warned, the following interview goes off on some, let’s say, tangents.)
In the waiting room, they were showing the episode of Friends with Bruce Willis.
I never saw that.
Ross is dating Bruce Willis’ daughter.
His daughter? Oh, not his real life daughter.
Ross is teaching a college course and Bruce Willis’ character’s daughter is a student.
That’s a good show.
Last time we spoke, you made it a point to tell me that Cookie Monster didn’t have his own show. I’ll never forget that.
Oh my God, because I thought there was a misunderstanding?
Because we were just calling it The Cookie Monster Show.
[Laughing.] In my one-man show, I do Animal. And one night Frank Oz showed up, who is Animal. He’s every voice: He’s Animal, he’s Fozzie, he’s Yoda.
He’s the test administrator in Spies Like Us.
He came backstage and I asked him advice on how to do Animal and he said, “The key thing to know about Animal is that all he knows about are drums, pain, sex, food, and he eats glass.” And ever since then, my Animal voice got really good.
It’s better. It’s better than it was.
Now I want to hear it, but this is a print interview, so it doesn’t matter. No one will get to hear it.