I enjoyed the fact that as a lover of stand-up comedy, I got to see this autobiographical story about a comedian I didn’t know (Mike Birbiglia, who wrote/directed/stars). He wrote this as an off-Broadway play, and it translates nicely to the big screen. It has some problems with the pacing, but it works. That’s because Birbiglia is a likable and neurotic character that’s so Woody Allenish.
The story involves a stand-up comedian who works as a bartender at a comedy club, and often gets 5 minutes when people don’t show up. He has a solid joke about Cookie Monster, but not much else. He has an adorable girlfriend that is getting tired of the many years they’ve dated with no marriage proposal in sight. And to make matters worse – he’s starting to sleepwalk.
It helps that his parents are played by two character actors I love – Carol Kane and James Rebhorn. She’s the ditzy mom, and he’s the angry dad wanting him to get a real job and settle down.
There are also real comedians that pop up. Marc Maron is a pleasant surprise, giving him some good advice for writing material.
It does bother me when movies about stand-up comedians have unfunny routines. It’s what made Punchline a bad movie. There’s nothing wrong with showing a character bomb on stage, but if somebody didn’t have material…why would they continue going up there and embarrassing themselves?
This movie did seem to nail the bonding comedians must have with each other, as well as the diet that consists mostly of buffalo wings and nachos. There is also the temptation from waitresses that think you’re funny.
As his act develops into a solid set of material, it also makes me even more bothered by his earlier failures at stand-up.
Some people might not like Birbiglia narrating his story as he looks at the camera. I don’t know how you can’t be on his side; especially when he’s telling you about the possibility of cheating on his girlfriend, and he reminds you that you’re on his side.
This low-key but heartwarming story could’ve used a few more solid jokes, but there’s a pizza dream, conversations about marriage, and about 10 other things that will make you glad you saw it.
Instead of spending money on the two-drink minimum at the comedy clubs this weekend, take in this film. You’ll be glad you did.
It gets 3 ½ stars out of 5.