With a loose plot that follows his first-ever experience hosting an awards ceremony, Mike Birbiglia’s newest show jumps through the history of his career as a comedian. Birbiglia’s show navigates from childhood and adolescence all the way up to his marriage and beyond, and stops frequently in between for many hilarious moments of self-deprecating humor along the way. Directed by Seth Barrish who also piloted the comedian’s two other one-man sh9ws, Thank God for Jokes is an evening that manages to make poignant, albeit humorous, observations about the society of today, while also offering a few intimate glances into the nature of Birbiglia’s personal life. This balance between intimacy and audacity is a satisfying one which proves that despite his celebrity, Mike Birbiglia is an ordinary person just as much as anyone else.
On stage, Birbiglia’s presence differs significantly from that of his fellow comics. It is no exaggeration in referring to Birbiglia as a soft-spoken individual, a term not often associated with a stand-up comedian. Birbiglia embraces his subtlety as his calling card, and this unique quality is the trait that differentiates his style from that of others. Further, because of the way he controls his onstage presence, when he does raise his voice or get particularly physical, it is even more effective as a result. This style paves the way for many different forms of comedy and jokes along the way, thus keeping the show free of any break in pace or monotony.
One area in which Birbiglia, affectionately known as “Birbigs,” truly excels is when it comes to audience participation. At the performance under review, Birbigs set up a hilarious bit involving a few select audience members who were late in arrival to the performance. The successful set-up and payoff of the joke allowed for Birbiglia to return to the bit time and time again, with welcome laughter from the audience following each reference. Birbiglia’s uncanny ability to recall previous jokes in a fresh and funny way makes for a satisfying connection between audience and performer, and these “inside jokes” are some of the more rewarding and enjoyable moments out of the entire show.
With a fresh set of jokes and a friendly demeanor akin to that of the nice-guy-who-lives-next-door, Mike Birbiglia’s Thank God for Jokes is a refreshingly pleasant evening of comedy. Approachable, engaging, and at times surprisingly intimate, Barbiglia’s latest one-man show will cause every face leaving the theater to be in possession of a smile that runs from ear to ear.
Mike Birbiglia: Thank God for Jokes (through May 29, 2016)
Lynn Redgrave Theater, 45 Bleecker Street at Lafayette Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.birbigs.com
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission