“I was raised Catholic, I was an altar boy when I was a kid, and the answer is ‘no.’”
Subtle, laid-back and self-deprecating is the humor of Mike Birbiglia, the 29-year-old comedian who performed on Comedy Central Presents Saturday, Feb. 9 at midnight.
Birbiglia has come a long way since being voted the funniest man on campus during his sophomore year at Georgetown University, but starring in a one-hour special on Comedy Central has not gone to his head.
“My parents are wildly disappointed in me for wanting to become a comedian,” he said.
Birbiglia said that he uses his awkward and embarrassing life experiences for comedic material. His upcoming television special will focus entirely on true stories.
“People sort of think that they are funny, although for me it’s just kind of painful,” he said. “My comedy special is kind of along the lines of Bill Cosby, where he just tells stories for a while.”
Birbiglia made a name for himself performing with Dave Chappelle, Mitch Hedberg and Margaret Cho prior to his upcoming comedy special. He has also appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Late Night With Conan O’Brien. Birbiglia is the youngest comedian to have ever performed on The Late Show with David Letterman.”
Birbiglia credited his success to using old-fashioned work ethic while taking advantage of the new wave of social networking Web sites like MySpace and Facebook.
“There’s nothing that can be a substitute for writing and performing as much as you possibly can,” he said. “I don’t really know any professional comedians who are famous, are very connected, or have had any massive break. It is a really hard profession to break into because there are a lot of people trying to do it so you really have to work harder than everybody else.”
Birbiglia posts his “Secret Public Journal” on his Web site, birbigs.com, and MySpace, which he approximated may be syndicated to 40,000 female subscribers.
“Once in a while, I’ll write a blog entry and there will be no comments, which is like an awkward conversation where I’m the only one talking for 15 minutes,” he said.
Some of Birbiglia’s opinions have caused controversy. He compares George W. Bush to a dad who decides to build a deck but has no clue how to do it. But Birbiglia received the most negative criticism when he gagged on, of all things, the Erie Zoo.
“People would ask ‘Why don’t you pick another small town and make fun of their zoo? And I said, ‘Because it’s your town.’”
Birbiglia said he expected the locals to be waiting for him with torches when he performed in Erie, Pa., but the owner of the zoo met him and gave him a private tour, thus making peace between Birbiglia, and the people of Erie.
Overall, Birbiglia seems to come across as a likable guy.
“My humor is very casual – it’s not in your face,” he said. “It won’t cause controversy unless there’s someone from my past who’s going to come back and say ‘You did not jump out of that tree like you said,’ like A Million Little Pieces.”
Jimmy Viola can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.