“It’s not totally insane that I did that!”
Mike Birbiglia on his Love Life
“So then I’m scrambling.” Mike Birbiglia spins around the stage in a hilariously, shameful reenactment of his first date. Mike Birbiglia’s love life definitely seems to be scrambled; like eggs that were meant to be fried but end up as slaughtered, yellow bits. It still tastes the same, right?
The stand-up comedy sketch, My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, takes the audience through one man’s misfortunate relationship. The show is a one-man romantic comedy that tells the story of Birbiglia’s relationship with Jenny, including his awkward personality and inability to kiss, talk to, and charm girls starting at the age of 13. He began performing My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend in 2011 and continued to perform throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom until June 2, 2013. The recorded version of his show was preformed in Seattle in 2013. So after having performed this show for over a year one can assume that he should be able to recount his story seamlessly drawing optimal amounts of laughter from the audience.
Comedian Steven Wright was the first to inspire Birbiglia to pursue stand-up comedy and he began to create a mix of one-liners and personal stories that have developed into his different routines. Birbiglia’s career started in college when he worked as a server at a comedy club. His boss would let him fill in if a comedian was late or failed to show. He later took his mom’s station wagon and went on the road. His parents didn’t accept his career choice at first. His mom wanted him to be a priest; “a funny priest,” she would say. But after his fall out with the Catholic Church, a comedian seemed like the best next option.
The only complication of pursuing a comedy career came from the normalcy of Birbiglia’s life. Birbiglia grew up in a normal city, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, under the wing of normal parents, following normal rules. Birbiglia does not have the advantage of obscure life events. So instead Birbiglia becomes the butt of his jokes. His comedy is self-deprecating. However, this strategy works for him because the people in the audience have most likely made the same or similar mistakes that are shown through Birbiglia’s routine. This normal comedian possesses one favorable characteristic — relateability.
“My life is very normal, and I’m able to make comedy about what people’s lives are like,” says Birbiglia. Birbiglia does not tell a typical home run derby of jokes. Birbiglia tells stories that we are too embarrassed to tell. He has learned to talk about and laugh at experiences that when they first happened probably led him to want to run away and hide. We’ve all experienced this. Those moments when changing your name and moving across the country seems like the only way to get over what just happened. Birbiglia tells these stories in a way that they are funny, not sad. These awful stories portray to the audience a sense of acceptance with the past. By making fun of himself he teaches his audience that it is okay to laugh at your mistakes. Birbiglia’s show serves as “a shoulder to cry on” or in this case laugh. He admits that “when I go out and perform the shows and then people are laughing at the things that I was embarrassed to talk about, I actually do feel a sense of community with people from it.” His fans have had these same experiences and Birbiglia’s routine makes these mortifying circumstances laughable.
Birbiglia learned early on how important it is to relate stories to the audience, while he is telling them. Birbiglia says that “even though you’re saying a lot of details about yourself, you’re really trying to tap into what it is that you and the audience have in common.” Most people have been on a date that ended badly or done something stupid when trying to impress someone; while it may not have been the same story, the audience is able to understand Birbiglia’s feelings. Birbiglia learned after this show that “Oh, this has happened to other people? People can relate to having a girlfriend who has another boyfriend? And then I would have hundreds — I’m not exaggerating — hundreds of people coming up to me on my tour and saying, ‘That exact same thing happened to me.’”
Throughout the entire show, Birbiglia is relating to the audience, but he never mentions the audience. He tells a story only about himself. He is on a quest to convince the audience that marriage is wrong and he is right. The relation of life lessons come along the way. As Birbiglia makes his argument for his belief against marriage he takes the audience on his quest to understand love.
Many people have searched for the meaning of love, which has led to many different meanings of this word. The Egyptians first created words for love some 35,000 years ago. They even created two gods of love, Aphrodite and Eros, both of pure beauty and desire. These gods are the idealized goods of the theory of love. They symbolize the feelings that people want to experience.
These pure feelings could exist if it was not for the cruel emotion ambivalence, which is defined as the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action. The ability to feel ambivalent towards someone greatly interferes with the ability to love. The concept of romantic love did not exist before the Middle Ages. This concept brings forth another new dilemma by creating a new level of love that falls between profane and sacred love. There is a long history with the idea of love yet, a scientific definition of this word is difficult to create. It has been left up to the poets and novelists to define this term as an opinionated definition leaving one to wonder and go on their own self quest to discover this meaning.
This search is often one of pain and frustration, yet we are born wanting to love and be loved so the quest continues. Falling in love involves complex stages including discomfort, idealization, a sense of understanding, discovery of differences, fears, and healing. The journey of love takes us through these stages, as a part of the human experience, and from the humiliating to the rewarding we see the reasoning for Birbiglia taking us through his painstaking relationships. As journalist Jesse Fox describes, “It’s a hilarious car wreck. Sorry, I mean it’s hilarious and involves a car wreck.”
From a date that ended in puking, to a car wreck resulting in marriage, Mike Birbiglia is able to find humor in the unhumorous; bringing forth the truths of the audiences’ feelings about relationships. “If you look at Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, it’s a story about how I didn’t believe in the idea of marriage and a series of incidents occurred in my life where I was hit by a drunk driver and made to pay for the other driver’s car and I came around to this idea that in this car accident, as well as in life, you can’t always be right,” says Birbiglia in his pitch for the show. The hour and a half show of My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend is a simple storyline that was made funny because of clever tangents and relatable stories. The stand-up comedy sketch My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend makes humorous the misfortunes of Mike Birbiglia’s love life by emphasizing his awkward mannerisms and ridiculous tangents to reveal the hopelessness of romance in the truth of the human experience.
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My Girlfriends BoyFriend staring Mike Birbiglia, Seattle Washington, 2013
Annotations by Allie McGregor and Teresa Tran
Setting: microphone lays on stool; stage lights go up as he walks on
Five years ago all my friends started to get married but this is awkward because I don’t believe in marriage.
I have a problem when I think I’m right about something. It brings up tension, because…. I’m right!
Marriage is insane for anyone!
50% of marriages end in divorce; 2nd marriages 60–62%; 3rd marriages 70–75%…. That’s a learning curve. pause for laughter
Women are incapable of being loyal for more sophisticated reasons. Have you ever master-bated while drive a car? pause for laughter
I’m never gonna be happy why would anyone want to be a part of that?
Andy (his friend that also doesn’t believe in marriage) and I tried to stop other people from getting married. We took him (his friend that wants to get married) to dinner and during desert gave him a long hard stare and said “are you sure this is what you want to do?” Then we went cold because we wanted him to know what it would be like when we weren’t friends anymore.
I’m at Andy’s house on the phone with my girlfriend. Andy just agrees with anything you say. He’s like, “She sounds crazy,” even if what she’s saying isn’t that crazy.
leaves house after argument And then I’m t-boned by another car! *yelling*
pause I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this term.. softer narrator voice; goes into detailed description of what t-boned means
very light whimsical voice I was spinning around like I was dead and paralyzed. Then I hear nothing and then I hear the other car skid away. pause I know.
*end of story back to argument about marriage*
A Sex maybe
From the moment I met her (Jenny) I knew I wanted to sleep with her at least once…. stay with me. responds to audiences confused reaction
I don’t have that kind of confidence. I actually think of myself as a “sex maybe.”
And I’m not ashamed of that. There was a period of my life when I was a “sex never.”
A “sex with self” always and often… surprisingly often.
I dress down to create the myth that I might be a fixer upper.
I only glance at the mirror to make sure I’m not bleeding.
If I stare at the mirror I get angry. I feel like I’m complaining about a bad call a a ref just made.
Ref: “You’re blind if you’re leaving the house like that!” *yelling*
The ref is God and the competing teams are my gut and receding hairline. It’s a tough game cause my gut is LARGE and my hairline is FAST. I’m ready to charge the field and the guy comes by with fried dooough… and I’m like next time, next time… shoves pretend fried object into his mouth
Strong, Independent Women
Now I’m going for strong independent women.
Sometimes I skip the whole sections (of the workout) and then have to strike a pose so I can pretend I’m doing what everybody else is doing.
Sometimes it’s like in the olympics when the gymnastics girls fall during their routines and they start rolling around like “I’m in a lot of trouble.” rolling around the stage But no matter what… *stands up with hands in the air mimicking the gymnast’s final pose*
talking to himself That can’t be the same loser from moments ago! That’s a completely different person who has MUCH better posture for sure.
*back to story about jenny*
I really wanted Jenny to go out with Andy and I that night in Seattle. We were going to one of those famous Irish pubs where nobody can hear anybody speak and so I thought might work to my advantage…
She (Jenny) forgot her ID, but she said it would be fine. I was like no it won’t be fine! But we get to the pub and the bouncers just kinda waved her through.
This has NOT been my experience with bouncers.
Bouncers for me are like prison guards and for Jenny they’re like birthday clowns. begins bouncing around on stage mocking clowns “What can I do to make your day better?” goofy clown voice
Andy had done so much convincing for Jenny to come out she thought she was on a date with him. Eventually she realized she was on a date with me and she was not happy about that.
We were in the back seat of this tiny car and I can hear her soft voice and she tells me she’s just come out of a long relationship and I tell her about my breakup and for a moment there it felt like we were holding up two halves of a broken paper heart. cute girly baby voice
I finally get the courage to lean in and kiss her and she says, “Oh! No thank you.” pause
That was polite… but disappointing.
A rejected kiss is the most personal type of rejection.
You’re putting yourself out there like: “I think we should connect mouths.” nerdy robot voice
There are two very different mouth agendas and you feel so stupid.
We never should’ve connected mouths. back to nerdy robot voice
This is a sore subject for me I have a long history of failed kisses.
In my town in Massachusetts people started making out in 7th grade.
People WE KNOW are just MAKING OUT with other people WE KNOW! angry and disgusted look on his face BUT HOW?
It [kissing] seemed like a weird alien ritual.
I’m not doing that! Collectively all the girls in my grade were like “That is fine. You’re not on the list. You’re not necessarily a first line draft pic for our new activity.” Perfect. It seemed so gross to me and still does kinda.
Men are like “I don’t like it when I see two dudes kissing in the street,” but I feel that way about anyone.
It’s like watching a dog eat spaghetti. starts imitating a dog eating/him kissing
Is this right???
In 7th grade there was a make-out club and a non make-out club. I was in that sad group that played Nintendo and wasn’t liked by girls. I feared that I would be the loan member of the non make-out club so I knew I had to try to get in the make-out club.
She (girl in 7th grade class) doth had many suitors. goes into Old English narration She was forced to talk to me on the phone thanks to alphabetical order.
*on the phone* Lisa: “Mike you gotta stop I’m gonna pee myself!” pause
This was the closest I had ever come to a girl’s vagina.
So I spent the next 15 years trying to make Lisa Baseti pee and That’s how I ended up here.
I asked her (Lisa) to go to the carnival with me and she said yes.
talking to himself Well maybe this will be like one of those romantic comedy montages: We’ll go to the carnival. We’ll get stuck on the top of the ferris wheel; we’ll make out. It’ll all take a minute and a half and it will all be set to a Phil Collins song.
When you’re 12 years old you don’t understand things about your digestive system.
You don’t know that you’re not supposed to eat popcorn, and peanuts, and ice cream and cotton candy and then step on a machine called the Scrambler.
I dont know if you have the Scrambler here. I imagine you might. It travels on a truck… It is a very mobile, scrambling, unit.
You sit on a pod with the person you are in love with sitting next to you. sits down demonstrating using hand movements as well. You go around in a circle which is part of a larger circle which is part of an even grander circle.”
As I understand it, it was originally designed as a medical device for constipated patients. It was called the ‘Shits-A-Pants-Orator’ and was widely successful.
Then it was co-opted by the Carnival Workers of America, CWOA.
CWOA employees: “We like it but we think the name’s a bit of a turn off.”
CWOA employee 1: “What about the ‘Think-Im-Gonna-Die-Orator’?”
CWOA employees: “That’s good cause it gets across the essence of how you feel when you’re on the machine plus it has the added wordplay with diarrhea which is a nice homage to the original intention of the machine, but we still feel like the name is a bit of a turn off.”
CWOA employee 2: “What about the the Scrambler, cause it ScRaMBleS you!” yelling
CWOA employees: “We get is Frank.. but who will be in charge of this dangerous piece of equipment?”
CWOA employee 2: “I have a nephew whose 16 years old and smokes pot 24 hours a day I feel like he might be available.”
CWOA employees: “He sounds amazing!”
I sit down with Lisa on the Scrambler and I’m feeling good. thinking to himself This is where it’s all gonna happen. This is very special. cute sweet voice
I knew from the moment they put the bar down in front of me that I was going to throw up for sure. Hey sir…(to guy in charge of ride) and then he was gone. Apparently he doesn’t enjoy the second halves of sentences.
starts spinning around insanely So then I’m scrambling!
My thought was I needed to come up with a plan. I’m not going down without a fight.
My first plan was simple. It was don’t look at Lisa, don’t look at any other people. repeats multiple times as he spins around in circles again
to himself I need a new plan. spinning out of control
The new plan was to tell the Scrambler operator that he needed to stop the ride. The mathematics of the Scrambler are such that the window of opportunity for one to communicate with the Scrambler operator are one of limited opportunity.
I gotta tell the operator to stop the ride. WAIT STOP THE rIjdflkjsa. to himself I’m not sure he heard meakdjad. starts screaming louder as he goes around in circles
On the third time I started throwing up. It was like a long isolating sprinkler: cch cch ch cch bllkkblkblkblk.
Popcorn… peanuts… really insulating the pavement with my homemade carnival salsa.
I…did not…look…at…Lisa. slumped over looking like he had just died I’m pretty sure she looked at me. I was a spectacle.
I did not loose my mouth virginity that evening.
Cattle Call Dance
Two years later it gets worse. shigh
We were at the St. Johns High School Cattle Call Dance.
They would invite the girls from ALL OVER the state to our SWEATY St. Johns gymnasium like cattle.
Cattle shows up at eight. Then we make out with the cattle. Cattle goes home at ten. Then we go out for burgers.
Completely separate from the cattle analogy.
It was a horrible affaire. It was just this room full of sweat, and hormones, and Led Zeppelin.
I was indeed the lone member of the non make out club, but now it was worse because I had to lie about it.
I was always scared one of the boys would ask me a follow up question like “what’s it like” and I’d be like oh just like licking an ice cream cone and they’d be like “NO! It’s not it’s like sucking on a rocket pop.”
I’m at this dance and I’m introduced by my friend Tommy to these two girls from his home town. They were the last two cows at the dance.
They were like muauuhhh and we were like muahh. kicking foot like an angry bull
And then Sam says one of these phrases that we’ve all heard, but is very uncomfortable to repeat.
Sam: “You get that one.”
I’ve been on the negative end of that conversation where a girl goes “you get that one” and then she’s like “euh” or even worse like “You owe me.”
It hurts that someone’s inquiring debt based on my appearance. I’d hate to hurt someone’s credit score.
So I’m out there dancing and I’m not very good at fast dancing and there’s this strobe like so it’s only catching me in like every five moves. starts out goofily hopping around; pausing in awkward stances
She’s losing interest but at 1/5th the speed.
So I’m saved by a slow song: Stairway to Heaven. Classic make out anthem.
What’s great about slow dancing is you can’t really mess it up. It’s like a slow motion hug.
The only way you could mess it up was it you just started FAST dancing in the middle of it. goofily dancing again
She’d be like “What are you doing?” And I’d be like: I don’t pick up on social cues.
It’s such a long song and I’m trying not to fidget. I’m a kinda fidgety person.
I didn’t know anything about making out, but I’ve seen people do it. I know there’s like a head tilt. confusingly tilts head sideways
I had heard there are tongues involved. And I could see that there’s some kind of space between the mouths. To me that (the space) was the most mysterious thing.
What is happening in that space?
It’s like the giant squid of making out. No one has seen it alive, they’ve only seen it washed up on the shore, which is more to the squid side of that analogy.
So I’m trying not to fidget with one and a half minutes left of “Stairway to Heaven” the song hits that crescendo: mah nah nah mah nah nah NAH NAH WAAAHH!! singing lyrical part of the song
All around me kids start to make the tilt. Just a harvest of teenagers all around me start making out.
talking to himself OH NOOOO! I DONT WANT TO BE ALONE ANYMORE!
I make the slightest tilt… and then Sandra comes in strong and it’s an all out mouth war. She had artillery cause she had braces.
It was like a dog eating spaghetti… AND the fork.
As this oral atrocity is taking place all I can think is I’M NOT ALONE ANYMORE! I’M NOT IN THE NON MAKE OUT CLUB!
All I wanted to do was tell my friends, but I couldn’t cause up into that point I had lied and said that I had had my first kiss.
I walked off the dance floor and Sam said “How’d it go dude?” And I had to be like same as always…
I tried to convince myself that this had gone well and I should call Sandra. Those conversations ended up being very brief. We didn’t have much to talk about.
pretend phone conversation Hey do you like full house? silence Same me neither. silence Okay talk to you later.
Then she quit calling me back.
I felt so dumb about the whole thing and the worst part was I couldn’t even tell my friends.
One day I was standing by the locker with my friend Tom so I said to him what’s going on with Sandra? She hasn’t called me back.
Tom has this knowing grin on his face. imitates goofy grin
Tom: So I talked to Sandra and she said you’re the worst kisser she’s ever kissed.
It was so devastating.
Not only was it probably true, but I couldn’t explain to my friends why. So I had to play it off like yea sounds about right. I’m the terrible kisser! That’s kinda my thing.
You seem cool
*back to story about Jenny* So I leaned into kiss Jenny and she was like “Oh no thank you.”
She gave me her number and I typed it in my phone and from that point on she would be “Jen Irish Pub Nice.”
A few weeks later I took her out to a dinner I couldn’t afford to show her how much money I could put on a credit card.
Jenny: Everyone hates me at work.
Mike: Why would they hate you? I LOVE YOU awkward silence begins pretending to cut meat
Jenny: You love me?!?!
Mike: I mean you seem pretty cool…
I pulled it back. I didn’t want to show all my cards, just about 9 of them…
Jenny: Sometimes I’ll date two people at once and that way I’m never put down by a single person.
Mike: That seems like a really cool plan. I’d like to do that as well…
Jenny: I’m still kinda seeing my ex-boyfriend John and you can see other people two if you tell me you’re seeing them.
Mike: Alright sounds like a plan. Got it. Break!
to himslef I gotta go find some more people. walks away
A few nights later I’m in another city doing a show and end up at a bar and end up making out with this random girl.
Three nights later I’m back at dinner with Jenny.
Jenny: How was your trip?
Mike: It was great I did some shows and then one night I ended up making out with this random girl. pause with complex look
Well that didn’t go over well.
Mike: But I’m supposed to tell you right? That’s what we agreed?
Jenny: Yea but that doesn’t mean I won’t lose interest in you…
Mike: THAT’S A WHOLE NEW CLAUSE!
What is this? A romantic comedy version of the “Usual Suspects?”
Mike: Are you still seeing John?
Mike: Well don’t you see the contradiction in that?
It gets very quiet because were falling in love.
Winter in Bermuda
Three weeks into my relationship with Jenny I ask her to go on a trip with me to Bermuda. I wanted to show her how much more money I could put on my credit card.
It was the off season so we could get these great deals cause when it’s winter in New York its also winter in Bermuda…
Jenny and I meet up in the airport and she’s late. Which is a great pet peeve of mine. We get to security and she doesn’t have an ID or passport.
Mike: How do you travel?
Jenny: Well usually they let me on the plane with my passport and work ID.
I don’t like to dwell on the differences between men and women, but I just can’t imagine a scenario where a man could get on a plane without a passport. Women get a pass on this. That is completely bewildering.
If I was in charge of Al Qaeda. What I would do…
I would recruit attractive women because they are not stopped under any circumstances.
It’s difficult to recruit them because all they have to offer is the 72 virgins. Al Qaeda could recruit hot lesbians but then they’d have to agree that the 72 virgins are also lesbians… What are the odds? All 72 virgins are also lesbians Unless you think of sexuality as a black slate thing where the first person you have sex with determines your sexuality.
The point is we went to Bermuda.
We’re on the flight and the flight attendant comes over and puts champagne glasses on our table and says “Congratulations on your honeymoon.”
Jenny: Oh That’s so funny I don’t think Ill ever go on a honeymoon.
Jenny: Yea I don’t think I ever want to get married in my life.
Mike: Really? Me too! Is that based on a principle or did you have a bad relationship? What was your first boyfriend like?
*Jenny goes into long story about first boyfriend she dated for six years*
Mike: And then what?
Jenny: He died. He had leukemia. serious
Mike: Do you ever talk about this with anyone?
Jenny: No I don’t really like to talk about it.
*Gets into argument about Jenny not getting an ID or passport.*
That’s how Jenny argues things — she says “That’s how I feel” and I’ll say, “Well that’s not an argument. Like we’re not even in an argument right now because you don’t have an argument.” (Continues going back and forth about what an argument is or isn’t)
You can see how this can be a little bit maddening. (Continues to describe another instance in which he and Jenny argue about essentially nothing)
Jenny: Let’s play basketball, but not a game because I think I’d win…
And I know it’s supposed to go back and forth like the guy says “I’ll win” and the girl says “No I win” and then the guy lets the girl win and she likes him more, but I just don’t think I have it in me. We ended up playing and I kicked her ass. I was destroying her and she said “I’ve never met someone so obsessed with the score.”
Jenny: I don’t know why you’re so obsessed with being right.
Mike: I’m not obsessed, I just am. Why do you think you’re right?
Jenny: That’s how I feel.
Mike: If you think I’m so wrong about everything, then why are you even with me?…
Jenny: You can’t choose who you love.
Which is true.. but it doesn’t mean it’s good.
My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend
I remember the first time I fell in love, I was in high school and it was like this is it! I found her; I’m 17 years old and I’m done! ~audience laughs~ Her name was Amanda and she was adorable and funny. It was really exciting for me because she was a delinquent and I was a play by the rules, good citizen. She’d been expelled from her previous school for dealing acid which ~audience laughs~ I thought was really strong quality.
Amanda: It wasn’t even me, it was this other girl and I was framed.
No one would ever frame me for anything ~audience laughs~ so I thought it was an opposites attract situation. She wanted to know what it was like to hang with someone in student government and writes for the newspaper and I wanted to know what it was like to be cooool.
Mike: Do you want to write an article for the newspaper?
Amanda: I don’t wanna write an article, I wanna do things people write articles about.
Mike: Good answer (he says in awe) ~audience laughs~
I find that when you fall in love, you tend to overlook certain red flags ~audience laughs slowly~ one of ‘em was that she’d say really mean stuff to me but then she’d pull it back.
Amanda: No one likes you at all… only kiddin’ (squeaky voice, slight country accent)
You’re like a nerd but you’re not even smart… just jokin’!
Can’t choose who you love. Second red flag was that Amanda was a liar. And I don’t… mean that in an offensive way — lying was like a sport at this school, I transferred from an all boys’ school. There was this one guy who when he lied, you would know because he licked his finger and would dart his eyes from side to side saying “yeah! Yeah! Nice!” He wasn’t even handling money but he was lying about things that were irrelevant (recounts a lie). Even if his lies were true, they wouldn’t be impressive to a bunch of high school students. But that’s the Jedi level of lying — you lie about a bunch of little stuff and no one knows when you’re lying about big stuff! It’s like banking. ~audience applauds~
The final red flag with Amanda was that she told me not to tell anyone that she was my girlfriend. I know… I’m in the future ~audience laughs~ I think we can all see now, we’re so smart, Mike’s so dumb. In retrospect, that was a much bigger red flag than I could see at the time. I was just so excited she was with me. She said she had another boyfriend at home and they were in the process of breaking up but it was a bad time because his parents were sick. So I tried to be understanding and I went along with it for a few months until she invited me to meet her parents.
Mike: Well this is the affirmation I need, I will finally be crowned the MAIN boyfriend.
I drive my mom’s station wagon and I walk in the front door. There’s Amanda and her parents. A few hours later, this other guy Scott comes over. I assumed he was a family friend but then I start noticing similarities between Scott and things Amanda has said about her other boyfriend (goes down his impressive list of extracurriculars). It dawned on me that this was my girlfriend’s boyfriend. He seems like a nice guy. I totally see what she saw in him. There was some consolation when he would go to the bathroom then she would hold my hand.
Amanda: I wish it were just you and me…
I remember thinking you could make that happen. She’s over here acting like she’s being held back by the “boys in corporate.” The day took a strange turn when Scott suggested we go hang out at his house and I met his parents. It is indescribable meeting your girlfriend’s boyfriend’s parents for the first time. Part of me is angry for obvious reasons and the other part still wants to make a good impression. Maybe if this goes well, she’ll see that I’m good with adults in general! As a side note, his parents seemed in perfect health.
Scott’s dad: How do you know Amanda?
Mike: We’re just friends from school.
I was so ashamed and I felt so dumb and I drove home thinking I was never going to let this happen to me again.
What’s He Doing here?
10 months into my relationship with Jenny she invites me to meet her parents. This was a tricky time, our relationship was intense but casual. I was always out of town at least 5 days a week. (Begins a story about a trip to Texas) It’s not to say I disliked Texas entirely its such a large thing to dislike. That week just felt like Texas disliked me. I disliked Texas back to the point where I developed a small drinking problem, which is very popular in Texas. I was performing in a comedy club (goes off on another tangent about comedy clubs). There’s 15 bachelorette parties handing out gummy penises… I didn’t realize that was part of the female fantasy was the gummy quality of the penis. If I was in charge of the candification, I’d make it hard candy. And then if you suck it down to the gummy part then you put it down to the side. That’s not my job so I’ll leave it to the experts. I was approached by this bachelorette party that had novelty sexual checklists. I’d been drinking all week and I always try to be a team player.
Mike: Whatever I can do to help! I don’t see how this could end badly…
The next morning I wake up in my hotel room hungover and groggy. I run to the airport to catch my flight; I’m still 2 hours early. I land in new York and get a cab to Jenny’s parents house. I walk in the door and there’s Jenny, there’s her parents, and there’s her other sort of ex-boyfriend John. He wasn’t front and center, he was around in the pool wading and doing laps that kinda thing.
Mike: What’s John doing here?
Jenny: He and I aren’t still together but when we were John became friends with my stepdad and he’s been staying here for the past couple weeks.
Mike: That’s not good. I feel like that gives him the edge.
Jenny stares at me.
Jenny: You have a hickey on your neck.
Mike: I don’t think that’s true
I glance at the mirror next to me and realize that I do in fact have a hickey on my neck.
Mike: I’m really sorry.
Jenny: Where is that from?
Mike: There was this bachelorette party and I was drunk…
That sentence never comes out right. I mean there’s no way to deliver that line in a way that makes it seem okay. We started arguing all the way to the street in front of my apartment.
Mike: Well what about John, what was he doing there?
Jenny: You have a HICKEY on your neck!
Mike: At least I told you the truth!
Mike: Eventually is better than never!
And then she kneed me in the BALLS. I don’t know if any of you have experienced this, I’m sure half of you have not. It’s like getting electrocuted except you don’t get to die. It’s like you want to die but you can’t and there’s a person in front of your face saying you deserve this. Which they wouldn’t even do in electrocutions, they’d deem that as inhumane… even in Texas.
Jenny: I think that we should just break up. I mean it’s not just this, you’re away a lot of the time and even when you’re here, you work at night and I work in the day. I just don’t think it’s gonna work out…
We were apart for 6 months, I missed her so much but I resisted the urge to call her because I wanted to give her space. Every once in awhile I get a glimmer of hope in the form of a text message from “Jen Irish Pub Nice” and it would just say “Hi.” And I’d write back, “Hi” (voice is very soft at this point). This smallest form of communication 2 people could have in some ways kept us together. On new Year’s I caved in and called her.
Mike: Hey I really missed you, I wanna see you.
We met up for coffee and hit it off just like we used to and we decided that we would get back together. We had a great period — I took her to get a license and a passport. First, we went for her social security card then we took THAT to the DMV and then we mailed all of that to the government for a passport! It was like a triple crown of identifications. Jenny was wildly identifiable. One night we were heading back to her apartment and she stops.
Jenny: I think that we should live together…
Mike: I really don’t think that’s a good idea (stuttering). I just decided as a principle I’m not gonna get married or live with someone. It’s not personal.
Jenny: well unless we live together I just don’t think it’s gonna work out because we just don’t see each other enough and I just don’t think that we stand a chance. That’s how I feel…
So we moved in together.
One day Jenny gets an invitation to the wedding of one of her friends and she invites me to come along.
Mike: Oh… no thanks.
That doesn’t go over so well.
Mike: You know I don’t believe in marriage so I don’t buy into the flamboyant pageantry that goes into celebrating it.
Jenny: Well what do you believe in?
Mike: I don’t know…
Jenny: Well if you don’t believe in anything, how can you not believe in marriage?
Mike: Well first of all, it just doesn’t seem necessary. Marriage is an archaic institution invented in the middle ages based on the exchange of property. I don’t wanna be a part of that. Second of all, I don’t think we have a common cultural understanding of what marriage even is. I mean one of me and Andy’s friends was about to get engaged and we were skeptical and we said “are you sure this is the person you want to be with for the rest of your life?” and he goes “I think so.” We go, “well what if she gets in a car accident and she’s disfigured. Would you stay with her then?” and he said “MAYBE”! THAT IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE ANSWER. Third of all, If I’m so in love why does it need to be written in a government contract?
I’m not one of those “I hate government” people. I think it does a nice job delivering the mail and suggesting I don’t eat poison! But I just don’t understand why they need to be involved in my personal relationship!
Mike: And finally, if marriage was religious then shouldn’t I believe in the religion? I’ve been to more weddings of my friends getting married at the altar where they don’t believe in the religion of the church they’ve invited us to! Some even go to classes with the priest in advance to more elaborately lie about believing in a religion they don’t believe in just to have a wedding in a fancy building! THAT IS INSANE! THAT’S HOW I FEEL! (has been yelling this whole argument)
So I explained this to Jenny. (softer)
Jenny: well if you ever did wanna get married, I would marry you.
Mike: Whyyy? Aren’t you listening to any of this?
Jenny: That’s how I feel.
I Have Wheels
At this point it was 5 in the morning we’d been arguing all night and we hadn’t slept. I had to catch a flight at 6:20 AM at Newark airport to Los Angeles for a show I was doing that night. I was tired, angry, late. I’m stuffing my things in my rolling suitcase. I walk out of our apartment. It’s 5 in the morning — that part of the morning before the earth even exists, before they program the matrix or whatever. You walk out of your apartment and part of the road isn’t even there. There’s a guy with a laptop yelling “We need a road, stat!” You get to the airport and the news hasn’t started yet, it’s just an anchor looking around. I get to the kiosk, print out my ticket and I bring it to the lady and she goes “well that ain’t your gate!” I guess they had changed it but the way she said made it seem as though I had participated in the decision.
Mike: I was not involved in this process. (continues rambling)
Like hell I’m flying out of B22. I photoshopped my own ticket, printed it out. I’m not that aggressive of a traveler.
Mike: Well where is this gate?
Lady: It’s in a different terminal, you gotta take a tram.
She points to the tram and I start walking my roller suitcase.
Lady: And you better run!
I guess I was late so I start running and the roller suitcase does not enjoy running. “I don’t wanna run! I have wheeeels” I say I don’t wanna run either but this is what we have to do. When we get back to the hotel I’ll walk you in circles for a few hours. I get to the tram and it has the feature where it says how many minutes until the next one arrives. It says zero minutes. Perfect, that’s exactly how long I wanted to wait. But the tram is riding away. That’s -1 minutes! Then it says 10 minutes and I’m experiencing that psychological downward spiral. Oh great I’m gonna miss my flight and I’m gonna miss every flight from now on. I’m gonna miss my family reunion and then I’m not gonna have a family and then I’m gonna be a crackwhore. All of a sudden I’m a crackwhore but it’s just because I missed one flight and I can feel the cancer forming in my body in real time. I get on the next tram 10 minutes later and I run to the gate all sweaty and out of breath, but I’m on time. I’m so relieved that I sit down on a chair at the gate and fall asleep. I wake up to the sound of the doors shutting. I jump up and the doors close and I am on the sad side of the door. The happy side has an airplane and a pilot; the sad side has me and the cinnabon lady. Normally I’d be very excited if that were the case. I love pastries the size of a baby that have enough calories to last for a year. I think that’s an effective use of time but in this instance I needed someone who could communicate with the people on the plane and the Cinnabon lady is not very well connected in the airline community.
Mike: Do you know these people?
Cinnabon lady: all I know is the white stuff goes on the Cinnabon.
The Culinary Way of Describing it
I ran up to the giant glass window. I started pounding on the window like in a romantic comedy. “Drew Barrymore’s character, don’t die!” She didn’t come back and I missed my flight. The next one I could get on was a stopover in Texas… I get to Los Angeles late that night and I missed my show. I’ve never missed one of my shows and I’m so angry. Jenny’s calling me but I’m not picking up the phone because I’m blaming this entire day on her. I go see Andy.
Mike: Andy, this relationship is messing up my entire life.
Andy: You’re right.
Mike: I know! I’m right!
Andy: Yeah, You’re right.
Mike: I KNOW! I’m right! I’m gonna tell her about this in the morning.
I drove out of Andy’s small road and I’m T-boned! It’s the culinary way of describing it. 1.5 seconds of spinning around and I think I’m dead and paralyzed. And then I hear nothing and I hear the other cars get out and drive away. 20 minutes later I’m sitting on the curb. The police have arrived and my friend Andy and that’s when I start crying. You know how when you drop a baby on the ground it doesn’t start crying right away because it doesn’t understand the concept of dropping a baby on the ground until it sees YOUR face. And it goes oh I guess I should be doing something that matches that. WAHHHHHHH! I’m crying because I’m looking at my totaled car in front of me and realizing in that moment I might have ceased to exist. I don’t really believe in anything so in my mind that would have been then end of everything I’d experienced — every kiss or failed kiss come to a conclusion. The officer comes over.
Officer: What happened?
Mike: I got hit by a car then I heard nothing then I heard the other car skid out and drive away.
The officer points over to the light. The other car has made a right turn at the light and veered into this very skinny tree. I can’t help but think that’s karma. That’s a hit and run… and hit. The officer puts the form in my face.
Officer: Sign this.
Mike: What does it mean?
Officer: It means you’re okay and we can leave.
I was really shaken up.
Mike: I don’t really know if I’m okay.
Officer: Just sign it.
It’s a very unattractive quality when someone repeats a command you just said no to. It’s unattractive, but very effective. I signed it. Andy takes me to the hospital as a precautionary. We had to wait 2 hours because the other driver had beat us there.
Andy: Was the other guy drunk?
Doctor: Well I can’t answer that.
Andy: Was he?!
He uses the technique we had learned earlier. And it works!
Doctor: Well he’s headed to jail now.
Andy and I flash looks at each other like the hardy boys, like case closed! Few hours later we’re back at Andy’s around 3:30 AM and I had one of these epiphanies people sometimes have when they’re in near-death experiences.
Mike: I need to call Jenny and tell her that we need to get married.
Andy: Mike… sleep on it.
Mike: No no no this makes perfect sense.
I pick up my phone and dial her number. Andy puts his hand over the phone.
Andy: Mike — sleep on it.
He saved me.
The Accident Report
The next morning I fly back to New York and a few weeks later I get a call from my rental car agency explaining that the accident report had come back on the accident I just described and they found me at fault. And I owe $12,000 for the repairs on the other driver’s Mercedes SUV.
Mike: This can’t be happening. I think it’s a misunderstanding. The other guy was clearly drunk, it was definitely not my fault
Lady: I’m really sorry, but unless they change the accident report, you owe this money.
So I requested the accident report, I’m gonna show you the actual accident report tonight (addresses those who are listening and can’t see the report). I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one of these things before but it’s a little bit like homework for cops and Officer Timson not so good with the homework! He consistently mixes up passenger 1, passenger 2, vehicle 1, and vehicle 2. At one point so badly he Says P1 — me — started to go but all of a sudden V1 — that’s me also — came at a high rate of speed crashing into him. Now I’m pretty self-destructive as a person but I would never crash into my own car with my own car, nor do I understand how you could do that! This part is even crazier. The other driver’s statement at the scene of the accident was “I was on Venice going… uhh I’m not too sure. I was going away from the beach. I was driving. I don’t know what happened… did I hurt anyone? I don’t know where I was going But I came from home. I had a sip of beer which is really everyone’s favorite quantity of beer — just a sip, that’s what they serve these days at the home/beach/pub. SO all this in mind the officer makes one key mistake he checks the box that marks me at fault. I need to get officer on the phone so we can clear up this misunderstanding. Problem is he keeps ducking my calls and I KNOW because I’m calling 2 or 3 times a day leaving messages, calling the department next to him so he knows I’ve been trying to reach him. After I month of this I get him on the phone and I’m so relieved. I explain this misunderstanding and he listens to me.
Officer: Do the right thing and pay for the guy’s car.
Mike: Ah no, that’s not what I said aren’t you listening to any of this? This guy was clearly drunk and nearly killed me and I would be dead right now and you want me to pay?
Officer: Do the right thing and pay for the guy’s car!
He hangs up and at this point it’s no longer about the money it’s about stopping a man who has no regard for people or the law. This is Chinatown.
So I started printing out google maps of the scene of the accident and California state driving laws. I’m on the phone with lawyers and private investigators. There was only one lawyer who would consider the case.
Accident lawyer: Did you have any loss of income?
Lawyer: Did yah have any loss of income from the accident…? (slower as if trying to imply a message)
Mike: Noooooo. This isn’t about money.
He doesn’t take the case. This is where I start completely mad until about 4 or 5 AM every night just surfing the web. I get a subscription to a site called Netdetective.com, which is great for vigilantes who have $29.95. so now I know this guy’s name, I know where he lives, what he does for a living. In my mind this becomes a trailer for revenge thriller. I’m Mike Birbiglia and I’m gonna SUE Jim and I’m gonna SUE Los Angeles police dept! People have stopped talking to me entirely. My friends Call me like “hey what’s going on?” and I’LL TELL them what’s going on. I tell them this whole story and they tell me I should get a lawyer. THIS IS WAY PAST LAWYERS! A LAWYER WOULDN’T EVEN TOUCH THIS!
Way Past Lawyers
The only person who would talk to me at this point was Jenny. One night we were out to dinner at a restaurant. She’s talking to me but I’m not listening because I’m writing down ideas I have for the case. On my napkin I’ve drawn out a diagram of the intersection, the angles the cars were coming from and going to, and the lanes we were in, the laws the other driver broke, and the phone numbers I’m gonna that week. I’m so angry I’m writing over my own handwriting to the point where I’m ripping through the napkin.
Jenny: What are you doing?
Mike: Well this is my case.
Jenny: Well why don’t you work on that in the morning.
Mike: Well which part of this napkin don’t you understand?
Jenny: Mike. You’re right but it’s only hurting you and I’m just so glad that you’re alive and I think we should focus on that.
She only has to say it once and I give up the case and I pay for this guy’s car. July 7, 2007, Jenny and I went to city hall and got married. I still didn’t believe in the idea of marriage and I still don’t but I believe in her and I’ve given up on the idea of being right.
— — — — — — — — — — — — —
So Birbiglia got the happy ever after that he didn’t want. It seems ironic — maybe it is. Perhaps love is the biggest ironic theory in the world. Love is a higher power that takes complete control of your feelings, screws you over, and then gives you something positive — a treat — in the end for no real reason at all. That is what makes his show unique. There is not a huge “banger” or punchline as the final word, but there is a happy ending. The audience is not left crying tears of laughter, but instead awing and loudly applauding for his success.
Stand-up comedy usually involves a story line as is present in My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend. The difference here is Mike Birbiglia also provides a moral of the story — a lesson learned. The conclusion of the show described an epiphany he had with his own beliefs. Birbiglia became at peace with his life as he realized dropping the lawsuit would benefit him. In this part of the show it seems also that he has given up on forcing his comedy. He no longer raises his voice for certain phrases to emphasize that they should be funny and he fails to mention making any awkward gestures with females he eyes. These seemed to be the main tactics Birbiglia uses to elicit laughter. “I hate most one-person shows. And I tend to not love standup comedy so much,” he admits as his reasoning for merging the two together. In this manner, Mike’s comedy relates more to the genre of romantic comedy movies than stand-up comedy routines.
Mike Birbiglia’s comedy is of no comparison to that of Jim Carrey or Eddie Murphy. That is not the kind of comedy he performs. Mike Birbiglia’s stand-up is the perfect example of Comedy’s Release Theory, which states that laughter results from anxiety, generally over the parts of the body that provoke discomfort. The discomfort of Mike Birbiglia, especially in situations that involve the opposite sex, is very clear. However, if he can laugh at his own pain the rest of the world can do the same, which allows this prolonged, awkward romance to transform into a comedy act.
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