Arts & Culture News

Mike Birbiglia's My Girlfriend's Boyfriend: Monologue, Solo Show, Stand-up, Funny

I was a bit concerned that Saturday's Mike Birbiglia performance, My Boyfriend's Girlfriend, at the Winspear Opera House wasn't billed as stand-up but rather as a solo show or monologue. Most stand-up acts could be described as a monologue or a solo show. What's the difference between a stand-up performance and a "solo show"?

No opener, no host, no hecklers, some occasionally over-dramatic lighting. That, and a narrative thread loosely holding the story together for about an hour and a half.

Of course, with such an endearingly goofy and hapless storyteller as Birbiglia, I needn't have worried about artistic pretensions getting in the way of a good comedy show. That was evident well before I nearly had a stroke laughing at his description of vomiting cotton candy and peanuts off a pot-head-operated amusement-park ride as "insulating the pavement with carnival salsa." 

Starting with his description of marriage as an archaic institution based on the exchange of property and monogamy as an impossible ideal, My Boyfriend's Girlfriend tells of Birbiglia's romantic history, starting from being part of a dwindling "no-makeout club" to an ill-fated high-school relationship with a dishonest, troubled acid dealer to his current love, Jenny. 

It may be a polished, well-practiced story he's told dozens of times, but it never felt that way. At one point, someone in the balcony let loose a loud sneeze, audible throughout the auditorium. "The acoustics in here are incredible!" he marveled, sounding genuinely impressed rather than annoyed by the distraction. And there was one running gag that got some of the biggest laughs, starting before the show proper began, when Birbiglia was reading tweets and telling a few jokes, basically functioning as his own warm-up act.

He'd earlier in the week sent out a tweet asking advice on how, when he got to Texas, he should handle parts of the show that included less-than-charitable descriptions of the state. "Say 'Oklahoma,'" someone on Twitter replied. It was the perfect recommendation, a way to have our cake and eat it too. Not only could we laugh at every mention of our crazy, hard-drinking, gun-nut neighbors to the north, but we enjoyed a little inside joke and knowing nod with Birbigs.

By the end of the show, Birbiglia reveals how he has changed his views from the hardline anti-matrimony stance that was the result of a painful breakup, as well as how he learned to stop needing to always be right, even when he is totally right and the other party is clearly wrong. It's full of hilarious moments, but it's not just a string of funny stories the way his comedy specials are. There are foreshadowing and suspense, rising action and a climax, a happy ending and a moral to the story. One could even say it makes you think. But mostly it's just really, really funny -- solo show, monologue or whatever you want to call it.

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Jesse Hughey
Contact: Jesse Hughey