|THANK GOD FOR JOKES|
In his previous solo shows “Sleepwalk with Me,” and “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend,” Mike Birbiglia showed two really uncommon traits: a willingness to let theatergoers in on some extraordinarily embarrassing moments in his life, and the ability to keep audiences smiling, if not laughing hysterically, for nearly 90 minutes. So, it’s nice to report he pulls off this rare hat trick with “Thank God for Jokes,” now playing The Lynn Redgrave Theater as the final stop of a 100-city, two-year-plus national tour.
“Thank God for Jokes,” which finds Birbiglia working once more with director Seth Barrish and Beowulf Borrit, is, however, an animal of a slightly different nature. In his previous shows, Birbiglia had a major narrative story to share. Here, his recounting of his hosting of the 2012 Gotham Awards (for independent film) serves more as a framework, even if it begins and ends the show. And yes, it ultimately helps brings home the moral of the work about the subjectivity of humor and its power to both offend and delight. (And should you ever decide to watch David O’ Russell’s film, “I Heart Huckabees,” you may now look at it in a completely different light!)
Yes, what happened that fateful night is a fun story, but it’s the many anecdotes that Birbiglia tells within it, digressions one and all, that really make the show worth a visit. I won’t spoil the punchlines, but they involve, among other things, a major faux paus while performing with The Muppets, the absurdity of being the only man in an all-female yoga class, and the basic inappropriateness of Birbiglia doing his act at a Catholic college.
And once again, no matter who his target, or what language he chooses to use (as Birbiglia points out, he’s not basically a “dirty comedian,” but I’d think twice before exposing the kiddies to this show), Birbiglia still comes off as one of the true nice guys in the business, who you’d happily take home to mom or invite out for a beer. Still, if you did, whatever happened might well end up in his next show.
By Brian Scott Lipton
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