Sleepwalk With Me

Mike Birbiglia.

I’ve learned to accept my flaws, or at least one of them, of late. I can prepare all I want to, but if I have the opportunity to speak to someone I admire and there is a big group of people there as well, it’s just not going to happen. Words have yet to be exchanged between myself and Anthony Bourdain, David Carr and now Mike Birbiglia because of it.
For my job, while I do have to prepare and sometimes work up the confidence to do it, I can ask the important questions. Unfortunately none of the aforementioned superstars (in my book) have been at events I need to cover for work.
But just listening to what they have to say is enough for me. I actually just became a fan of Mike Birbiglia with all the buzz about his movie “Sleepwalk With Me.” And, through my extensive research in the last week or so, I found out he would be doing a Q&A at the Uptown Theater during its grand opening weekend.

Uptown Theater.

The theater was renovated during the last year, thank goodness, and opened to sold out shows of Birbiglia’s film based on his off-Broadway show of the same name. He wrote the screenplay with Ira Glass (This American Life), Joe Birbiglia (brother), and Seth Barrish, who also co-directed the film. Birbiglia starred in the film alongside Lauren Ambrose, Carol Kane, James Rebhorn, and comedians Kristen Schaal, David Wain and Marc Maron.
Due to my shyness I won’t know why he acted in the film as the character Matt Pandamiglio, although it is pretty funny name, instead of just using his own.
That just doesn’t fit because the film portrays such a personal story about Birbiglia’s relationship with his girlfriend Abby (played by Ambrose), the start of his career as a comedian, and his sleepwalking disorder.
But I can’t even complain about that because I loved, loved, loved this movie so much.
Birbiglia breaks up the story with his narration and commentary, which gives the viewer a real understanding of what he was going through.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I could relate to him, but that’s not a bad thing, it’s just a sign of how personal the story is. And I admire Birbiglia for that. It’s one thing to do a comedy show about something where, even if everyone in the audience is not a fan, most of them probably bought tickets knowing what they were getting into.
Films go out to mass audiences, such as the parents of a film student sitting next to me, or a 12-year-old boy the next row over (who did have the guts to ask Birbiglia a question, sigh).
I wanted to ask Birbiglia, if for that reason, was it difficult to decide to make a film about a personal story versus a fictional piece?
But, because I’m a chicken, I’ll just have to assume Birbiglia was meant to make this movie, not something else.
The 12-year-old boy asked Birbiglia if he had a problem with sleepwalking as a kid. Others in the audience asked what his family thought of the movie and why he decided to narrate the story in the past tense.
He did sleepwalk as a kid, “but not like this,” Birbiglia said, and his family liked the film. He said he was nervous about that more than anything else because in the past they have not liked any of his work.
If you want to know more about Birbiglia, I recommend listening to his interviews on “The Nerdist.”
He talks there about his now ex-girlfriend’s input on the film, the relationship themes it touches on, as well as using truth in comedy.
Comedy is a way for both the performers and audience to laugh about what makes them uncomfortable or tough situations in life, Birbiglia has said (also on The Nerdist).
Birbiglia didn’t get any laughs for his jokes about the Cookie Monster, but when he did a bit about not wanting to get married until he was sure nothing else good could happen in his life, audiences started to chuckle.
Since I started following Birbiglia on Twitter and liked him on Facebook, I learned the films “High Fidelity” and “Once” also inspired him in the making of “Sleepwalk With Me” into a movie.
Both those stories are also about the mix of career goals, the obstacles of life, and relationship reality.
As I said before, I admire Birbiglia. Why? Because he put a very personal story out there for mass audiences to critique. Not surprisingly, I have yet to hear anything bad about it.
People coming out of the show as I waited in line were saying, “that was so good” and, “that was awesome.” One woman even said it was her second time seeing the film in just two days.
“Sleepwalk With Me” is actually available to order on cable already, but I had to see it in the theater knowing Birbiglia would be there. It was surreal to see him in real life minutes after he was just on film in front of me.
I am hoping he comes back to the Twin Cities on tour. I doubt it will be in the ‘burbs where I work, but maybe I’ll use my press badge to force myself to speak to him.


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