For Birbiglia, Comedy Is a Means to an End

BY Lauren Knapp  November 11, 2010 at 2:14 PM EDT

Mike Birbiglia’s comedy has landed him gigs on Comedy Central and made him a regular on PRI’s This American LIfe. He uses Twitter to riff with fans and has been developing material on his blog for almost a decade.

“I don’t like to label myself a storyteller or comedian,” says Birbiglia. “I just think of myself as being someone who’s inspired by a lot of art.”

His latest manifestation is a book. Sleepwalk With Me is based on his one-man off-Broadway show by the same name produced by Nathan Lane in 2008.

First loves, failed loves, schoolyard bullying, family crises, discouraging stand-up acts, and, of course, sleep disorders fill the pages. It’s a funny read, to be sure. But Birbiglia takes care not to confuse humor with levity. “Comedy is a means in an end, not an end in itself,” he says.

That comedic philosophy guides Birbiglia on the page and the stage. It’s the juxtaposition of the two that make the more serious moments (like his mom’s struggle with chronic pain) and the lighter moments (like trying to make out with girls in middle school) more powerful.

“I don’t think of it as being serious or funny or dramatic or not dramatic. I think of everything I write being, ‘How much can i be like life?’”, says Birbiglia.

Mike Birbiglia’s newest show is called “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend,” and he is currently working on a film adaptation of “Sleepwalk With Me”.

After the jump, watch an animated clip of Mike Birbiglia’s stand-up.