Sleepwalk With Me

I listen to a lot of comedy podcasts, which means that, for the past month, I’ve been bombarded with mentions of this movie. Mike Birbiglia has appeared on a few, Ira Glass has appeared on others, and when they’re not there promoting their movie themselves, they’re getting their comedy and pop culture friends to promote it for them. Under most circumstances, I’d find this annoying. But in the case of Sleepwalk With Me, I did not. It’s impossible to dislike these guys. They’re just so damn cool.

Comedian Mike Birbiglia enlisted This American Life’s Ira Glass, a.k.a. my new crush, to help him transform his most famous standup comedy bit/book/etc into a screenplay, and the result was a cute, charming little movie, independent at its core. If you’re a comedy nerd like me, you might have appreciated Marc Maron cameo-ish-ing as himself, Marc Mulharon, or others like Wyatt Cenac and Jessi Klein popping up briefly. If you’re an NPR nerd, you might have been delighted at seeing Ira Glass wield a large camera. If you’re an HBO nerd, you might have loved seeing the artist formerly known as Claire Fisher (Lauren Ambrose, idiots) use that classically-trained voice of hers to belt out a tune. But this movie wasn’t all winky and noddy and inside-jokey. It was actually about Birbiglia’s weird first years as a standup comic, when he developed a severe sleepwalking disorder and was in a serious, moving-towards-marriage type of relationship despite being an outwardly easygoing guy. This movie dealt with these stressful issues in the only way that made logical sense — truthfully. That is, the story that was told wasn’t cliche, because it was Birbiglia’s to tell. I’d heard Birbiglia tell the sleepwalking story countless times, and yet seeing it climax on screen was still terrifying — he literally jumped out a window in his sleep and could have died — and humbling. Even sadder still was [SPOILER ALERT] the final shot, which showed him inside a protective sleeping bag and wearing mittens, the new solution to his sleepwalking problem. Most of the audience laughed at this image; I did not. It was heartbreaking. Maybe Birbiglia didn’t mean for it to be as tragic as it was, but it was an honest, resolved way to end the film, and to show at the same time that not everyone solves all their problems. Speaking of which: I’d not heard him tell the story of his [SPOILER ALERT, AGAIN] eight-year relationship and subsequent breakup with Abby (Ambrose), but I found this part of the movie very honest, too. Of course, he peppered their relationship with witty bits and used clever editing to make their fights seem more amusing, but the facts around their breakup were made abundantly clear. “It just wasn’t working out” just won’t cut it for me anymore when I watch movies, because Sleepwalk With Me gave that phrase new meaning.

Mike Birbiglia isn’t a movie star, but he’s incredibly likable, and incredibly talented at timing his tales. I think I loved his car soliloquies the most, indie-movie as they were, because they showed off his true comedian self, a dude who makes light of the darkest points in his life.


I’ve been listening to other comedy podcasts

Several short days ago, I wrote about my love-hate relationship with The Nerdist podcast and, specifically, with Chris Hardwick as its loudmouthed host. I’m happy and Emersonially proud to state that I have changed my mind. Well, sort of. The point is that The Nerdist is now my favorite comedy podcast. I love Matt, Jonah, and Chris, and I will continue to listen—and potentially be their only female and/or twentysomething listener. Dig it.

Why this change of heart? It’s simple, really. Comparatively speaking, Chris Hardwick is the most fair and balanced comedy podcast host I’ve listened to thus far. I realize I’m not a longtime podcast listener, so there’s a really good chance that I don’t know what I’m talking about. But his arrogance, while overbearing at times, is also part of his charm, and his nerdiness more than makes up for it. The other thing I like about him is how transparent he is about his past alcoholism—he is an open book, and that’s something to respect. Even more awesome is where he draws the line, which is at misogyny. He’s a dude who loves sick jokes but loves women even more, and his comedy reflects that.

Marc Maron and Jimmy Pardo, on the other hand, make me want to punch my newly purchased iPod. The only reason I listen to them is because of the incredible guests they manage to score, despite their rude, disgusting, egomaniacal schticks. Maron is less offensive than Pardo; at least Maron shuts up and lets his guests talk (after a 10-minute, unfunny rant at the beginning of each podcast episode). But Jimmy Pardo is really the worst. He loves the sound of his own voice so much that he’ll fill dead air on the podcast with his nasally “uhhhh” as he’s trying to come up with something inevitably stupid to say. I wish he’d close up shop and let his sidekick do more of the talking. Oh, and maybe let his guests get a word in edgewise, too.

I’ve also been listening to Pop My Culture, per the recommendation of Nathan Fillion on the Nerdist podcast, and Doug Loves Movies. I have to say that Pop My Culture is generally pleasant, with its random questions and lighthearted theme, but Cole Stratton can sometimes take on Chris Hardwick’s know-it-all stance and it grates on me. Vanessa Ragland, on the other hand, is delightful. Generally, though, I enjoy this podcast because it’s endlessly creative, and it seems like the guests are having a nice time shooting the shit. Doug Loves Movies is hilarious, and I’d love to attend a live taping of it at some point. Doug Benson gathers 3-5 celebrities in a room, plays the Leonard Maltin game with them (a quiz show of his own making), and lets them run wild. The Swardson/Kroll/Hardwick episode is hysterical. Just saying.

So there you have it, folks. I’ve made the foray into podcasting, and this is what I have to say for myself. What say ye?