After the success of his film/book/album/Off-Broadway show, "Sleepwalk With Me," comedian Mike Birbiglia, 35, is taking on the biggest tour he's ever done - hitting 100 cities this year.
When he gets to the NYCB Theatre at Westbury on Thursday with his new show, "Thank God for Jokes," Birbigs, as he is affectionately known, is hoping to kill because he'll have some special guests in the house.
"My wife's family is from Long Island," he says. "I made a plea on Twitter to my fans, 'Please don't embarrass me.' It's actually more pressure than having my own family there."
You seem to connect easily with the audience. How did you develop that style?
When I started out I was trying to be Bill Cosby, Jerry Seinfeld and Steven Wright because that's all I knew. At a certain point you realize you are just trying to be yourself. When I'm having my best show, I'm actually relaxed on stage and not tense at all. I feel like I'm talking to my friends.
When did you decide to open up about your life on stage?
Performing at the Moth, a storyteller series in New York on radio and podcast, was a big breakthrough. I realized that I could tell stories that connect me with the audience in a way that I hadn't experienced before. There weren't punch lines every 15 seconds. I felt more comfortable. It's like I discovered this thing that was there all along.
Where does your new show, "Thank God for Jokes," stand?
I would say it skews in the direction of stand-up comedy because the theme is about how jokes bring our culture together but they also get us in trouble at times. People seem to be leaving satisfied.
You write with your brother Joe. How did that process develop?
Joe is the one who introduced me to comedy when I was young. He was the editor of the student paper and when he'd do a parody issue he'd bounce jokes off of me because I was around. It was just so much fun and it really connected me to him. The further along my stand-up career got I was able to bring him in as a writer and producer. We were always really close and it just works. People say don't involve family with business but I don't know, maybe it's an exception of some kind.
You say in your comedy that you don't believe in marriage but you got married. How did that work?
My last show, "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend," ends with me getting married. I say that I still don't believe in the idea of marriage but I believe in my wife, Jenny, and I've given up on the idea of being right. That's true of a lot of people. They say, "I wouldn't have gotten married if I hadn't met . . . " It seems to be a common story.
Do the people in your life get upset when you talk about them in your act?
I'm rarely in trouble with the people around me because even though my material is autobiographical I'm primarily the butt of the joke.
What was the turning point in your career?
Nathan Lane presented "Sleepwalk With Me" Off-Broadway when it first ran in 2008. Before that point I was doing this very unique specific thing that I felt like people thought was cute. After "Sleepwalk With Me," I felt like I was doing this unique specific thing that people thought was legitimate. When somebody with that level of legitimacy puts their name on the line for you, it really goes such a long way.
What made you go in the direction of theater?
The first time I performed one of my shows in a theater I realized that this is what I should do. In a comedy club people are drinking and eating broccoli poppers -- it's a whole affair. When you go to the theater, people are focused on the show. I spend so much time on the words that I don't want them to be swallowed up in nachos.
What will you follow up "Sleepwalk With Me" with in terms of film?
I'm writing a script right now that is a loose adaptation of my last show, "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend." I've been writing it for about a year and I've had some exciting developments. I've been able to hone in on what I want to do long term. I want to make a bunch of films and keep doing these stand-up comedy-theater hybrid shows. I don't want to do a TV show. I'm not out auditioning for parts. I'm focused on these two things, which has given me time to do them as well as I want to do them.
Who do you see as your audience and how do you relate to them?
Because I have sort of a hybrid show, I have a bit of a hybrid audience stemming from Comedy Central, satellite radio and public radio. I sign posters and stuff after my shows and I find that I generally like the people who come. My number one form of advertising is one friend saying to another, "I think you might like this guy."
Does living in New York feed your comedy brain?
I think so. I go and do spots at the Comedy Cellar. It keeps me sharp. It's like living close to the gym, which helps -- otherwise you won't go.
When you go on the road, how do you manage your sleepwalking condition?
Every week I'm on the phone with various hotels in different cities requesting rooms on the ground floor. It's the bane of my existence.
WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Thursday, NYCB Theatre at Westbury
INFO $41.50-$74, 800-745-3000, livenation.com