DeVos Performance Hall, Grand Rapids
March 9, 7 p.m.
devosperformancehall.com, (616) 742-6500
Mike Birbiglia likes to tell stories. Personal, hilarious stories. And in order to ensure friends and family who appear in the stories don't get offended, he keeps some safeguards in place.
"In my live shows I always try to make myself the primary butt of all the jokes," Birbiglia said. "The result is that hopefully people who are collateral damage in the story are understanding. They're like, 'Well, he's making jokes about himself that are meaner than the jokes he's making about us, so I guess that's better than if that weren't the case.'"
In his most recent one-man show, "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend," Birbiglia even enlisted the help of one of the main subjects of his stories while writing the show – his wife.
"With 'My Girlfriend's Boyfriend,' it was so personal about my wife that I had to work with her very closely to make sure that it all worked for her, and that it didn't offend her," Birbiglia said. "My wife ended up having a lot of the great lines in the show."
Lately, Birbiglia has been touring with his latest show, "Thank God for Jokes," a stand-up set filled with material about the art of telling jokes, and the trouble they can get you in. While the show features all new material, Birbiglia hints that he's open to accommodating for fans of his older work that wish to be regaled with some of his classic bits.
"Lately, I've been doing encores for audience requests for other bits," he said.
For new fans that wish to catch up with his work, many of his stories and stand-up bits can be found on old episodes of "This American Life" and "The Moth." Or they can pick up a copy of his book Sleepwalk with Me and Other Painfully True Stories, the New York Times best-seller that was the basis for his 2012 breakthrough movie of the same name. Of course, they can also always take Birbiglia's own advice on the matter.
"If people aren't familiar with my work, they should just go on Netflix, and 'My Girlfriend's Boyfriend' and Sleepwalk With Me are on there," Birbiglia said. "If they don't have Netflix, they should just borrow someone's password, and then they'll have Netflix."