Mike Birbligia’s return to form in The New One

2020-01-13 11_07_09-Mike Birbligia - The New One - Google Docs

The New One explores Mike Birbligia’s decision to have a child and first year with the child. Bribligia’s Sleepwalk With Me, and My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend follow the same formula he explores a deeply prevalent issue in his life in great personal detail. I think My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend is one of the best specials in my lifetime. It is able to reach distinctly profoundly sad, but also silly and full of jokes, while presenting a cohesive hour long story. Here the effort of making an hour long story feels more forced than before, but doesn’t fail to surprise or create genuine laughs.

Birbligia’s starting point is that, even before he married his wife, he does not want children. He was clear about this when marry his wife. The special is called The New One, given Birbligia’s age, and the quick introduction of the idea of children, it becomes obvious that yes, he will have a child. So where My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend had a sense of mystery, and you didn’t know where it was going– was this just a bad ex story, The New One doesn’t feel that way. It’s more explanatory than and unfolding Gillian Glynn esque mystery.

He relents and decides to have a baby with his wife. From the outset this was pretty expected, as we are here for an entire hour. Birbliglia then details his visits to the doctor, and having unprotected sex with his wife. He makes some great jokes about what it’s like to have sex without a condom, and the character he puts on as the doctor is hilarious. The doctor tells Birbiglia that no man wants to be a father, but once he sees the baby he will fall in love. A fun, if not totally expected direction, but Birbiglia able to deliver the doctor character in a silly way that makes it work and feel genuine.

The third part of the show goes into his actual experiences once the baby had arrived. One of the loudest gags, is when hundreds of toys fall to the ground from the ceiling. Birbiglia uses this to illustrate how much he and his wife have bought just to get the baby to sleep. This was a surprising moment, one you won’t find in many comedy specials as it requires a high production value. It worked, and was funny and unexpected in the special. He finds, and explains various things in the junk. I don’t know if other comics would need such a moment to illustrate these points, but the fact that Birbiglia chooses to do it in this way shows that he’s unafraid of trying new ideas. One negative aspect is that it makes the shower harder to do. The show can’t be done anywhere else other than that stage or a stage with (hours of) prepping for that specific show. The nature of stand up comedy is that it is, in theory, able to be performed basically everywhere. At least Mr. Carrot Top can bring his prop comedy anywhere.

The last part of the special about how his life has changed becoming a parent. I am not a parent, nor do I have any desire to be one, for a large part because I know how much work it would be. Birbligia complains and complains in this special about how parenting has changed his life, and how he fails to make a connection as strong as his wife’s with the baby. For me, it pays off when he circles back around to a joke– a story where he mentioned he was washing the dishes– and his wife reminds him that he was not washing the dishes, rather he was on the couch. Here the special is about his tension between feeling like he has had the most help possible with parenting, while also feeling like he’s not doing enough. And his inability to feel connected with his baby.

In all, I think there is a lot to this special. Especially if you are a new parent, you probably relate to this significantly more than I could ever hope to. Birbiglia is able to bring an emotional tension, that while never reaching the highs of his previous work, still manages to say something new. We don’t always see the story of the man with a newborn baby, and when I have seen this story, it feels romanticized. Oh yeah, so the man child is really just perfect? Birblidgia shows that it’s not perfect, it’s difficult and messy and requires a lot of junk on the floor.

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