This is the second time already in 2017 that I’ve had the chance to take another look at a comedian I saw onstage the year before in their Off-Broadway run of a show. First came Neal Brennan’s 3 Mics. And now comes Mike Birbiglia’s Thank God For Jokes on Netflix.
For his filming at BAM in Brooklyn, Birbiglia upped the production value, certainly. Having more time to process and go back and watch him again and even again, I managed to come with more hot takes of sorts about what Birbigs is accomplishing with his newest one-man show (following Sleepwalk With Me and My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend).
From my new review on Decider.com:
Truth is, joking is never as easy as it looks or sounds.
Sure, you may not anger religious extremists to the point of assassination, as what befell the French satirists of Charlie Hebdo, but you’re much more likely to talk yourself into a visit with Human Resources at work or get kicked off an airplane with one wrong turn of phrase. “You can’t tell jokes in life almost ever,” Birbiglia says, although noting without naming the one now leader of the free world who somehow pulled it off. “Jokes have been ruined by people who aren’t good at telling jokes. A joke should never end with ‘I’m joking.’ Or ‘Git-R-Done.’”
By recounting the low moments in his own career, from a police encounter in New Jersey to a Christian college that wondered why he’d joke about Jesus (although if they could hear his Woody Allen as Jesus turned Bernie Sanders, they’d certainly absolve him of any past sins!), to an ill-timed profanity onstage with the Muppets, it all shows how far Birbiglia had come from working the coat check at the Gotham Awards to hosting it 13 years later. Each story further serves as evidence to the case Birbiglia makes that “jokes have to be about something.”