"I desperately wanted to write for the Harvard Lampoon, but I guess one of my biggest obstacles was not getting accepted into Harvard," quips comedian Mike Birbiglia in a phone interview. But even without the prestigious Lampoon on his résumé, Birbiglia has carved a path to runaway success.
First he attended Georgetown University, where he was part of the improv players troupe. Then he sought to pay his dues by surrounding himself with all things comedy.
"I got a chance to work at a comedy club and I started seating people and doing menial things like that, but it gave me a chance to watch comedians for free. ... It really educated me and it really gave me exposure to different types of comedy," says Birbiglia, now 36. "And then when I graduated from college, I started driving my station wagon around the country and doing small shows, similar to my character in Sleepwalk With Me. Basically I'd do a show anywhere that would have me ... comedy contests, colleges, walk-a-thons."
He even interned for Conan O'Brien (himself a Lampoon alum). And his break came when, at age 24, he was asked to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Twelve years later, Birbiglia has earned numerous awards for his stand-up. He's been recognized by the Sundance Film Festival for his starring role in Sleepwalk — a film, rooted in his life as a comedian, that he also wrote and directed — and was a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor for his book Sleepwalk With Me and Other Painfully True Stories. (If you haven't gotten the idea by now, Birbiglia has something of a somnambulism problem.)
All that, and then there are appearances on This American Life, Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! and even acting roles in big-budget films like The Fault in Our Stars and the forthcoming Annie remake.
For now, though, Birbiglia's headlining his biggest comedy tour yet. "This show [will] be a departure from what I did in My Girlfriend's Boyfriend ... less narrative-based and more comedy."
Oh, and that Harvard situation? Just last year he was asked to be an honorary member of the Lampoon. Suck it, Harvard!
— Miguel Bustamante