The title of Mike Birbiglia’s new 100 city stand-up tour is undeniably accurate: “Thank God for Jokes.” Thank God indeed, as Birbiglia’s one hour set was packed full of laughs, keeping the recent audience of his Palace Theater show in stitches.
I will admit that, going into the night, I was worried that Birbiglia’s opener, Josh Rabinowitz, might steal the show. Rabinowitz is fairly new to the stand-up scene (his most recognizable credit is an appearance on season 1 of Comedy Central’s “Adam Devine’s House Party”), but with his self-deprecating humor and well-designed delivery, it’s unlikely that he’ll stay unknown for long.
Rabinowitz’s 20-minute set delivered a variety of jokes, most of which landed well with the fairly receptive audience. His delivery is reminiscent of a young John Mulaney (well, younger—Rabinowitz is 26, while Mulaney is only 32), a well-structured but still fluid comic’s comic whose jokes are original but still fare well with the majority of audiences.
The audience seemed to be clamoring for more after Rabinowitz finished his set, but as soon as Birbiglia came onstage, they exploded with applause. Birbiglia is well-known in the stand-up world, with his past hour tours, including “Sleepwalk with Me” and “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend” (both available on Netflix), doing extremely well with both audiences and critics alike. Expectations are high for this tour.
Birbiglia opened up with a funny bit about the theater, making fun of one of the chairs in the front row that appeared to leave no leg room at all. He interacted well with the audience, responding to a lot of shouted fan comments. However, this bit went on a minute or so too long, something that happens fairly frequently throughout the set.
This, though, is probably my only complaint about Birbiglia’s hour, which effortlessly brought together stories about being raised Christian, getting arrested for having a suspended license and accidentally cursing when opening for the Muppets in a way that made it feel as though he was having a conversation at a party instead of performing in front of hundreds of people.
Although Birbiglia’s comedy lies mostly in storytelling, he still managed to work in short phrases and one-liners that work both within and without context.
“I hate when people say fashionably late,” started one joke. “That’s like saying stylishly racist.”
Birbiglia’s comedy is fairly schlubby, and he doesn’t shy away from making fun of himself.
“I was going to yoga class, which is why I look excellent, and feel excellent,” he said, to much laughter and applause from the audience.
“I yearn for the day that doesn’t get a laugh,” he added.
Birbiglia’s life seems to be full of stories that are ripe for comedy, although he is quick to admit that finding comedy in a situation takes time and hard work. He is a comic focused on the process, and he brings it up frequently throughout his set. It works well for someone so established in his career, bringing something new to the mix that die-hard fans of stand-up rarely hear, but are curious to know.
All in all, Birbiglia’s “Thank God for Jokes” tour is a solid outing for the comedian, and it demonstrates his ability to grow up. Although he still revels in a man-boyish adolescence, his comedy seems older now, and his experience of more than 14 years in the industry shows.