How John Mulaney Convinced Comic Buddy Mike Birbiglia to Take On Broadway

Interview   How John Mulaney Convinced Comic Buddy Mike Birbiglia to Take On Broadway
 
After multiple Off-Broadway successes, Birbiglia brings his latest solo show The New One to the Main Stem.
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Mike Birbiglia Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The New One, Mike Birbiglia’s latest solo show, is a very personalized account of his ambivalence about becoming a father. Part of that ambivalence was the fear that he would lose his ambition—which, he discovered after he and his wife had a daughter, turned out to be justified. And yet, here he is, bringing a show to Broadway for the first time in his career to talk about, among other things, how having kids can hinder ambition.

“This was my fourth Off-Broadway show,” Birbiglia says, just a few days after The New One was officially announced to open at the Cort Theatre November 11 (previews began October 25). “I love Off-Broadway! I think there’s a ton of great work that happens there. So I was very content.”

Enter fellow comedian and friend John Mulaney, who made his own Broadway debut in 2016 with Oh, Hello. Both Mulaney and their shared agent, Mike Berkowitz, pushed Birbiglia to think beyond Off-Broadway. “John and Mike really aggressively said, ‘Don’t lose your fire that got you here in the first place,’” Birbiglia says. “And John particularly goes, ‘Oh, Hello was the best time I’ve had in New York in all of my existence. If you go to Broadway it will be the time of your life.’”

Read: WHY COMEDIANS ARE TAKING THEIR STAND-UP TO THEATRE

Birbiglia has made a name for himself with his solo shows—particularly Sleepwalk with Me, which became a book in 2010, an album in 2011, and a film in 2012—but everyone agrees that The New One is different. Birbiglia would prefer audiences come to see him perform knowing as little about the show as possible, but he will share this (skip to the next paragraph if you’d rather be wholly surprised): “The first half of the show is a very specific argument for why I believe no one should ever have children, including myself. The second half of the show, my wife and I have a child and I discover that I was right that no one should ever have kids, and here’s why. And then the show arrives at a revelation—which I will not tell you.”

Those who loved the show Off-Broadway won’t find much has changed in the new incarnation, though Birbiglia and director Seth Barrish have been working on finding more specificity and more love. After all, as Birbiglia describes the task he’s set himself, “Can I say all these things that are completely crossing the line and we’re not allowed to say, and then can I get out of it? It was almost like a Houdini trick. Can I redeem myself with the audience and can there be a catharsis in the room?”

He pauses. “So far so good!”

The New One plays at the Cort Theatre (138 W 48th Street between Sixth & Seventh Avenues) in a limited engagement run, with previews from October 25, an opening night set for November 11, and closing scheduled for January 20, 2019.

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