Published May 30, 2016Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.
If we think of standup comedy as a spectrum that begins with one-liners, then it probably ends with Mike Birbiglia's My Girlfriend's Boyfriend. In fact, some might wonder if this special is still standup, or if it has crossed over to a one-man show.
Standup can be defined as a solo performance of a funny, rehearsed, seemingly improvised, one-sided conversation. Although Birbiglia's performance fits the bill, his writing is so good that no one could possibly think that his material is improvised. Still, he has no trouble actually improvising as he walks into the audience to point out an audience member's bare feet.
Whether or not this is "pure" standup, you should watch it anyway because it's purely hilarious.
Birbiglia shares the detailed story of how he met Jenny. He jumps back and forth from the story of Jenny to other defining moments of his love life: his first kiss, his first girlfriend, and his first time making a crush laugh so hard she thought she might pee her pants.
Birbiglia combines complex storytelling with silly physical comedy to produce a deeply funny special. Filmed at the Intiman Theater in Seattle, he makes wonderful use of the stage as he moves across the space during act-outs. He sits, fast dances as if under a strobe light, rolls around the floor, and embodies a carnival ride.
While he discusses more serious topics, such as his aversion to the institution of marriage and a drunk driving accident, he comes across as deeply thinking through these things rather than cynical. My Girlfriend's Boyfriend will bring the romantic out of the greatest cynic because it is, at its core, a genuine love story — with all the awkwardness, confusion, and minor tragedies that help us all relate to Birbiglia, cheer for him, and walk away smiling when he sticks the landing.