Mike Birbiglia

What I Should Have Said Was Nothing

BY Sarah MurphyPublished Jun 10, 2016

Exclaim! 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.

He's since released his feature-length directorial debut with Sleepwalk with Me, and become a recurring "Where do I know that guy from?" face in films like Trainwreck and shows like Inside Amy Schumer and Orange Is the New Black, but in 2008, comedian Mike Birbiglia was just an indie comic sharing stories from the road in his My Secret Private Journal blog, and slowly establishing himself as a regular guest on NPR hit This American Life. That's when What I Should Have Said Was Nothing was recorded, and despite some of the special's material dating itself to that very specific time in the political climate, it's still an enjoyable watch.
Peppered with primarily PG-13 stories about his family (like when his parents' computer was infected with a porn virus), Massachusetts childhood (like when he was peer-pressured to jump into a pond and subsequently felt like the victim of a "back alley colonoscopy") and his less-than-ideal behavioural tendencies (like sleeping in and surviving on diet of English muffin pizzas and Cinnamon Toast Crunch), Birbiglia's set paints the picture of the comic as a nice, if quirky, American everyman.
The best bits come, though, when he mines his awkwardness and crippling self-doubt for laughs. The audience commiserates with him as he shares tales from some of his least glamorous gigs — including a performance and autograph signing at Guantanamo Bay ("for people who've been gone from America for so long they didn't realize that I'm not famous"), having to follow a speech from a young leukemia patient at a charity golf tournament, and a cringe-worthy encounter on stage at a baseball awards ceremony.
That same can't-help-but-laugh-at-his-humiliation feeling rears its head again during the joke from which the special takes its name — capturing Birbiglia's painfully dorky charm perfectly, before he ends the set with a guitar-accompanied song sheepishly summing up his hilarious foibles.
There's nothing particularly edgy about his material, and the few political digs that squeeze their way in are pretty irrelevant eight years on, but look at one man's awkward life.

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