Filmmakers at Google: Mike Birbiglia & Ira Glass | "Sleepwalk With Me" | Full Length Version


Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 31.08.2012

Transcript:
[applause]
>>Brendan: So, everyone, you know these two people. Mike Birbiglia is a famous stand-up
comedian who has turned filmmaker. This movie is based on his one-man show of the same name--
"Sleepwalk With Me." And Ira Glass is a producer and host of "This American Life." Please welcome
to the stage, Mike Birbiglia and Ira Glass.
[applause]
>>Ira: Thanks. Wow, thanks you guys.
>>Brendan: No problem. How are you?
>>Mike: Thanks, Brendan. Yeah, no. We didn't decide in advance who's gonna sit closer to
Brendan
>>Ira: Well, you're the filmmaker, writer, star director. I felt you naturally would
get closer--.
>>Mike: But you have a popular radio show that everyone loves.
[laughter]
I'm the unknown comedian.
>>Ira: I know, but I'm the side man in this project.
>>Mike: OK. I guess so.
>>Brendan: But you're both here and featured. So, it's OK.
>>Mike: Thanks for having us here. It feels so evil.
[laughter]
It just, I don't know what it is. Like, the word "evil" just pops to my mind when I'm
here.
[laughter]
>>Brendan: Oh, man. There are no lawyers here, right?
[laughter]
OK. I see a few in the back. They're not listening. So, guys. Thanks for coming again.
>>Mike: Thanks.
>>Brendan: We're talking about the movie "Sleepwalk With Me," which I watched last night. It's
a great movie.
>>Mike: Thanks.
>>Brendan: It's, as I mentioned, is Mike's one-man show. Was, ran to rave reviews, sold
out Bleecker Street Theater--.
>>Mike: I just want to point out she's videoing the show like this with her phone going like
this. She's over in the fourth row. That is a funny tripod.
[laughter]
It was just, it's a very unreliable tripod. Is your hands in the "stick the landing" gymnast
pose.
>>Brendan: It's more of a bi-pod than a tripod.
>>Mike: Yeah, it's a bi-pod. [laughs]
>>Brendan: But the show ran for eight months. Sold out Bleecker Street Theater Was produced
by Nathan Lane. And then you turned it into a book.
>>Mike: That's right.
>>Brendan: And, would you mind just giving us the Cliff Notes of how the movie came into
being--transformed from this one-man show to a book?
>>Mike: I'm gonna, I would answer this, but whenever I answer anything and Ira's around,
he just starts steam-rolling whatever I'm saying mid-sentence. He's goes, "No, this
is how to explain it." And then he just starts going, so I'm just gonna throw it to you out
of the gate. How did it happen, Ira?
[laughter]
>>Ira: I don't remember.
>>Mike: Me neither. Here's what happened.
[laughter]
When you have Broadway or off Broadway show that is extended a bunch, like it's extended
a bunch of times, inevitably everyone you know says, "You should make this a movie."
This is apparently something I didn't know beforehand. I've been writing screenplays
since I was in college, like that's what I studied in school.
And I'd always wanted to make films, but I essentially couldn't afford it. There's the
short version. And then, around this time that the show was really successful and I
had the opportunity to write the film for this company that we didn't end up making
the film with but we amicably parted ways eventually. But that's when I started writing
the film. And I asked Ira, "Would you want to be a producer?"
And along the way, he worked on it so much that in the process he became one of the writers
as well. And so, it took a lot longer than we thought.
>>Ira: Yeah.
>>Mike: That process started in 2008. And we shot the film in 2011.
>>Ira: We started working on the movie in 2008?
>>Mike: No, no, no. Sorry. 2009. The play opened in 2008 and then 2009 we started the
script. So I guess two years later we shot the film.
>>Brendan: And just sort of a back story, Mike--
>>Ira: Awesome.
[laughter]
>>Brendan: Mike had appeared on "This American Life" a few times leading up to when you guys
started making the movie. How did you guys meet each other originally, or start working
with each other?
>>Ira: I mean, we met each other because Mike had actually told this story at The Moth,
a story-telling open mic--it's not really an open mic. A story-telling show. And I heard
a recording and thought it would be great on the radio. Called him up and that's the
first time we met. And then since then, we collaborated on a bunch of stories together
and that we put on the radio.
And when we do it, you'll have an idea for a story and we'll sketch something out. And
then we have a process of working on it that's very different from other writers on the show
where Mike will go on stage and perform a version of the story and make a little MP3
and email it to me. And then that night or the next morning, we'll go over it.
OK, what worked? What didn't work? Where should we fill stuff out? Where could we have another
joke? What jokes aren't working? And we'll do that five or six or seven times. And then
at the end, have a piece that we'll then record full-fidelity and very prettily and put on
the radio.
>>Brendan: So, Mike. You said you were, went for college and you studied screen-writing.
Ira, have you been a film buff? I mean, you've been in radio more or less.
>>Ira: I'm not a film buff at all. Like, I go to the movies. I enjoy it. I'm a completely
civilian movie consumer in every way.
[laughter]
>>Brendan: You have an IMDB entry now. So now you're a filmmaker. Does that weird you
out?
>>Ira: No, that seems awesome.
[laughter]
Actually, that seems really awesome. And we have, like the radio show has had, since 2002,
various projects that people tried to make into movies that have been in development
with various directors. And one of them actually got made. Paul Feig, who did "Freaks and Geeks"
and "Bridesmaids," made one of them into a film years ago.
But I wasn't so, we weren't so popular then. He just like, took an idea and made it into
a film--a film called "Unaccompanied Minors," a kid's Christmas movie. And, which I felt
I had no expertise to bring to that. And so, this is the first film that I've really been
so super involved in.
>>Mike: You know what I noticed looking at the audience of Google employees? No one's
old.
[laughter]
>>Female #1: I'm old.
>>Mike: You're not old.
>>Female #1: I'm old.
>>Mike: You're not old.
>>Ira: How old, I'm older than you.
>>Female #1: 46.
>>Ira: I'm way, way older than you.
[laughter]
>>Mike: Beat your ass. Solid, hardcore 50 right here.
>>Ira: More than that.
[laughter]
>>Mike: No one's older than you, right?
>>Female #1: I doubt it.
>>Mike: You're 46. Anybody older than 46? Do we have a 47? Do I see a 48?
>>Ira: 49. See, but this isn't news to them.
>>Mike: It's news to me.
[laughter]
Breaking news-al.
>>Ira: You thought it was gonna be a lot of old people?
>>Mike: I thought it was gonna be an elderly technology company.
[laughter]
Sort of a home for hobbyists, technology hobbyists, who wanna compete with Apple.
>>Ira: What's the internet service like in this building?
>>Mike: Is it decent? You guys get a good signal? You guys get a T3 around here?
[laughter]
>>Ira: Like, is it like so unbelievably fast that when you go home, it's not even worth
going on the internet?
[laughter]
>>Mike: You just have to touch someone in this building and you're on the internet.
>>Ira: No one's answering the question. Is it super fast?
[laughter]
Is it like super fast?
>>Mike: I'm Googling you right now. I'm Googling my mom as we speak. There's like 150 thousand
results.
[laughter]
Oh, my God, Mom. Who knew?
[laughter]
>>Brendan: Yeah, the web's pretty quick here. But--.
>>Ira: You were getting bored with my answer, weren't you?
>>Mike: I hate your answer. Your answer's, 'cause we do this, we've been doing a lot
of Q and As. As a matter of fact, this--.
>>Ira: [ indistinct ] so many Q and A's.
>>Mike: This Friday and Saturday, we're at the IFC Center. We agreed and there's this
video where we proclaim it on YouTube that we're gonna be at every single screening Friday
and Saturday night opening at the IFC Center in New York City. And it was, that seven screenings
a day.
We sold out, yeah, it's 14 screenings. We sold out eight of them. They added another
screen. So now, we're doing 14 screenings per day. That's, for all you Google employees
who don't know math, that's 28 screenings in two days.
>>Ira: So that's a lot of Q and A's.
>>Mike: It's a lot of A's.
>>Ira: Yeah.
[laughter]
>>Brendan: The same Qs. Lots of different As. You just gotta mix it up each time.
>>Ira: I know. I know. We're gonna be like Bob Dylan. We're gonna start to just make
up answers to stuff.
>>Brendan: Yeah. After a week, people just won't want to see you live anymore.
>>Mike: Just wait till we go electric.
[laughter]
>>Ira: Alright, ask us a question. We're gonna lie. We're gonna lie on this answer.
>>Mike: Like Bob Dylan in his early work. We're just gonna make up a lore.
>>Ira: OK. Let's try it. Let's try it.
>>Brendan: OK.
>>Ira: We've never done this.
>>Mike: [babbling ].
>>Brendan: Mike, you mentioned the one-man show was very successful.
>>Ira: What is this? Bob Dylan? Are you stoned?
[laughter]
>>Mike: Yeah, I'm stoned. I'm playing the part. We're doing a bit.
>>Ira: He's not stoned. Have you seen--?
>>Mike: No, no. But I mean, like he just doesn't care. Like give me a cigarette. Does anyone
have a cigarette? Does anyone smoke at Google? Does anyone have a cigarette for real?
>>Ira: Come on. There must be one--.
>>Mike: Somebody has a cigarette. Come on. Secretly I know that you'll get fired the
moment that people discover that you smoke cigarettes.
>>Ira: There's like a hundred, how many people are in this room?
>>Mike: Somebody smokes. Raise your hand if you have a cigarette. Be honest. Just say
that it was for a friend.
>>Ira: There we go. Here we go.
>>Mike: Can we borrow a cigarette? [audience member responds inaudibly]
[laughter]
Wait, you might be 47.
[laughter]
Can we get a camera on this guy? Can we get a camera on this guy? That'll be a good cutaway.
Thank you very much.
>>Ira: God bless you.
[laughter]
>>Brendan: Alright. So Mike, you mentioned when the one-man show was a success.
>>Mike: Uh-huh.
>>Brendan: And people were pressuring you saying, "Hey, this could be a movie."
>>Mike: Yeah.
>>Brendan: When did it occur to you to say, "Hey, this might actually work as a movie"
instead of my friends just saying, "Hey, you should make a movie?"
>>Mike: [slurring] Just let Ira answer this one.
[laughter]
>>Ira: He actually had a, he had a dream.
>>Mike: I can't do Bob Dylan any longer.
>>Ira: There was a talking dog.
>>Mike: I had a dream there was a talking dog and it was--.
>>Ira: Wait. What was the question? The question was when did we think it could be a movie?
>>Brendan: Yeah, versus people just saying, "Hey, you have a show. It could be a movie."
>>Ira: I actually know, I actually know when I thought it could be a movie. I could answer
for me.
>>Brendan: Mike, is that OK?
>>Mike: Yeah, go ahead. Yeah.
>>Ira: Well, somebody suggested that the film had a very traditional structure where what
you've got in the film is a guy who has increasing anxiety over--. He's in this relationship.
He isn't sure if he should stay with his girlfriend. They've been together for years.
He's not sure what to do--super relate-able situation. And also, he's trying, he's in
his 20s. He's trying to be a comedian. It's not going so great. And he's not doing anything
much about either of these things. And somebody suggested, "Well, you could just kick the
thing off at his sister's engagement party." His sister gets engaged. People start asking
him, "So, what are you doing with your girlfriend? Like, what's going on with your life?"
So, creating anxiety so he could have the first sleepwalking incident. That would kick
the thing off in a very normal movie sort of way. And when I heard it, I was like, "Great.
You could do that." And you could build just to, to basically, finally he--. I mean, this
isn't such a spoiler because it's on the poster and all.
Ends up jumping out a window. He jumps through, like there's a series of increasingly spectacular
sleepwalk incidents as he doesn't deal with the stuff in his life. His anxiety gets expressed
through these funny and spectacular sleepwalk incidents culminating with him nearly dying,
jumping through a window and nearly dying.
And then he'll have to decide like, what to do about the girl, basically. And it seemed
like once I saw that, it's like, OK. It's a very traditional structure. And it could
be a film because the way I think about these things is so math-based in a way. Like, if
I can see the structure, but I feel like, OK, then it can be real.
>>Brendan: Yeah. Like a sentence diagram. You can see the little parts where--.
>>Ira: That's exactly right. Like, I need that. And when I'm making stories for the
radio show, in fact, like there's a lot of like, there's diagramming. So.
>>Brendan: And speaking of the physicality of the movie, Mike, there's a lot of--. I
mean, you're primarily a stage performer. This movie, you got a chance to just be chased
around and run through fields and jump out of windows and crash off of furniture. Was
it weird being a physical specimen in front of the camera versus where your stage show,
you're much more subdued?
>>Mike: Yeah. It was a lot more physically rigorous than my everyday life.
[laughter]
I had to sprint through that field.
>>Ira: So many times.
>>Mike: Over and over and over again. And then what was worse is that I had to do it,
fall, 'cause as you can see in the scene, I fall in a field that's not a set on Paramount's
lot.
[laughter]
With a field. It's an actual field that I fall into. I jump up and then I jog over to
where there's playback and I watch what I just did. And I say, "It's good," or "It's
not good." And then, usually it's not good.
[laughter]
And then we do it again.
>>Ira: There was a lot, I was amazed at the amount of falling, yeah.
[laughter]
>>Mike: There was so much falling. It was, and running. Just so much physical ru--. And
the other thing is that I make my topless debut in this film.
[laughter]
This is something rarely talked about, but I feel comfortable talking with you Google
folks about it because you guys Google the word "topless" all the time.
[laughter]
I don't know. It was a good Google joke. It was much better than it was received.
[laughter]
Shame on you, Google. No, it's, Mike Birbiglia. If you Google Mike Birbiglia topless, this
movie comes up because we were shooting that scene where I sleepwalk down the hallway after
I have this certain dream. And I was like, "You know, it's just funnier and grittier
and more real if I don't have my shirt on." And I swear. This is gonna sound ridiculous
and not real, but like, I swore to myself internally when I started acting like in college
that I would never do a topless scene.
[laughter]
I swear to God. I'm not even making that up.
>>Ira: Really?
>>Mike: I think that's a decision that every actor makes.
>>Ira: Why? Wait, why?
>>Brendan: Is it when you're a writer for a different contract?
>>Mike: Usually it's actresses who make that decision, but in this case, I'm just so self-conscious
that I was like, "Oh, I could be an actor, but I would never take my shirt off and certainly
not my pants off." But I did just because I got so swept up in what's good for the movie.
>>Brendan: The other thing is like you're the director of the movie. So, you would have
to tell yourself to get over this mental hump that you have to take your shirt off.
>>Mike: Yeah. I had to say to myself, "Hey, Mike. It's cool. Be cool."
[laughter]
And I was like, "Alright. I don't know." And then Mike would say, "No, baby. Be cool."
I was like, "I don't know." And then the crew was just staring at me having this conversation
with myself.
>>Ira: But you can tell when you watch the film that the directing was done by a black
man from the '70s.
[laughter]
>>Mike: That wasn't a black voice.
[laughter]
That was not a black man's voice.
>>Ira: Whatever.
>>Mike: That was just a cool, high school guy's voice.
>>Ira: OK. Alright. Point taken. Point taken.
>>Mike: I sound like a guy I went to high school with.
>>Brendan: You both, you both started your careers before the web and social media really
took off. And Ira in particular, shows a pretty good example of how traditional media can
leverage the web to expand your audiences.
>>Ira: Yes. Yes.
>>Brendan: Do you even, I read an interview of you a few years ago. You said that when
you started the podcast, your weekly audience didn't change. It stayed around one point
eight million or so?
>>Ira: One point eight million on the radio each week.
>>Brendan: But the podcast added another half million.
>>Ira: Right now, it's like 700 thousand.
>>Brendan: Seven hundred thousand. And that skews overwhelmingly towards younger people
who may not even listen to the radio at all.
>>Ira: Yes. Yeah.
>>Mike: The only people who don't listen to his show are that lady and that guy.
[laughter]
>>Female #2: I've been listening to that show.
>>Brendan: I was gonna say, do you have a preference for how people listen to your show,
or is it all good?
>>Ira: Oh, I don't care. I mean, I mean, the thing--.
>>Mike: The correct answer is, it's all good, bro.
[laughter]
>>Ira: It's all good, bro.
[laughter]
Was that good?
>>Mike: Yeah, it was good. You killed.
>>Ira: Yeah? Yeah. I mean, I mean, yeah. I don't care.
>>Brendan: That's good. It's, you saying "It's all good, bro," is gonna be an internet meme
in about 30 minutes or so.
[laughter]
>>Ira: I feel like such a--.
[clapping]
I think that's such a corny meme, though, that's like, but anyway. Alright.
>>Brendan: Yeah.
>>Mike: It's all good, bro.
>>Ira: Yeah.
>>Mike: He won't repeat it. Now that you know what these Google people can do to you.
[laughter]
You're like, "A meme? I gotta find out what that is."
[laughter]
>>Brendan: But Mike, the flip-side of that is a lot of comedians now build their entire
careers on sorry, Mike, Bob Dylan. They build their whole careers on the web and social
media. But you're--.
>>Ira: You're the only person I've ever seen who gets less sexy when you put a cigarette
in your mouth. Just do that again.
[laughter]
Like, you have no air of menace. Do it again. It's crazy. Like, anybody else looks cooler.
What are you doing wrong? [laughs] Exactly.
[laughter]
>>Mike: What do you mean? Doesn't that look cool? They're never gonna put this in 'cause
it's Google has a cigarette and cigarettes are evil.
>>Brendan: [laughs] I was saying that in a lot of ways, the one-man show is the antithesis
of the 140-character joke structure that a lot of comedians build their careers on now.
>>Mike: Yeah.
>>Brendan: Do you feel strongly about how the web or social media is affecting comedy
in the comedy world?
>>Mike: It's certainly affecting it whether it's positive or negative, there's really
no way to know like for a long time.
[laughter]
>>Ira: That's not it. [laughs]
>>Mike: What?
>>Ira: It's affecting it, whether it's good or bad there's no way to know? That is the
most non-committal answer I've ever heard to anything. That could be the answer to any
question.
[laughter]
What do you think of the oil situation and the price of gas and is it gonna be going
up?
>Mike: There's no way to know.
[laughter]
It could be good. It could be bad. No way to know.
>>Ira: I just think like just for Rob Delaney's tweets alone it's worth having an internet.
>>Mike: Yeah. It's worth it.
>>Ira: Like, have you ever seen his show?
>>Mike: I follow him on Twitter constantly.
>>Ira: Everyone follows him. No, he's amazing on Twitter, but yeah. Like, who knows how
he is in stand-up?
>>Mike: Twitter's good for comedy in the sense that comedians are able to find their audience,
which is good. And I don't know. Like, it seems good. I honestly--.
>>Ira: You've been marketing to an audience over the internet.
>>Mike: Yeah.
>>Ira: You put up a journal.
>>Mike: Yeah, I have my blog, My Secret Public Journal. And I've been writing on that since,
it is. It's called My Secret Public Journal.
[laughter]
Dot com. And I was, I mean, yeah. I guess so. I think the answer is yes. I mean, like
I started doing comedy when I was 19 and I'm 34 now. So, I guess I've been doing it for
like 15 years. And when I--.
>>Ira: You are totally pulling out the math for these engineers. It's amazing how you're
catering the whole thing to this crowd.
[laughter]
>>Mike: Just doing it to process it for myself.
[laughter]
But I've been doing it for a number of years.
[laughter]
And yeah. Even when I started out in '97 or '98, I was, I would keep an email list from
after my shows.
>>Ira: And did you have like, how many people did you have on that list?
>>Mike: Well, there was only like ten people had email addresses.
[laughter]
It was a very few. But no, it was a small group. Honestly, it was like, I was so delusional
starting out. First of all, I was terrible. So it was like, who would wanna be on my email
list? Second of all, I mean, after like two or three years, I had like probably 300 people
on my email list spread across the United States.
So, if I had a show in like, Pierre, there's probably one person on the list. So, there's
not, it wasn't that effective in that sense. But then, as that list grew and I, it became
this thing where people started to come out to see me on purpose as opposed to going to
see the "comedy show,"--
>>Brendan: Yeah.
>>Mike: which was always my goal 'cause I wasn't, I was not immediately a comedian who
you'd want to see because I was soft-spoken and I was like, kind of strange. I wasn't
that mean. I feel like mean comedy was always selling really well when I started out. People
would get up on stage and they're like, "You're fat. You're gay. I'm out of here."
[laughter]
And they would be like, "This guy's a genius." I'd be like, I don't think he's a genius.
I don't know. I don't get it. But that's never my, that was never my sense of humor. Like,
I was always a little fat and a little gay.
[laughter]
I, but, and so like--.
>>Brendan: That could be title of your next one-man show.
>>Mike: Yeah. A Little Fat and a Little Gay. And, but neither at the same time. Alright.
Did you just stop my joke? I think that's what just happened. I was gonna say, OK.
>>Brendan: We have--.
>>Mike: No, but I actually have an answer. I have an answer for the question.
>>Ira: The question was how did the internet affect comedy?
>>Mike: So, the internet, the internet thing. Yeah.
>>Ira: We're still on that?
>>Mike: I guess so. We got sidetracked, but I think we're gonna end strong.
>>Ira: Bring it. Bring it. Bring it. Bring it.
>>Mike: So, cut to now and I have like 150 thousand Twitter followers. And I think some
of the first people who signed up for my email list are probably Twitter followers now. And
that audience has evolved as, and liked me on Facebook and all that stuff. And so, I
get, in terms of getting an audience that likes what you do if what you do is really
specific, I think the internet is really good.
The same way that like, people are always like, "Oh, they make fun of people for going
on dating sites”. And I'm like, "Well, why would you make fun of, you're just saying
things that you might be compatible with and then those people are saying what they might
be compatible with and then that might work out."
You know what I mean? Like, it's actually very logical. It's like being set up by a
friend, except the friend is a computer 'cause that's our new friend in this era that we're
in.
[laughter]
But yeah. And so, I feel like with artists, it's like a dating, the internet is like a
dating site for artists with their fans.
>>Brendan: Nice. Well, we have a few, two audience mics here. We can take a few questions.
So if you wanna ask a question of either person here you can feel free to just line up.
>>Ira: Have we sold the movie hard enough while we're waiting?
>>Mike: Oh, yeah. We love the movie.
[laughter]
>>Ira: The movie's really funny.
>>Brendan: It's great. I watched it last night.
>>Mike: Do you guys feel sold on the movie based on what's happened so far?
[applause]
That felt light.
[laughter]
>>Ira: So?
>>Mike: That felt light. So, let me sell you on the movie. The movie's really funny.
>>Ira: The movie is really funny.
>>Mike: And we, it's a real labor of love. And it's something that you can bring your
teenagers to or your parents. There's one curse word in the whole movie. There's nothing
in it that's like excessively violent or shocking, but I think it's a pretty compelling story
that we're telling and with consistent laughs in it.
And it's, we showed it at Sundance and South By Southwest and the response from audiences
has been really consistently lovely and warm. And I feel like that's why Ira and I are here
at Google today and it's why we're going on talk shows and why we're talking about it
a lot, because when Ira and I don't like stuff that we do, we don't tell people about it.
>>Ira: We don't promote it.
>>Mike: We're just like, "Let's pretend that never happened."
[laughter]
And so, yeah. We really urge you to go see it.
>>Ira: Like my goal was that, like I hope that we can make a movie that would have the
feeling of the best stories on the radio show where you just get pulled into it and funny
parts and be emotional. And truthfully, through a lot of the process of making the film, it
did not have that quality.
And only in the course of editing it, showing it to audiences, and remaking it, did it start
to feel like something from the radio show. And I feel like it really does.
>>Brendan: Great. And we have our first question over here.
>>Female #3: Hi. I listened to the original "Sleepwalk With Me," one of the original iterations
of it and it's just such a--.
>>Mike: Can you come closer to the thing?
>>Female #3: Hi. [laughs]
>>Mike: Yeah, that's gonna help.
>>Female #3: It's such a dear story to you and it involves a lot of people you're really
close with and you go into a lot of detail about them. I was wondering about the casting
process and how surreal that must have been to try and find your family and your ex-girlfriend
in this sea of actors. I'd love to hear more about that, how you went about finding these
people.
>>Mike: Well, Lauren was the first person who we asked to--.
>>Ira: This is Lauren Ambrose who plays his girlfriend.
>>Mike: And yeah. My, that was my wife's idea. My wife, Jennie, who's very close to like
every part of the process of all my projects since we've met. We were always talking about
like it's really, how it's really important that whoever plays the girlfriend in this
film, that plays Abby, has to be, has to emanate strength and humor because if she doesn't,
then we'll feel bad for her at the end, inevitably.
And we don't wanna feel bad for her. We wanna feel happy for both of these characters that
things are gonna be better for them both. And so, my wife is a big fan of "Six Feet
Under" and I never had seen it 'cause I couldn't afford cable when it was on. And so, I caught
up with it a little bit. And I was like, "Oh, yeah. She's perfect."
And so I invited her to a show that I was doing at Town Hall. And her and her husband
came and we struck up a conversation and she came to some of the readings. She did about
four or five readings of it over the course of a year. So, she was, that was done. She
was always great in the readings. And then, Carol was similar.
Carol was someone I had met in the casting process of a pilot I did for CBS on 2008,
where we were talking about casting her. And it didn't work out for like a variety of reasons.
There were a lot of chefs in that process. But Carol and I--.
>>Ira: It's so crazy that you can meet Carol Kane. Like, the fact that we know Carol Kane
to me is really--.
>>Mike: I know. It's really wild 'cause like, when we were in the casting process for that
pilot, they were like, "What about Carol Kane?" And I said just that. I was like, "We could
ask Carol Kane to do this?" And they were like, "Well, you can ask anybody." And I was
like, "OK." And we sent her the script and she really liked it.
And then she and I became friends and had just kept saying, "Let's do something together,"
because I just think she, her sense of comedy is so unique. And what she brings to it is
so special. It's like, what we wrote on the page is like this. And then what she does
is like this. And so, we'll be indebted for her, to her forever.
>>Ira: The thing is, like with all the casting, we didn't try to make them be like the real
people. Like, they don't physically look like them--
>>Mike: True.
>>Ira: and the parents especially are very different than Mike's real parents.
>>Mike: And that's why we had them, part of the reason we had fake names--Matt Pandamiglio,
not Mike Birbiglia. Linda Pandamiglio and all that 'cause we wanted to nod to the fact
that it's autobiographical, but not to say that it is a documentary.
>>Ira: It's funny 'cause I think the weird, the person through the whole thing was the
weirdest for was Mike's girlfriend, who the movie is about.
>>Mike: My ex-girlfriend, yeah.
>>Ira: His ex-girlfriend who came and saw the film. After it was done, she saw it at
BAM. We did this screening. And so it's like when the BAM opera house and it's 15 hundred
people or two thousand people or whatever that thing holds and afterwards, she came.
I said he was there and she like came up to you and like, I think she had the weirdest
experience, much weirder than yours 'cause you had like gone through every stage of filming
it.
But can you image like your ex-boyfriend makes a movie about your relationship, depicting
actual things that happened. And then, you're at a movie theater and there it is. It's like
a period of your life depicted by incredibly skilled actors, shot by a great cinematographer.
It's like for her it was so weird and she was so teary, like so moved. It was really
an amazing thing I think for her. I mean, hearing her talk about it afterwards was really
interesting.
>>Mike: And then the rest of the casting was by Jennifer Houston, who is a brilliant casting
director who casts "Girls" on HBO and who I've known for a long time and I've auditioned
for successfully for years.
[laughter]
>>Brendan: Thanks.
>>Female #3: Thank you very much.
>>Brendan: I have another one.
>>Male #1: Hi. You're both doing tons of Q and As, press junkets, and screenings. What
do you do to relax or cool off once you've finished your 14 screenings a day?
>>Ira: We don't actually. I mean, I'm gonna go back and go back to writing this week's
radio show because it's not clear. We've recorded two different versions of the top of the show
and one should be, by nature, three minutes and one should be, by nature, like, neither
one is gonna work basically. [chuckles]
So, I'm gonna just go back to my job. And then you haven't really been working. You
haven't had any time off at all.
[laughter]
You seem so burned out.
>>Mike: You seem burned out.
[laughter]
Nice glasses, loser.
[laughter]
>>Ira: Are you asking that because you can take us out and get us Ecstasy or something?
[laughter]
>>Male #1: I can't comment.
>>Mike: Memed. You're gonna get memed on that, because you can take us out and get us Ecstasy?
You don't think they're gonna meme that? You don't know what memes even are.
[laughter]
>>Ira: I was semiotics student. I know what memes are. I knew memes before they were on
the internet.
[laughter]
>>Mike: That's gonna be memed.
[laughter]
So, the question is what?
>>Ira: He wants to know--.
[laughter]
>>Mike: The question is like what do we do for fun. We just party, you know what I mean?
Like, we have a Hollywood lifestyle. We're guys, we're guys that like, five nights a
week we are trolling the bars. We are out on the town. We see Broadway musicals.
[laughter]
>>Ira: You think that's the party lifestyle?
[laughter]
Who told you that?
>>Mike: I turned it gay at the end. I started out being like an "Entourage" thing. And then
I made it like a "Glee" thing.
[laughter]
No, we don't do anything for fun except hang out with my wife and our cat, Ivan. That's
like the best thing we do. We watch movies.
>>Ira: It's actually the truth.
>>Mike: No, like that's all we do. My wife and I go see movies. This weekend we saw "Ruby
Sparks," which is really good. We saw "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Saw "Hello, I Must
be Going." There's a lot of really good indie films out right now. We saw "Compliance."
I see a ton of movies and I hang out with my wife and our cat. Thanks very much.
>>Female #4: OK, so this is for Mike. I know that your brother Joe Bags is in a lot of
your stand-up. Is he in the actual movie, like making a cameo? 'Cause that would be
awesome.
>>Mike: No. And there's a reason he didn't, which is, and he's one of the co-writers on
the film and has a lot of hilarious lines in the film. He, we were gonna use him in
the wedding scene where it's like my family, but so many people come up to him thinking
that he's me because we look very similar, that then it's even worse on the big screen.
It's like, even if you catch a glimpse of him, you go, "Wait, is that the protagonist?"
And then, it takes you out of it. And so, that was why he wasn't in there.
>>Brendan: Thanks.
>>Mike: Well, look out for Joe Bags in future films.
[laughter]
Joey Bag O' Donuts. By the way, for people who have no idea what she's talking about,
there's a track on my album, My Secret Public Journal Live, which I think is called Joey
Bag O' Donuts, or Joe Bags, Joey Bags, about my brother Joe. And it's a funny story and
you can listen to it.
[laughter]
You can rip it for free off the internet 'cause you guys are good at that.
[laughter]
>>Brendan: The last question.
>>Male #2: Thanks. Hi. This is a question for both of you. How have you found your story-telling
styles changing as you've grown and been in the industry more and more?
>>Mike: Well, Ira's grown a lot longer than I have.
[laughter]
>>Ira: Well, that's true. That's not even a joke. But I also started later than you
did. Like, I feel like you're much more precocious than I am. Like, you were more successful
in your 20s. Like, you were hugely successful in your 20s, whereas I was a late bloomer.
But anyway, like for me, I feel like when I listen to earlier work, I can hear myself
trying so hard to make the stories have significance.
And listening to recordings of myself, listening to old pieces where I'm just trying so hard
to make the stories have like, meaning and importance has made me back way the hell off
on that and just say less about them and let them talk for themselves more. I mean, on
the radio, like when you're telling a story, like you wanna move the plot forward, but
then also periodically someone in the story has to say like, "Here's what I'm trying to
say with this story. Here's what the story means. Here's the point."
And early on, I was so worried that the stories didn't have a point. I would just totally,
it was like pouring syrup on the stories. When I listen to some of the early episodes
of the show, I feel kind of embarrassed.
>>Mike: And now, you're so indifferent when you speak on the radio--
[laughter]
that it's comical. People are just, people hear you go, "Act One, Holocaust."
[laughter]
"Act Two, Somalia."
>>Ira: Yeah, that's a good point.
>>Mike: "Act Three, East Africa." And people like, isn't it more important than that? Like,
isn't it more dramatic than the way that you're just throwing those lines away? You're like,
"Well, I guess so."
>>Ira: Wait, is that your imitation?
>>Mike: It fell away at the end and it just blended into me speaking with a high voice.
>>Ira: I feel like your whole, your whole situation has gotten so big in your story-telling
in the last four, five years.
>>Mike: By my situation, you mean--?
>>Ira: Your skills, your massive skills. Are we fighting?
[laughter]
>>Mike: We're having comical repartee.
>>Ira: OK. Feels a little like fighting.
[laughter]
>>Mike: "Act One, We Fight."
[laughter]
"Act Two, We Make Up." What was the question? I'm just kidding. I know the question. It's,
how do we change as story-tellers or evolve as story-tellers?
>>Male #2: Yeah.
>>Ira: That's a good question.
>>Male #2: Thank you.
>>Mike: Yeah. The, when you guys get finished, I'm gonna answer this one. Sorry, I thought
it was funny 'cause he goes, "Thank you." It didn't allow for me to answer. I hope they
edit this. That's what the opening shot should be.
[laughter]
>>Ira: Write a note to the editors, where ever you are.
>>Mike: Can we just go in, the tight scene, of me going, "I hope they edit this."
[laughter]
And then it's unedited.
[laughter]
>>Brendan: They'll add the cigarette in there, too, at the end. Do you have the cigarette?
>>Mike: Oh, my mom is gonna be so ashamed of the cigarette thing. Mom, mom, mom, mom.
I'm not smoking. I'm doing it as a joke.
>>Ira: It's not lit.
>>Mike: Yeah. But she doesn't even understand how cigarettes work.
[laughter]
Mom, I'm kidding.
>>Ira: So, anyway. So, speaking for Mr. Birbiglia.
>>Mike: No, no, no. No, I was, when I started out, I was just doing jokes. I was modeling
myself after Jerry Seinfeld and Steven Wright and a lot of observational comedians who I
really admire. And then, over the years, like I started between performing at The Moth in
2003 and just doing these longer sets.
I got booked at a ton of colleges starting out because no one else would book me. And
colleges have really low standards. They're just like, "We need someone to stand in the
coffee house for an hour who's an adult." And so, I performed. And you can perform for
like an hour, an hour and a half, two hours.
And in order to fill the time, a lot of times I would just tell more and more stories. What
I found was I was like, well this is just, these are actually, I'm better at this. I
think this is something that happens a lot of times with artists or people in all fields
is they start on one path and they realize, "Oh, I'm actually better at this other thing."
And I think what I found was that when I was telling stories, there was more passion in
my delivery. And as a result, more passion from the audience coming back at me because
I cared about what I was talking about, as opposed to, I feel like there's, right now,
we're witnessing a post-Seinfeld--and I love Seinfeld--but a post-Seinfeld era of--.
It's not observational comedy anymore because observational comedy has become ubiquitous
in TV ads, in billboards. And it's like everything is a joke. Everything's an observational joke.
I feel like comedians have gone the other way between like Louis CK and Marc Maron and
Maria Bamford, and even in the movie realm like Judd Apatow, where its become more personal
and more specific.
And I think that that's the, I don't know, that's the direction that I went in and I
just find it to be, I'm able to connect with people more by telling stories. And then meeting
Ira was great because he just, when I met Seth Barrish, that was really--.
>>Ira: He directed your one-man show.
>>Mike: He directed the one-man shows. That was really helpful for me developing longer
stories and longer pieces. So, my one-person shows are, have more of an art to them. And
then when I met Ira, it really got me focused on elements of story-telling that I hadn't
considered.
Like, if you watch Ira, and this is a good place to say this 'cause people are watching
this online, there's this incredible YouTube series of clips of Ira talking about story-telling,
how to tell a story. And I feel like, they all have to do with surprise.
>>Ira: Those clips, it's the craziest thing. That was this thing where somebody just came
by the office to videotape as a training video for Al Gore's television channel of how do
you tell a story. And I feel like on the internet, I am more famous for those videos than I am
for my actual work. Like, that's--.
>>Mike: And that's how it should be because those videos are really exceptional.
[laughter]
>>Ira: Versus your work? And yeah, no. So yeah. But when you and I started working together--
>>Mike: Those videos are great and I highly recommend them.
>>Ira: like, you were naturally going to stories which had more emotion and more feeling in
them anyway, so they weren't just funny stories with more just a real story arc.
>>Mike: And I was really lucky because I was able to work with the oracle.
>>Ira: No, I was very lucky.
>>Mike: I was very lucky. I was very fortunate. I feel like I was very lucky.
>>Ira: No, I was the lucky one.
>>Mike: I feel like I was so blessed. I feel so blessed that I'm able to work with these
people who are so brilliant geniuses who we just met who are just exuding the sense of
creativity and have natural arcs to the stories. And we're just so lucky. [indistinct]
>>Ira: [indistinct] working on the radio because you have a good editor because you have a
radio show and the sense of going on and on and talking about nothing at all and just
sort of talking to yourself--. [indistinct]
[laughter]
[clapping]
[applause and cheering]
>>Mike: I don't know. How does it end? How do you end these things?
>>Brendan: I think you, and you can't end it any better than that. But I was just gonna
say for people in the audience here, the movie opens at the IFC Center on 6th Avenue on Friday.
Tickets are still available. They'll be doing Q and As, as they said, at the shows.
[laughter]
So, if you'd like to--.
>>Ira: And then, the week later doing the same thing in Chicago and in Los Angeles.
>>Mike: Sorry. Is this thing--. And I'm doing a San Francisco September 2nd at The Embarcadero.
And the theater in Berkeley, movie theater--.
>>Ira: Does Google have an office in San Francisco yet?
>>Female #6: Yes.
>>Mike: Are you joking?
[laughter]
>>Ira: Yes.
>>Mike: The, and I'm gonna be at The Embarcadero in San Francisco on that Sunday night. And
on that Monday night, I'll be at the movie theater in Berkeley, California, which is
one of my favorite places to go. And so, you guys in the Google West Coast--.
>>Ira: They've already seen you now. They don't need to see you again.
>>Mike: No, but they'll see the movie and then also they'll see the answers.
[laughter]
>>Brendan: And with that, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in thanking Mike Birbiglia
and Ira Glass.
[applause]
[cheering]
>>Mike: Thanks, Brendan
>>Brendan: My pleasure.
>>Mike: Shake the man's hand.