You can turn a blog into a book. The material has proved itself; and, judging by the popularity of Awkward Family Photos, once you’ve found the nerve, there’s certainly no sense in quitting it. Then again, if you’re someone like Tina Fey (Bossypants), you’ve proved yourself already and will merit a few weeks in the Number 1 spot of the New York Times bestsellers list when you employ an off-the-wall sense of self-deprecating humor to detail your trip to comic stardom. You can turn a book out from the work you already do.
Someone like Mike Birbiglia, however, will turn his life into a comedic bit into an off-Broadway show into a book — all for a laugh. Sleepwalk with Me first came to me by way of (surprise, surprise) This American Life. Ira Glass and company aired a segment from my most beloved comedian on an episode called “Fear of Sleep.” In the episode, Birbiglia, who has had my fanaticism and Facebook friendship since releasing his albums Two Drink Mike and My Secret Public Journal Live, regales us with his adventure bursting through a second-story La Quinta window in Walla Walla as part of a real life dream sequence that would give Wes Craven nightmares, or, at the very least, a moment’s pause.
The TAL contribution was an excerpt from a one-man show Mike Birbiglia had been working on about his REM behavior disorder, which causes him to sleepwalk. Soon after, and in the hey-day of his second off-Broadway gig My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, Birbiglia released his book Sleepwalk with Me: and Other Painfully True Stories. The comic takes chapter and verse from his own life, with little more ado than excellent timing added, to produce one kicker of a book. I don’t know whether to pity the man or identify with him, because when I read the mortifying and hilarious accounts of his being bullied in school or duped into secret dating, I can’t help but see bits of myself — in his naiveté, in his ignoring problems so they’ll go away. All the stories he tells in SwM ring with a note of “one day we’ll look back on this and laugh” as if that day is today; and, we’re all invited to chortle along with him as he recounts some doozies.
He runs jokes and candor offbeat with each other. The absurdity of some situations give way to the heartache of others without much warning, but ultimately give the impression that, even in its lows, life isn’t all that bad. It seems very few punch lines come without taking a few punches to begin with.
Since we’re friends on Facebook and all, I invite Mike to just about every event I create. Because, you never know. He seems like a fun guy, the kind of guy who’s going to be a hit with your grandparents, or your boyfriend’s boyfriend’s parents. You’ll all just sit around and listen to him tell the story about the time he won third place in Olympic dust-bustering, or fought a flying jackal off his girlfriend. He’s relatable. Gregarious. A good storyteller, so I just assume I’d want to hang out with him. Unless we’re at a slumber party.