SLEEPWALK WITH ME
Directed by Mike Birbiglia
Starring Mike Birbiglia and Lauren Ambrose
Being in a relationship is a full time job
So don’t apply if you’re not ready
I am a stand up comic. I have been fighting to succeed in this very challenging profession for eight years and I am finally seeing hope. So much of this movie rang true that it was actually painful to see. Matt (Mike Birbiglia) wants to do stand up comedy because he can’t seem to succeed at anything else. He has two big problems: He has lousy material and he isn’t funny. One would think that would be enough to discourage him from pursuing this very low paying often thankless job….but no…as his agent (Sondra James) tells him, “You don’t have to be funny…you just have to get booked.”
And she is right. One of the most telling lines in the play and the most real is the “veteran” comedian(Marc Maron) who tells Matt (Mike Birbiglia) how disgusted he is that comedians who have no jokes and never get laughs are rising to the top, while he is struggling to get at least some gigs that pay. This couldn’t be a more accurate description of this very difficult profession.
No one realizes how difficult it is to make a group of strangers laugh at something you think is hilarious. When you are on that stage, the audience judges every word and all too often comedians simply do not listen to the response they get. They refuse to admit that no one laughed at any of their jokes and indeed some people actually fell asleep. Matt is one of those comedians. One laugh in the midst of 20 minutes of silence, is all he needs to keep him plugging away at his new found career. And somehow, some way, he manages to get paying gigs to sustain him.
Even as his comedy is improving (but not by much) he is overwhelmed with doubt about committing to an 8 year relationship with the adorable and very sweet Lauren Ambrose. Just before he is about to break up with her, he reminds the audience in the ongoing narrative that holds the shaky plot together, "Before I tell you this part of the story, I want to remind you that you're on my side."
Perhaps some of us are. Birbiglia’s persona is irresistible and his plight is acerbated by the severe sleeping disorder that he ignores. He acts out his night mares and until the night he crashes through a window of his hotel room, he refuses to do anything to help himself. His father’s (James Rebhorn) determination to get him properly diagnosed was a bit overbearing to me and his ditzy mother (Carol Kane) did not convince me that she was real. Birbiglia and Ambrose carry the film and it is their charm that keeps our interest until the all too predictable end.
This is a very lightweight film, but there is something so real about the characters that the action holds our attention. I thought it was charming, but then I too am fighting to become a recognized stand-up comedian and I know how all-consuming that can be. I am not so sure it would hold together for someone not so involved in the field.
About Lynn Ruth
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