90 min - Comedy Ratings: 6.9/10 from 1,613 users Metascore: 71/100 Reviews: 10 user | 59 critic | 28 from Metacritic.com Directors: Mike Birbiglia, Seth Barrish Writers: Mike Birbiglia (screenplay), Joe Birbiglia(screenplay) Stars: Mike Birbiglia, Lauren Ambrose and James Rebhorn
Mike Birbiglia plays Matt Pandamiglio, either a struggling comedian or a successful waiter. At 30 he has amassed 11 minutes of subpar material, but he can mop the hell out of a tiled floor. In between cleaning puke of off bathroom floors and bombing on stage, he goes home to Abby, his resilient girlfriend of 8 years, the lovely Lauren Ambrose (Claire Fisher, in Six Feet Under).
The moment Matt realizes that he is a failure in everything but in the love department, he unconsciously seeks to homogenize his life, and ruin his relationship with Abby. He starts sleepwalking and things eventually get dangerous. Life threatening dangerous.
Matt meets a small time agent, who sees no talent in him. But since talent has very little to do with it, she gets him a miserable gig at a college. He bombs. Again, and again at similar gigs, until he gets a breakthrough that most of the good comics have. Louie CK talked about this in his speech at the tribute of George Carlin. It took Louie 20 years to come up with less than an hour of material, and it was shit. An interview with Carlin helped him realize that the best thing he could do was to drop the work of a lifetime, and begin anew. Every time he did that he had to dig deeper, and deeper. Eventually you run out of jokes about the Cookie Monster, or dolphins. You start talking about more meaningful and personal things, and that’s where good comedy is found.
For Louie, that breakthrough moment was calling his 3 year old an asshole. For Matt, and I suppose for Mike too, his breakthrough moment was saying “That he was not getting married until he was sure nothing else good would happen to him”.
The movie depicts Matt’s journey to get his dream job and to lose his dream girl. It is a scary journey for romcom fans but exhilarating for comedy buffs as myself. I doubt many people will truly appreciate the backstage environment of struggling comedians; rejoice when Matt meats Marc Maron or when four of them are watching TV and you can recognize a classic bit by Mitch Hedberg.
As in most art forms, also in comedy you will often have to choose between your loved ones and the love for your art. If you slightly compromise one, you’ll end up with neither. Or a bad version of both. Matt’s bits about his girlfriend were what made him funny, but I guess she wouldn’t laugh with the rest of us.
Mike Birbiglia follows the footsteps of Woody Allen, sitting down in the director’s chair after his successful stand-up past. As with early Woody, he tends to talk straight at us, and most of what he says or does in the movie is comes mostly unchanged from his act. In fact, he has also released a stand-up CD coincidentally called “Sleepwalk with me”, based on a play called “Sleepwalk with me” which is almost a narration of the movie “Sleepwalk with me”.
In stand-up, one of the forms you can divide comedians is between comics, and comics’ comics. The first group has appeal for anyone who likes to laugh and have a good time. The second will only be truly appreciated by comics, hence the name. The movie falls into that category: it’s a comics’ movie.