Friday, April 27, 2012
"Sleepwalk With Me" Sneak Peak feat. Ira Glass, a small bribe between booksellers, and a theater full of nerds.
Our story really begins last Sunday, when Ashley called me in an old-fashioned honest to god tizzy while I was working up a storm (read: sitting at a table with my friends and spending too much money on cool stuff) at the Abstraks table at the Boston Comicon. I hate talking on the phone and Ashley knows it, so when I picked up she let me know, up front, that it was an emergency, that the Boston Independent Film Festival was kicking off on Wednesday night with a screening of Mike Birbiglia's new film, "Sleepwalk With Me" named after and based off his one-man show, with a Q&A session afterwards with the film's co-writer and co-producer, Ira Glass. I'm a huge comedy nerd and I dabble in NPR nerdism, so I was willing to sell my soul to go to this movie. Thankfully, all it took was a little bartering with Dana to move my Wednesday shift up a few hours so I could get out in time. Instead of a soul, I promised a blog post, and here I am, delivering.
Despite the fact that Ashley may have just doomed us all to hideous, melty death via an ultimate tragedy jinx, the line began to move shortly thereafter. I have not been to the Somerville theater very many times in my life; it's kind of a mixture of the Coolidge and the Wilbur theaters, with the ground floor being your standard popcorn, draft beers, and the various ephemera of movie theaters across this great nation. You pass through this familiarly loud, ever so slightly sticky-floored layer and make it upwards to the balcony. The theater on the inside is a little more opulent; a painted ceiling, all the trappings of vintage art deco. I'm impressed by the delicate moldings coupled with a comfortable seat, one that doesn't induce vertigo (I'm looking at you,Wilbur.) or the cramping of knees for those of us over 5'9. Marita joins us, mentioning that she watched my Rachel Dratch introduction (as she read from her new book, "Girl Walks Into a Bar..." at the Coolidge via Booksmith nigh a fortnight ago) on youtube and that yes, I did indeed come off as nervous as I thought I did. However, since my performance did not include projectile vomiting or tears of any variety, it is concluded that clearly, I was not as visibly nervous as I felt. I am abused for having to work through the rest of the film festival, and I remind these two Northeastern grads that some of us are still plugging through our 6th year of college and don't need to be berated for it, thanks. New Ivy league jerks. Note to self: get dumber friends.
"Sleepwalk With Me" walks a delicate line between a real, sincere and gratifying narrative about a complicated situation, that situation being balancing a floundering long-term relationship with a budding career and dangerous sleepwalking disorder (you know, tale as old as time). Just when I thought the film was going to veer off in the direction of saccharine rom-com territory, Birbiglia pulled it back into the realm of the relatable. Ignoring your anxiety about your relationship, over-eating, not taking care of yourself and pushing yourself to your physical limits are all present in the script, and I can see myself in those shortcomings about as clearly as I can the sky in a crystalline pool. I also found it appealing that the movie is based off a true story, the story of Mike Birbiglia and his once-girlfriend, "Abby". Also, I am no hard-hitting film critic; I like a happy ending, and I'm not ashamed to say it, and this movie definitely delivered that. It may have had a greater (or lesser, frankly I can't tell) impact on me had I not already been very familiar with "Sleepwalk With Me" the album, which I considered to be a comedy album but I suppose you could call it a one-man show if that's what we're calling comedy albums now. I'm not trying to be catty, but what has stand up ever been but a one-person show? Can stand up not also contain truth? Sorry, soap box, sorry.
It became very clear, however, during the Q and A with Ira Glass, that the crowd predominantly consisted of NPR nerds, and not comedy nerds, or even hybrids like myself. Most of the questions issued from the audience were based on This American Life or The Moth, both of which Birbiglia has been featured on. Even the questions from the woman interviewing Ira where radio-centric, which makes sense; Birbiglia wasn't present, Ira Glass was, and what are you going to ask Ira Glass about if not radio? In the end I was not disappointed by the experience, just surprised. I admit, my interest was piqued when I told people I was going to see "Sleepwalk With Me" and they knew what I was talking about. Birbiglia is not an unknown comic in the Boston area, but stand-up comedy is a weird circle of media. Either you are in the know or you're not, relegated to the Dane Cooks of the industry, or that guy who does the saucy puppets. There's nothing wrong with that, but that's why I was caught off guard when people responded to my claim that I was going to see "Sleepwalk With Me". I think Ira Glass' star power (and boy howdy do I love that I live in a community wherein THAT is a thing) drove the publicity for this film, and through that, a lot of NPR nerds definitely got exposed to what can happen when you refer to comedy as a One-Man Show (that is, you can get a narrative that is part comedy, part tragedy, part sincere reenactment of How Things Are) and I can't complain about that. I mean, I'll try, lord knows, I'll try...
Also, if you are somebody who has enjoyed my blog posts in the past and has been wondering where all the nasty sarcasm with the obvious grammatical errors of this blog disappeared to, the answer is, number 1, that I am trying so desperately to finish my undergraduate studies and get out of my state-financed hell hole that I can barely fill my lungs with air that my torso won't hit some stupid assignment that I don't have time for. In addition to that, in the area of things that Actually Matter, I am working on another project for the store that I am currently referring to as "Supa-Secret Project X", even though our events director Evan has repeatedly asked me not to. "Quit being so mysteriously weird" he says. "Please take off that cape before you host the author talk tonight" he says. "Please stop bugging my office, reading my emails, and referring to me as the 'loose end'" he says. That Evan. So uptight.
Exes and Ohs,