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Birbiglia recounts his "Girlfriend's Boyfriend" at Straz Center

Tribune correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 10:21 AM

Mike Birbiglia looked a little nervous after a screening of his film, "Sleepwalk With Me," was showcased at the South By Southwest film festival in Austin last spring.

What could rattle Birbiglia, who is a stand-up comic with a sleepwalking disorder?

"I guess not much should bother me," Birbiglia said.

Birbiglia, who will perform Thursday at the Straz Center, is a sharp guy, going back to his New England childhood.

One of the old axioms Birbiglia heard while growing up in Shrewsbury, Mass., was that he should turn lemons into lemonade.

The comic-actor evidently listened to the advice since he has made the most of his sleep disorder.

Birbiglia suffers from somnambulism, aka sleepwalking. The dangerous condition is no laughing matter for the humorist. Birbiglia once sleepwalked out a second floor window of a hotel. Birbiglia lived to tell the tale.

"It's a funny story about me sleepwalking," Birbiglia said. "But the truth is that the sleepwalking (episode) almost killed me. It's scary, funny, absurd and it really happened."

Birbiglia's disorder may be bad for his health, but it's been good for his career. "Sleepwalk With Me" inspired his one-man off-Broadway show (at the Bleeker Street Theatre) in 2008.

The production yielded the aforementioned film ("Sleepwalk With Me"), which made its debut last year at the Sundance Film Festival. There is also a book, "Sleepwalk With Me and Other Painfully True Stories."

"A lot of good has come from sleepwalking," Birbiglia said. "Who could have guessed it would work out like it did. It's funny and strange. People are entertained by it."

Fans are also entertained by Birbiglia's second off-Broadway play, "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend," which he will perform Thursday at the Straz.

Birbiglia tells stories of an up-and-down love life, which reaches fruition when he meets his wife.

"This show is basically about all of the painful romantic experiences I've had in my life and how they affected my relationships as an adult," Birbiglia said.

"It's how it led me to have a deep fear of marriage to the point that I didn't believe in marriage at all and how despite that, I decided to get married."

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