In April 2017, I went to Philadelphia to a small comedy club to watch Mike Birbiglia perform what the audience thought was a normal standup set, but what he and I knew was a tryout version of the material he was shaping into “The New One,” his new one-man show that opens on Broadway this week.
I’ve seen the show more times than I can count. And spent many nights on my couch listening to crappy recordings he made on the road, taking notes.
Even in that small club, a year and a half ago, the show killed. Backstage, in a stunningly narrow dressing room, between performances, the opening comedian Chris Laker and I made suggestions. Chris and his girlfriend Jaqueline Novak had toured with Birbiglia and given dozens of ideas; one of my favorite jokes in the show is Jacqueline’s – it’s about USDA daily recommended levels of...well, you’ll see if you see the show.
That night, the show was a funny story with a few emotional moments. I remember that back then we were working on adding more emotional moments—or rather, making the thing he was talking about onstage as full of feeling for the audience as it was for him to live through. And we were making it all more real. In the first half of the show, then and now, Birbigs goes through all the reasons he didn’t want to have a kid. At the time, all of this material brought the house down. But it didn’t feel real enough. As his IRL friend, I knew there was more there to talk about. So we were scheming that out.
Over two years, Mike and his wife Jen (who’s his co-writer on the show) and his director and a few assorted friends and collaborators have been shaping this thing with him, and it’s exciting to see it in the form it’s in today. It’s a lean, moving, great, hilarious story.
I feel confident in saying it’s going to be the funniest show on Broadway by far. A bunch of actors simply cannot compete with a professional comedian slamming out several jokes a minute that he’s field-tested on the road in 60 cities over two years. (Not to mention a hundred shows Mike’s done in clubs and theaters around New York.)
And the show these days does in fact get properly emotional and very very real. So many people cry! Especially young parents. Jimmy Kimmel cried! He said so on TV!
The show’s about not wanting to be a parent and then – ahem, spoiler – becoming a parent. Birbigs told me once that he thought it might work on Broadway because it’s the most universal subject matter he’ll ever write about.
The show’s great. And lives up to his very large ambitions for it. He's scaled it up in appropriate ways for a Broadway stage – like, the set is by an actual Tony winner.
If you’re coming to New York, I hope you see it. And I’m very pleased to announce that we’ve arranged for a discount for our listeners. For the people who’ve heard Mike on our show for years and know his work.
My only advice is, if you want the discount, act fast! Before those seats are snapped up. Use the code TNOTALIFE to save up to 40% on tickets.