Mike Birbiglia: What I Should Have Said Was Nothing - Tales From My Secret Public Journal
R1 - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Andreas Petersen (12th May 2008).
The Show

Stand-up comedy, like all art, is a tough thing to pull off successfully. With so many comics out there, it is hard for one to distinguish oneself. I personally find most stand-up comedy to be lack luster, especially because all of the best comics seem to be dead. When I watch Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, and Mitch Hedberg, I find it hard to deal with your Dane Cooks and your Carlos Mencias. Case in point, I find it hard to watch contemporary stand-up, save for a few diamonds in the rough (Zack Galifianakis, Demetri Martin), and it is because of this that I have to watch all new stand-up with an incredibly critical eye. There was no exception for Mike Birbiglia’s "What I Should Have Said Was Nothing", his one-hour special. The results of his routine further solidify my theory that good stand-up mostly died out a few years ago.

Birbiglia’s act is interesting, but not really in a good way. The comedian seems to have assimilated many different schticks used by other comedians, and melded them into an incredibly awkward and unfunny series of bits. I felt as though he couldn’t decide if he wanted to be the animated and hyper guy, or the timid and quaint guy, or the guy who plays an acoustic guitar at the end of his show (I mean honestly, how many comedians do this now?). His presentation wasn’t really helped by his material either. While the best comedians take every day observations, spin them, and make you think, the worst simply present said observations, and expect people to laugh. The latter, in my opinion, describe Birbiglia’s act to a tee. He begins with bits about his parents, and how they’re weird. He then moves on to some story about how he’d dive into a pond from a tall tree, and then water shot up his butt. These are the sort of jokes you can expect from this special.

I hate to sound so mean and cynical. Birbiglia really seems to be a decent guy; it’s just that I really don’t find him entertaining in the slightest. While watching this special, after not laughing, or even smiling, once in the first 20 minutes, I began to keep track of how often I did smile or laugh. I came up with zero after I was done watching. That sounds like an exaggeration to you maybe, but it is a truth for me.

Maybe Birbiglia’s humor is just going over my head. I like to think that I’m an aware enough person that I can get jokes, and see through layers if they are there. Birbiglia’s humor may entertain some; I’m just not sure who. The people at the show seem to laugh oddly hard at anything he says, so it’s hard to call his comedy completely worthless. It just didn’t work for me, so maybe I can’t recommend it to the Hicks or Galifianakis, because we already know there is better stuff out there. If you tend to laugh at semi-awkward antics, maybe you’ll enjoy this.

Video

The special is presented in a 1.78:1 transfer, enhanced for widescreen televisions. It’s always hard to review video quality on a stand-up DVD, because it really has such little importance to the viewer’s enjoyment. As far as quality goes, the video looks fine and clear. I mean, there’s no colors popping off the screen, and I can’t see the sweat glistening off of Birbiglia’s head, but it suits a stand-up DVD well enough.

Audio

The only track offered is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track, and, like the video transfer, is nothing amazing but suits the purposes needed by a stand-up DVD. You can always hear Birbiglia’s voice clearly enough, and the crowd’s laughter comes through. Really, I’m not sure what else there is to say.
There are no optional subtitles available on this disc.

Extras

Shout! Factory offers two extras on this disc, extra footage and a featurette. They are examined below:

First up is "Encore" this is extra footage, running for 25 minutes and 45 seconds. In this, Birbiglia’s act is extended. In this, he tells a story about how he wanted to be a rapper when he was younger, and pokes fun at the word “cracker”, equating it with “the n-word”. This sort of comedy is the epitome of what I don’t like. It’s just too easy to make jokes about being a white guy acting “black”. I honestly can’t remember the last time that was funny, if ever.

Next is "Strictly for Fans" featurette, running for 25 minutes and 54 seconds. This follows Birbiglia on his college tour across the country, containing interviews with the comedian, as well as other people assisting him on his journey. This also contains footage of his acts in other arenas, containing jokes not seen in the main feature on the DVD. As the title implies, this one is for fans, and seeing as how I’m not one, I didn’t enjoy this at all.

It should be noted that while I didn’t personally like the extras presented on the disc, I still find it impressive that Shout! Factory has included bonus footage that matches the main feature in length. So if you like Birbiglia’s comedy, these features are great.

Overall

The Show: D Video: B Audio: B Extras: B Overall: C-

 


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