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Monday, March 20, 2023

Mike Birbiglia’s Broadway present explores life’s massive questions


At one level throughout Mike Birbiglia’s new Broadway present, “The Old Man and The Pool,” he jokingly scolds the viewers for laughing over a narrative concerning the demise of a person in a YMCA pool. He stares, he admonishes, he reminds the gang what, precisely, they’re laughing at. And then he pauses. The crowd can’t cease laughing. One after one other, somebody’s howl turns into contagious, and the laughter retains going for a number of minutes as Birbiglia watches.

Last Thursday, it grew to become an excessive amount of, and he broke on stage. He giggled so laborious he needed to flip away from the gang.

It’s a genius a part of the present, when Birbiglia turns into a form of conductor of this rolling laughter. It’s additionally his favourite a part of the present.

“It started from improv [that part of the show.] I was working out the show, at Cherry Lane Theater and thematically I was talking about a lot of the same stuff early on, but I was talking about the man who died holding his breath in a YMCA pool. And people were laughing somehow. They were laughing like a little too much,” Birbiglia advised CNN in a current interview. “And then I was like,’ Oh, actually that’s a little too much.’ And then I just started toying with the idea of like how much is too much laughter kind of thing. And like, what if, what if I scold? You know, like I started improvising, scolding people.”

He mentioned it ended up being a “fascinating psychological experiment” as a result of “the more you scold people and tell them what they can’t laugh at, the more they laugh at it.”

Birbiglia mentioned the laughter on Thursday felt contagious.

“I’m staring at everyone, everyone’s staring at me, but I’m staring at a group of people who can’t stop laughing,” he mentioned, including of efficiency, “I broke and I never break. I never break in the middle of that.”

What is everybody laughing at precisely? The absurdity of the human expertise. Of life and demise and all being in the identical room collectively on the identical second, Birbiglia mentioned.

“It’s cathartic for the people who lock into it because it’s that thing of like, Oh my God, it’s all just so absurd,” he laughed.

“The Old Man and the Pool” has been in Birbiglia’s thoughts in some model for about six years now. He labored it out wherever he may whereas touring, together with at a race monitor in New Jersey full of gamblers, earlier than it landed on the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center.

“I’ve been performing variations on the show for years, and so at different times I just gained inspiration from different things,” he mentioned. “It originally had a different name. I think at the time it was called ‘The YMCA Pool.’ And then we were shut down. I started doing outdoor shows. I was doing an outdoor show at a race track in New Jersey, not kidding, and my agent goes ‘this should be on Broadway.’”

He held the eye of a crowd that ranged in age from about 12 to aged and noticed they had been “all laughing their butts off.”

Birbiglia realized, he mentioned, the set could possibly be therapeutic for folks.

The present covers love, loss, demise, struggles to say I really like you, declining well being and household. Birbiglia skillfully pivots from discussing our darkest fears to our biggest joys. One minute he’s severe, then he makes a joke about “maybe” having a coronary heart assault in a health care provider’s workplace.

“I’ve had a lot of people say after the show, ‘I called my parents after the show,’ ‘I called my kids and told them I loved them after the show,’ and whatever that thing is, all of those feel positive to me,” he mentioned. “Obviously, we’re living in the strangest of times of the last century. And so anything that you can do that’s positive for other people feels, feels like something.”

Birbiglia burdened that he’s not attempting to supply any solutions to life’s massive questions, he’s merely bringing them up.

“There’s no answer,” he mentioned. “There’s no answer to any of it.”

“The Old Man and The Pool” is presently enjoying at Lincoln Center in New York City.

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