The original post for this episode can be found here.
Disclaimer: Hey, this is John. Two things about today’s episode. First off, this is one of those episodes where Craig swears a little bit. So, if you’re in the car with your kids, standard warnings there. It’s not terrible, just a few f-bombs, so they’re near the backend of the episode.
Second off, we now have an app for Scriptnotes. There’s an app for iOS and for Android. So, I talk about it at the end of the show in the One Cool Things, but in case you want to listen to this episode through the app, you can. It’s available right now for iPhone, for Android devices, however you want to find it.
On iPhone it’s in the App Store, so just go to the App Store on your phone and you’ll find it there, Scriptnotes.
For Android, I don’t know how you find Android apps, but it’s there wherever you find Android apps it should be there.
A few things about the app and how it all works. Scriptnotes is always free and it will always stay free so that the most recent episodes will always be free the way they always have been. The app is going to let us sell the back episodes. So, it’s a subscription that you can get all the back episodes you want, sort of the Netflix model, all-you-can-eat. Nothing has really changed except that if you want to listen to it through the app, or to go to those back episodes, they’re all available now.
So, if you like your current setup, don’t change anything. Stay awesome. Stay cool. And enjoy this episode of Scriptnotes.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Scriptnotes, the Mike Birbiglia episode of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.
Craig, you are in my house. We are doing one of those rare episodes where we’re actually live in the same room together.
Craig: Yeah. And as always there’s a certain frisson. There is a je ne sais quoi.
John: Yeah. It’s a little bit different when you’re here.
Craig: I noticed that everything that I said was very positive and what you said was studiously neutral to negative.
John: It’s good to have you here.
John: So, we will just do a little bit of quick follow up on our last episode. People tweeted us saying like, “Oh, I’m a reader at CAA and what you said about coverage was not accurate. It was only half true.”
Craig: I noticed that. Now, did that individual follow our invitation to explain? [laughs]
John: No. That’s the reason why we’re doing follow up. So, if you listen to our podcast and somebody says, one of us say something that’s actually incorrect or you disagree with, that is an ideal opportunity to write in and say, “You were wrong about this thing.”
And so I would invite this person who said I was wrong about coverage to email me and tell me how I was wrong, because that’s the only way we can grow is by being corrected.
Craig: We’re not particularly sensitive about being wrong. We like learning.
John: I love to learn.
Craig: There was another person who wrote, who tweeted both of us, and said something like, “I really liked how John and Craig said they didn’t know anything about drugs and then spent 40 minutes talking about drugs.”
Craig: I actually know a lot about drugs. And I’ve done drugs.
John: I know quite a bit about drugs. Yeah.
Craig: And you’ve done them.
John: But we’re just not doing them now.
Craig: Just right now. All we were saying was don’t do them while you’re writing. Why did that get — I didn’t understand that. Sometimes people are mean.
John: Sometimes people are just irrational. And I think Twitter brings out the worst characteristics of that where it’s just like it’s 140 characters, “I’m going to send it off.” Not as bad as like comments on a blog post, like reading below the fold of the post.
Craig: YouTube comments are the Mos Eisley of the internet.
John: They really are.
So, the third voice you hear in the room with us today, laughing occasionally, is Mike Birbiglia who is our special guest.
John: And so Mike Birbiglia is a writer, director, performer, what other — ?
Mike Birbiglia: Yeah, sure.
Craig: Standup comedian.
John: Standup comedian, yes. Performer, that’s sort of a catch all category for that. Now for people who can’t think of who Mike Birbiglia is off the top of their head, he was in the second episode of Girls and he was —
Mike: In the first season.
John: That’s a very crucial point. So, you were the guy who she was interviewing for a job at some sort of publishing company?
Mike: Yeah. I don’t remember! [laughs]
John: Anyway, you were a guy at a desk.
Craig: Method actor. You were really into it that day.
John: He was deeply into it.
Craig: “I don’t remember.” What’s your character’s name? Uh…
Mike: But it was a fun scene. I loved shooting the scene.
John: I honestly feel like that scene kind of codified what her relationship was going to be towards work from that point forward. It was a really crucial moment. So, this is Mike Birbiglia and Lena Dunham in their first meeting in Girls.
[Girls scene begins]
Mike’s Character: I think the only other place that you’re allowed to brag like that is on your online dating profile. Not that I have one.
Lena’s Character: Oh, no. Of course not.
Mike’s Character: Mm-hmm. So, you live in Brooklyn. Is it Williamsburg?
Lena’s Character: No, I live in Greenpoint.
Mike’s Character: Oh.
Lena’s Character: You know, big difference, Williamsburg/Greenpoint.
Mike’s Character: Oh sure.
Lena’s Character: Are you in Brooklyn or?
Mike’s Character: Yeah. On Cobble Hill.
Lena’s Character: Oh, that’s like grownup Brooklyn.
Mike’s Character: Yeah. I’m like a real live grownup. Can’t you tell?
Lena’s Character: [laughs] So, in your neighborhood do you ever drink at that place Weather Up?
Mike’s Character: That’s a little bit hip for my taste.
Lena’s Character: Are you kidding? You’re very hip. But I do object to any bar that calls its bartenders mixologists.
Mike’s Character: Exactly.
Lena’s Character: And they wear tiny vests.
Mike’s Character: I know!
Lena’s Character: If I’m going to drink in your neighborhood I want to go to Washington Commons —
Mike’s Character: — Washington Commons. Oh my god! I love that place.
Lena’s Character: Hands down.
Mike’s Character: I like a bar where the median age is about 55.
Lena’s Character: I like a bar where the average patron would be described as crotchety.
Mike’s Character: Crotchety is good.
[Girls scene ends]
John: Welcome Mike Birbiglia.
Craig: Mike Birbiglia!
Mike: The part they don’t hear devolves into this really awkward rape joke.
Mike: She makes a rape joke kind of flippantly and then I say, “That’s really not work language.”
Mike: That’s not — off is okay.
John: What was so great about that scene is it happens in a very natural romantic comedy kind of way. Like, oh, this guy is going to be a love interest. And then it so abruptly curtails in a way that I think is a remarkably good scene.
Mike: That was so fun. That was the most fun day of work I’ve ever had.
Mike: It was the easiest, most fun day of work. I love Lena.
John: So, can you come back and do another arc on Girls?
Mike: I’d be thrilled. Yeah. I don’t know that it’ll ever happen, but that character kind of discounts himself by the end of the scene as being anyone she’d ever want to run into again.
Craig: Just like your real life.
Mike: [laughs] Yeah, exactly.
John: So, Mike is here because you are in town doing big legitimate shows. So, you just did Jimmy Kimmel. You’re going to be doing Conan.
Mike: Yup. Conan Monday and then I had tweeted at you guys I’m fans of you both and I listen to the podcast aggressively.
John: Wow. So what does that mean? You actually get yourself really pumped up and you start pen in hand?
Mike: I think it’s one of the favorite things in my life is listening to the podcast.
Craig: Oh my god.
John: Holy cow. That’s some high pressure.
Mike: You know what it feels like? I’ll tell you what listening to the podcast feels like. I said this on Twitter, but it’s like hanging out with really smart people and talking about writing except you don’t have to talk.
Craig: That’s very nice.
Mike: And I love not talking. Because I talk for my living and after awhile you’re just like, “I just like listening to people who are really smart.”
Craig: I’d like to get that deal where we could do the podcast but not talk.
John: That would be fantastic. Craig, that’s called listening to a podcast.
Craig: Oh yeah.
John: But because you don’t listen to any other podcasts, you have the joy of the monologue that you don’t have to be a part of.
Craig: Oh yeah, I don’t… — How many podcasts are there at this point, like four or five now?
John: There might be at least six or maybe a dozen podcasts out there.
Craig: I just don’t have the time.
Mike: I mean, once it gets to ten they’re going to just stop making —
Craig: They’ll stop making.
Mike: Yeah. I’m sure. We’ll all have the good sense to do that.
Mike: But I’m just a big fan of the podcast and as a guest I just want to say up top, I want to discount myself and say I am the least pedigreed of your writer guests admittedly, but I’d like to think of myself as a writer/listener who like won a contest.
John: [laughs] Indeed.
Craig: [laughs] You’re a little better than that.
John: Yeah, underneath your seat at Jimmy Kimmel there was a little note saying like, “You get to be a guest on this podcast.”
Mike: It was part of a gift bag.
John: I first met you at the screening of your film Sleepwalk with Me. And so that was the Writers Guild Foundation, I think, did a thing at the Writers Guild Theater. And Joss Whedon hosted a Q&A afterwards. And so you and I were up there. And so we talked very briefly in the lobby beforehand about Lena and how awesome things were.
Congratulations on Sleepwalk with Me.
Craig: Great movie.
Craig: Great movie.
John: So, it’s a movie that people can find on iTunes and Netflix and it came out last year and had the indie release, the big thing you were sort of marketing was to make more than Avengers did.
John: And how did that go?
Craig: You got close.
Mike: Here’s what we did. Opening weekend we had the highest per screen average of any film that year, higher than Avengers. The one caveat is that we were on just the one screen.
Craig: Right. Of course.
Mike: And Avengers was on the 2,000 something screens. And so we did beat them in that category. In the overall I think they did close to $1 billion. We did about $2.3 million.
Craig: Still, that’s close.
John: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, with a margin of error.
Mike: They both have the word part “illion.”
Craig: That “illion.” A lot of kids who haven’t yet gone to second grade will flip the billion and million.
Mike: Yes, exactly.
John: That’s the original thinking. Generations —
Craig: For that age group you have done better than The Avengers.
Mike: Absolutely. And, honestly, it’s thrilling. Jokes aside, it’s thrilling to be able to make a movie that eventually gets to an audience. And people who love it, love it, and then people who hate it, hate it. And that’s fun, too.
Craig: I don’t know how anyone hates this movie. I mean, I don’t know why people hate movies in general anyway, but —
John: Positive moviegoing.
Craig: Positive moviegoing right here.
Mike: I loved that episode by the way.
Craig: Yeah, thank you. Thank you. And we’re talking about, you know, the guy, the Hulk, Hulk Film Crit, And Hulk Film Crit, one of his things is he had this amazing encounter with Quentin Tarantino who sort of lectured him on never hating a movie, which we’ll get to that later.
But I want to talk to you about your movie because the truth is you’re not any less credentialed than anyone. You wrote a screenplay and you directed your own screenplay and you made a movie. And you made a great movie.
As far as I’m concerned there’s no other credentials required. What’s fascinating about that movie is that it is, I think, unique in the history of adaptation. I don’t know if anyone has quite done what you’ve done, which is to take what is essentially a well crafted standup act in the vein of a one-man show kind of standup act, and adapt it for film and not just do kind of…forgive me, the guy who did the one-man show and then committed suicide, which is probably where you’re headed.
John: Spalding Gray.
Craig: Spalding Gray. So, before you Spaulding-Gray yourself, just know that even what he did, he shot himself talking to an audience. You dramatized the whole thing. So, my first question for you, if it’s not too early with the questions…
John: Go. Go.
Craig: Is how did you do that?
John: What was the genesis? I don’t know sort of how Sleepwalk with Me came about.
Mike: The genesis was I studied screenwriting undergraduate and I was very serious about it. I went to Georgetown and I was with a bunch of peers who were very serious about it. Jonah Nolan was in my class. Jordon Nardino. A lot of really great writers who went on to be working Hollywood writers.
And then I was not able to figure out how to come to Los Angeles and be a writer, and I was pursuing standup comedy at the same time. And so I was like, well, standup comedy at least, similar to the character that I play in the film, Matt Pandamiglio, not unlike Mike Birbiglia —
Mike: I was working at the DC improv comedy club and I could see that there was a business model to standup comedy that I could understand. It’s a meager business model, but it’s a business model. You drive somewhere, you perform for 20 minutes, they give you $50. Like it made sense to me. And because I’d been on both sides of it at a comedy club I understood that. So, I pursued that for many years and at the same time I simultaneously started merging the dramatic playwriting standup, or playwriting and screenwriting elements with my standup comedy. And that is what became the one-man show Sleepwalk with Me, and then subsequently My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend.
Mike: And then what I really wanted to do was make a film. And then there was a company that was interested in adapting that into a film. They paid us to write it. They didn’t like the script. They didn’t see it. And I asked them if I could take it from them and make it myself. I was going to — we made it for about $1 million, which in film is nothing.
Craig: No, that’s a challenge.
Mike: I know people think it’s a lot of money, but in film it’s almost nothing. And so that’s how it happened. I mean, writing the one-man show took about seven years. And then the adaptation took about two or three years.
John: But so let’s talk about writing a one-man show, because I see you doing things that sort of look like standup but you actually look at what that show is, or what My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend is, and they’re much more structured experiences where they’re clearly like and now we’re in a flashback where we’re telling this kind of thing. And they have rhyme and they have structure to them.
What is the writing process like for this? Are you thinking about like this is that story and this is how I can get that story to hook into the next thing?
Mike: Well, I was very lucky. Early on when I moved to New York City I started seeing all of the one-person shows on and off Broadway. I saw I Am My Own Wife. I saw Bridge & Tunnel. And then the one that really hooked me emotionally was this one called the Tricky Part.
And if writers are in New York, by the way, see cheap theater. It’s totally available.
Mike: See tons of it. It’s so educational. You can go on these like BroadwayBox.com and there’s all these like Broadway deals if you Google just like “theater deals cheap tickets.” You can get cheap tickets and see a lot and learn a lot.
I saw this one called The Tricky Part, directed by Seth Barrish, and starring Martin Moran. It’s this very dramatic story but had a lot of levity to it as well about this guy who was sexually abused by a clergy person in his church growing up. But it was very funny.
Craig: Not a rabbi. I should point that out.
John: You never hear that, do you.
Craig: You do, but less.
Mike: But there was so much humor to it, and it was so — how do I say — very conversational the way he told the story. You felt like you were talking to a friend. And I thought, oh my god, I got to talk to that director, Seth Barrish.
And I really like sent him a letter. I sent him my comedy CD. And I said, “This is what I’d like to do.” And I sent him the script for Sleepwalk with Me, an early draft of it, the one-man show, and he was not so interested but he listened to the CD and he said, “It’s funny, but it’s not quite there yet. And I’ll teach you sort of how I approach one person theater.”
And what he taught me, and I think this applies for film, I still use it for the films I’m writing right now, and he and I still use it when we work together with our one-person shows, is finding a main event that the whole film or play builds towards. And if that main event is interesting enough, all you have to do is build backwards to it so that secretly, as a writer, your little trick is that you know that no one has any idea that where you’re going is pretty fascinating.
Mike: And I feel like that’s been the guiding principal for all of me and Seth’s work.
Craig: In the movie, it’s the wedding.
Mike: I can say what it is.
Craig: We can give spoilers. It feels like it’s the wedding to me. Or the —
Mike: Yeah. I think we can say, I mean, I feel like it’s been out so long that we can say what it is.
John: It’s the jumps through the window.
Mike: Yeah, I would say —
Craig: Well, the jump through the window is sort of the breaking point.
Craig: But so that’s like, I understand what you’re saying. There’s a surprise thing that happens that you never see coming.
Mike: Yeah. In Sleepwalk there’s two simultaneous. One is the wedding. Or one is us getting engaged and the wedding plans. And then jumping through the window. My sleepwalking getting so bad that it nearly kills me.
And then once you have that, that interesting main event, I feel like you can build backwards towards that. I feel like it’s something you guys talk about all the time is finding your ending before you begin.
Craig: You got to know what your ending is.
John: Now, talk to me about writing this stuff, are you perceiving yourself as a character or are you perceiving yourself as I am just the —
Craig: Yeah. That’s the part that I find so fascinating that you would —
John: The boundary between who you are as an actual person, Mike Birbiglia, and who you are as this character playing. Because in the one-man show version of it, is it Mike Birbiglia or is it Matt?
Mike: Yeah. In the one-man show version it’s me. Definitely me.
Craig: And why did — I’m stacking questions.
Mike: I get this question a lot.
Craig: What’s the point? [laughs]
Mike: Of changing the name?
Mike: So, two of the models when I was writing the film, two of the models for the film were Private Parts by Howard Stern.
Mike: And Annie Hall by Woody Allen.
Mike: And in Private Parts Howard Stern keeps his name, Howard Stern. In Annie Hall he’s Alvy Singer. And I thought Woody Allen is a career that I like to emulate. He’s made some 30 or 40 films at this point.
Mike: Howard Stern is doing a great job in radio but he doesn’t want to make more movies. And I just want to make a lot of movies. And so I thought I don’t want to set myself up for this odd paradigm where people are expecting to come see Mike Birbiglia do Mike Birbiglia things over and over again, because I just honestly don’t have enough stories for that.
Craig: Your life is not interesting enough to support the entire career.
Mike: By no means.
John: And people, I feel like they set up their lives in ways just so they’ll have interesting stories. It’s like they’re deliberately seeking danger and seeking these crazy events so that they can have that.
Craig: Which is one thing I love about Mike and his story is that you seem like the kind of person who is, in watching your film, incredibly resistant to anything happening to you that’s exciting.
Craig: And that, in fact, it is only when you’re sleeping that the exciting things happen, totally against your will, and I love that.
Craig: I think you’re a great character for somebody to have written. Granted, in real life it’s got to be a huge pain in the ass.
Mike: Also it was really challenging dramatically to write a character who is incapable of doing most things.
Mike: Because so much of drama is based on action and his character is based on kind of inaction.
Craig: But then there’s an action that comes out, I mean, the first sort of — well, it’s not the first one. But the first time in your movie I got fooled, obviously I don’t get fooled when the sleep doctor is talking to you. I get what’s going on there. But I got fooled with that woman in that room until she gives you the pizza neck roll.
Craig: Because I thought it was happening.
Craig: So, you kind of trickily were able to be active. It’s kind of the point really is that you’re active when you’re not guarding against being active.
John: Now, a question about the writing process on that. Were you able to incorporate like bits of stories into your act, into your standup, to figure out sort of what was funny?
John: And that’s a unique thing that a normal writer wouldn’t have the opportunity to do.
Mike: Yeah, very much trial and error based. And that’s the thing that I love about standup comedy is that as a writer I can write, I can put something on stage that night and I can get a sense this either works or doesn’t work, or it needs work. And in my screenwriting process, like I’m writing two scripts right now, and I’ll just invite my actor friends over and we’ll just do readings of it.
Mike: And it’s so helpful.
Craig: Isn’t it? I mean, it’s amazing. I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this. Even if your acting friends are terrible actors, it’s okay. Just to hear it out loud is so informative.
Mike: I encourage it so much. That was actually the thing — I made a bullet point thing of what I actually could talk about on this podcast that could be helpful and my biggest thing is DIY. Which is just people wherever you are, if you live in Washington, DC, you live in Cincinnati, you live in a suburb of Nebraska. You can develop a community and you can do readings and you can shoot shorts on really inexpensive cameras. And you can learn things on your own and kind of get better.
John: One of the things that I think is so fascinating about filmmaking is that everyone feel like, well, I would never be able to be a director. I could never do all of these complicated jobs. But I guess I can write a script. And so they write their scripts in secret and in private and then they get frustrated like, well, what do I do next? Well, you have to do something. You have to do something beyond just sitting at your computer.
You have to like get it out there in the world and let people see it and do things. So, readings are great. Shooting short films are great. People need to experiment with what it is that they made on the page and what it actually feels like out there in the world.
Mike: And failure is great.
John: Failure is wonderful.
Mike: Failure is the best thing that can happen.
Craig: That’s good news, because it’s here constantly. [laughs]
Mike: [laughs] This is the town of it.
Craig: Yeah. It walks hand in hand with all of us, doesn’t it?
Mike: Well that, when I was in college I directed my first short. It was actually called Extras. It was in the late ’90s, before the TV series, and it was about three professional extras who were roommates and two of my friends played the other parts. And it was a complete disaster. I lost like thousands of dollars, but I learned so much from it.
John: Yeah. That’s your film school. It’s really trying stuff out and seeing what works.
Craig: And, you know, it’s interesting because in your film, when you look at the character of —
Craig: I was just going to say you. I’m saying you.
Mike: Yeah, yeah, my character.
Craig: Look at you. Everything you’re doing circumstantially would make me not like you. Right?
Mike: [laughs] Yes.
Craig: And you very candidly turn to the camera and say, “Before I get to this next part, remember, you’re on my side.” But we are on your side. And the reason we’re on your side is because you are in a very kind of modern, confessional way sharing with us your failure. We watch you fail. We’re watching you fail at work. And we’re watching you fail at home with your parents, and your girlfriend. Just the negotiation of the apartment is a failure.
Everything is a failure. The awesome woman — who is the woman who plays your manager? She was hysterical.
Mike: Sondra James. A wonderful actress.
Mike: She’s on Girls sometimes.
Craig: Oh, okay. Great. I mean, she was just pitch perfect. There is that amazing segment of just incredibly old, food coming out of their mouth, managers. But you’re failing everywhere and so we love you. And we love you so much that we’re kind of doing, we’re peeking through our fingers sort of in fear because we know you’re doing the wrong thing.
Craig: Which is so interesting to me. It’s hard to ask you these questions, “Is that intentional?” It’s what was true.
Craig: But was it also something that you were aware of as you were writing that you were doing something that you would have to do anyway if it were a fictional character?
Mike: I’m not sure what the question is.
Craig: The question is, if you write a character who is agreeing to marry somebody that they don’t want to marry.
Craig: I don’t like that guy. We need to do something about that character to make us connect with him so we are on his side.
Craig: And experiencing his journey. So, when you were writing were you aware of that?
Mike: Well, one of the things that’s odd about the process of the film is that the monologues that are in the film where I’m driving and talking to camera are in the past tense. And I look and I say before I tell you this part of the story I want to remind you you’re on my side, etc, etc.
When we filmed it, we filmed it in more of a Ferris Bueller style where in the middle of a scene I would break and look to camera and speak to camera. When we got in the edit we were like, “Oh, this doesn’t work at all,” because it’s actually too sad what’s happening.
Mike: And it needs to be in the past tense.
Mike: It needs to be tragedy plus time to be funny. And because we need to know that he’s okay. And so when I’m driving and I’m looking at the camera you’re like, oh, he’s all right. He’s telling us the story and he’s telling us in the past tense, so he’s clearly okay. He’s not dead.
Mike: He’s figured it out. He seems like his mood is okay.
Craig: There’s a happy ending somewhere.
Mike: So we did that and we picked that up in post as a past tense thing. And it actually fixed the movie. The movie was tanking with our test audiences before that point.
Craig: Right. And then you take that out and you see this big jump.
Mike: Yeah, because people were like, “It’s just too sad. This story is so sad. This guy keeps failing and he’s messing up other people’s lives. And we’re not okay with it.” That’s how people were when they first saw it.
John: Well, getting back to the sort of the losery persona of the main character here, I would say we identify with a lead character who is trying. This goes back to Lindsay Doran’s argument. If you came in as being really cool we wouldn’t kind of care about you because we wouldn’t have —
Mike: [Crosstalk] …it’s like my least, it’s my biggest pet peeve.
Craig: Right. Cool characters.
Mike: Cool characters.
Craig: I got a note, my favorite stupid note I ever got was can the main character be a hero in the beginning.
John: That’s one of the worst possible notes.
Craig: Sure. Absolutely. How long would you like to shoot — we can shoot it in a day and put it out. It will be called Nothing Happens.
Craig: And just a guy will come in, punch a bad guy, and then roll credits.
John: Definitely. That’s a trailer. You get to make a trailer.
Craig: You can’t even make a trailer.
John: That’s true —
Craig: You would run out of time. You would never get to the point where James, what’s his face, sing’s I Feel Good. Yeah, you would never get there.
John: It would be very rough. So, we need to see your character trying.
John: And it’s great that your character fails and fails a lot, but able to pick himself up and dust himself off. And so shooting those extra bits that put it all in the past tense let us know like he is going to be able to pick himself up and dust himself up. So, even though things will get worse, they’ll ultimately get better. There’s a happy ending there at the end. You created a bookend for it that let us know we’d be okay.
Craig: So, you’re sitting there in a movie theater. The movie is done. And there’s a focus group and they’re saying things like, “This guy Matt Pandapiglia is just an asshole. And I hate him. I hate what he does. He’s a jerk. This character sucks. Why is she with him at all?”
And you’re sitting there like, It’s me!
Mike: It’s even worse after the movie comes out.
Mike: Like I think there was a Jezebel article that came out after the movie came out.
Craig: Oh Jezebel.
Mike: And they said —
Craig: They’re angry.
Mike: Well, they said, and I like the site. I like some of the writing on the site a lot. I consider myself a feminist. They said, “Why Matt Pandamiglio is bad for your relationship,” or something like that. I’m paraphrasing. I might get it wrong. You can look it up if you want. But something to do with the fact, like this kind of personal jab. And I just disagree. I disagree. I think this movie is about these two characters who are not together at the right point in their life and at the end they go separate ways and it’s better for both of them. I truly believe that.
Craig: She’s since gotten married.
Mike: She’s wonderful. She’s doing great. [laughs]
Craig: And you’ve gotten married.
Mike: She’s married. I’m married. We’re both very happy. We’re very close.
Mike: And very happy. Like when she saw the movie, we had an opening night screening in the Opera House at BAM. She came to the screening. She was crying afterwards. She said it was like so moving to see that part of our lives documented.
Mike: And for people to criticize it for that, I just, it was really disconcerting.
John: Well, okay, let’s talk about this aspect of autobiography, because you can’t write autobiography without other people and other real people being involved in that. So, as you’re figuring out the standup, the one-man show version of it and the movie version of it at what point did you have to figure out much you’re writing the real people versus the — this is the real person and this is what the person is in the drama —
Mike: That’s a good actually and that’s part of the reason I changed the names. I didn’t want my dad to be my dad. I wanted it to be Gary Pandamiglio. I didn’t want it to be Vince Birbiglia, I wanted him to be Gary Pandamiglio. Interestingly, and the same with my mom, and the same with my girlfriend.
I think there’s a degree to which you really need to protect people in your life, even if it’s just changing names, things like that. That’s just how I feel. What’s amazing is my parents saw the movie and they had no sense that it was based on them at all. They thought it was entirely fiction.
Craig: This is very common.
Mike: Didn’t recognize any —
Craig: People don’t see themselves.
Mike: They didn’t recognize any qualities that they have.
Craig: [laughs] While they were probably exhibiting those qualities —
Mike: With some direct quotes.
Craig: The direct quotes. They did not recognize. Well, you know, famously Dr. Evil is just an impression of Lorne Michaels.
John: Yeah. And he doesn’t see it at all.
Craig: Did not notice. In fact, as the story goes, Mike Myers takes Lorne Michaels for a walk before they’re going to show the movie —
Mike: Oh my god.
Craig: And he goes, “I just want you to know, so you don’t freak out, but Dr. Evil is basically you. But don’t, you know…” And he’s like, “Okay.” And then he sees the movie and he goes, “I don’t see it. I didn’t really see it.”
Mike: That’s so good.
Craig: But you also get a license to push the characters a little bit, I mean, by changing the names. I mean, I’m sure that they are exaggerated and —
Mike: Absolutely. And that’s what I want to do moving forward with my next movies, too. But while we’re doing impressions, I want to do my impression of you guys.
Craig: Oh yeah, he’s got an impression of us.
Mike: I don’t do impressions. I want to preface it with that.
Craig: I’m so excited.
Mike: But I feel like, so we just have to name an object and then we’ll have me do John and Craig talking about the object. So, like this is a coffee cup.
[as John] Yeah, I’m holding a coffee cup. So — so this would be like, so today we’re going to talk about coffee cups. And, I think, I love coffee cups. I think we that we should give coffee cups a chance.
[as Craig] What are you talking about? This coffee cup is garbage. They’re giving you something that’s practically garbage. There’s almost no coffee in it. You’re going to hurt your hand. It’s scalding hot. There’s no insulation.
[as John] Yeah, but, I think we should all — let’s give coffee cups a chance.
I feel like that’s the show in a nutshell.
Craig: Which one was which? I don’t know, was I the first one? [laughs]
Mike: That’s the show in a nutshell.
Craig: Yeah, pretty much.
Mike: And I love that. I love the scenario. I don’t do the voices, but it’s the essence of the show.
Craig: The essence of it, yeah. Well, you know, John is from Colorado. He’s American. And I’m from New York. [laughs] And I’m an ass. But for New York, I think I’m a nice New York.
John: You’re on the nice side of New Yorkers.
Craig: Yeah, it can be much worse than this. It could be much, much worse than this. That was disturbingly accurate.
Mike: I identify with both, so the yin and the yang of that. Like when I hear you points I’m like, oh, that’s a nice bit of positivity about that. And then when I hear your points I’m like, yeah, these motherfuckers.
Craig: Ha! [laughs]
Mike: Fucking idiots.
Craig: Yeah, come on, man! Right?
John: So, to transition to the next film you made, which was much more like a Spalding Gray, sort of one man talking in front of an audience thing, this is My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend. So, was this a monologue you had already, or a one-man show you’d already put together before you had done? Tell us about the history of this.
Mike: Yes. It actually is. It’s a concert — it’s now a concert film that’s on iTunes and Netflix if people want to see it. And it’s an album on iTunes. And it’s a one-person show that Seth Barrish, again, directed. And that we worked on starting — I did a piece on This American Life. People might know me from that as well. I’ve done a handful of stories over the years on This American Life. And Ira Glass, who co-wrote my film, and My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend was based on this incident I had. The main event is that I was hit by a drunk driver in Los Angeles. And then in a really strange turn of events made to pay for the other driver’s car.
It was $12,000. And it was infuriating. And the parallel story in that is that my wife and I, my now wife and I, were going through this really hard situation where we were deciding whether or not we were going to get married. And neither of us really believed in the idea of marriage but we were getting pressure from all sides.
And so — and I have this problem where when I think I’m right about something, it can be a real issue. A little bit maybe like Craig, where I just want to be right. I’m like, “Argh,” I get really riled up and it’s like, “I’m not paying for this car! And I’m not getting married! And I’m not going to blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
And the whole show, and the concert film, builds to a head where I’m dealing with both of those things at the same time and it’s —
Craig: Like most good stories, the object is to be less like Craig. Ultimately to get over that.
Mike: It’s not always written that way, but it’s the subtext.
Craig: The subtext is don’t — that I am the pre-actualization character.
John: Yes. Let’s listen to a clip from it. This is from My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, and this is as you are first meeting — you’ve met this girl Jenny who you have a crush on and you agree to sort of go out on a three-person date and hopefully not have it be a three-person date at the end of the night. So, let’s listen to a clip.
Mike: We’re at the pub and it had taken so much convincing for Andy to get Jenny to come out there. By the time she came out she thought she was on a date with him. Yeah, that wasn’t the idea. And so I had to convince him to fall away as the night went on, like the red rockets and the space shuttle. And eventually she realized she was on a date with me. And she was not happy about that.
But, she warmed to me as the night went on because she was drinking and like, no, by the end of the night we’re laughing and having a good time and I caught a break which is we shared a ride back to our hotel with one of their friends. And she and I were stuffed in this little backseat together. It was really quiet, so I could hear her soft voice. And she told me she had just come off a long difficult breakup.
And I told her about my breakup. And for a moment there in the backseat it felt like we were holding up two halves of a broken paper heart. And we get back to the hotel and I offer to walk her to her room and she said, sure. And we get to the door and I didn’t want this night to end. And so I build up the courage to lean in to kiss her and she says, “Oh, no thank you.”
Mike: It’s entirely true that story.
Craig: “No thank you.”
Mike: Oh, no thank you.
Craig: That’s one of the greatest responses to an attempt at a kiss ever.
Craig. “Oh, no thank you.”
Craig: “It was nice.”
John: I want to talk about the visuals you built in there because actually it’s much more sophisticated than a person might guess at the start.
Mike: Oh thanks.
John: The visuals of this crowded Irish pub. And then being in the backseat of the car. So, by telling us specifically they were in the backseat of the car we have an image of the two of you guys together there. The image of like the broken paper heart, holding up the two halves of the broken paper heart.
The hallway. We’re seeing these places that you’re putting us and it’s very specific and it’s very — it’s writerly. And it’s not simply just a joke. You’re actually creating — you’re painting a scene which is a crucial thing that we don’t think about people doing in monologues. But it’s so smart.
Craig: Yeah. And while you’re painting the visuals, you’re also telling us something about your internal life which is that you are a romantic but you’re also anti-romantic. You’re anti-romantic enough to make fun of the idea of holding up two halves of the paper heart. And yet you thought of that. You know? And that’s a great human kind of real romanticism which I love.
Mike: Yeah. I think that — I actually think, and that’s why I’m saying I encourage people to make things. I feel like by making and directing Sleepwalk with Me I actually — this show became better. I had started this show and it was Off-Broadway before I made Sleepwalk with Me. And then I toured with it after Sleepwalk with Me to about 100 cities around the world, London, Australia, Canada, 70 cities in America. And it actually — I rewrote it, and rewrote it, and rewrote it, even after it had closed Off-Broadway. And then by the time I filmed it, like you said, it had become more cinematic.
John: So, structurally the show works as an extended flashback, basically.
John: So, quite early on we’re establishing like who you are as a character in this story that we may be hearing. That there’s a girl. That there’s going to be this car crash. And you have a very specific rhyming element that you say for the car crash. It’s T-boned. And it’s not actually even that funny, so it’s basically the car gets hit from the side and being hit in the side is called being T-boned.
And I thought it was so smart because I noticed it when you first did it. It’s like, that’s a strange — it’s not getting a laugh, and he knows it’s not going to get a laugh, so it much be there for a reason. And the reason why it’s there is because at the end of the show you’re going to come back to T-boned and it’s like, “Oh, we’re back in that same moment and this is all — this extended flashback is now over.” It was very smartly done. It felt very cinematic in a way.
John: It’s like, you know, this was the signal that we were out of this flashback and now we’re back into the present time.
So, talk about touring around and doing things, because when you say you rewrote it does that mean that you have — the show is not on index cards. It isn’t like joke cards anymore.
Mike: No, I do do it on index cards also. I have a running document which is, you know, at this point I probably did 30, 40 drafts of that show. And then —
John: What does it look like to you? Because since it is just you talking, so is it —
Mike: It’s just a Word Document.
John: It’s just a Word Document where you have it in paragraphs?
Mike: Yeah. A lot of times if it’s a joke it’ll be it’s one paragraph and that kind of thing to give it a tempo feel on the page. But, yeah, I keep rewriting and rewriting. And there’s a lot of things where I feel like the best movies and plays as well are things where you’re laughing, you’re laughing, you’re laughing, you’re laughing, and then at the end you go, “Oh my god, it’s a fucking story.”
Mike: And that’s what really lured me into like the stuff that I sort of model my own stuff after is like James L. Brooks’ films, Broadcast News and Terms of Endearment. Like you look at a film like Broadcast News which I’ve probably seen 10 or 15 times, and it’s just — I’m just laughing all the way through. And then when it just punches you in the gut at the end of the movie you just go, “Oh my god, this is why we see movies.”
Craig: Well, laughing opens you up. You know?
Mike: Yes, that’s right.
Craig: You’ve lost your defenses and you’re expecting to laugh again. So, nobody sees it coming, you know? I remember talking to David Zucker and Jerry Zucker about the first time they screened the movie Airplane! for a test audience. And in their minds everything was jokes. They were just obsessed with how the jokes would play. And they were just thrown on their heels when at the end of the movie the plan finally lands and the audience bursts into applause.
Mike: Oh, that’s amazing.
Craig: Because they cared that the plane would land. You know? And they just thought, “It doesn’t matter. We’ve told them in every possible way this is not a real plane.” It is to them. It matters. And so the human desire to give a shit is not defeatable.
Craig: So, you might as well work with it, which you did. I mean, you really did it beautifully in your movie. It’s even interesting watching you — if you were to say to me here’s a movie by a comedian about his career in which he gets up and starts getting laughs I would go, “Wow, that sounds kind of like a douchebag scene.” And it’s not.
Mike: Totally agree.
Craig: It’s not because you earned it, you know, because I watched you suffer. So, I totally agree. I know exactly what you mean.
Mike: Yeah. Well, one of the obstacles of that in the writing process and we really struggled with this is there were certain drafts where it was how do we show that he’s doing better. And it would be like, “Well, the audience applauds more.” And it’s like, nope, it can’t be that, because the audience watching it in the theater, if they disagree with the applause then you’re screwed.
Mike: The movie is over.
Craig: The movie is fake. Right. It’s self-congratulatory.
Mike: How many movies have we seen about performance where you’re not applauding when the characters are applauding and you just hate it? And so we were like — I love the movie Once, the film Once, I really love. And I thought that that’s the perfect treatment of performance which is at the beginning he plays covers and this woman convinces him to play originals. And then he plays originals and we get it. We don’t have to like the originals.
Craig: But he’s grown.
Mike: We just get that there’s a growth happening. We can relate to the growth.
Craig: Well and even then, in your moment, the turning point, you see a guy laugh. I mean —
Craig: I mean, you were kind of close on one guy.
Mike: I’m glad you noticed that.
Craig: Yeah. And then I see you going, “Holy shit. Someone laughed.” You know.
Mike: I can’t believe someone laughed.
John: Your reaction is more important than his reaction was.
Craig: Absolutely. And it was great that it wasn’t like [loud laughter], you know, it was just one guy going, ha! [laughs] And you’re like, huh.
Mike: The guy laughing is our producer, Jacob Jaffke. He’s the audience member.
Craig: Yeah, he’s kind of just slouching.
Mike: Yeah, it was a great moment.
Craig: Yeah, it was very smartly done.
I have sort of a question that’s more about your style of comedy.
Craig: Partly it feels modern to me because it is confessional. And I think there is a spirit of confession in modern comedy, you see it with Louis C.K., and you see it with Patton Oswalt. And you see it with a lot of guys.
John: We see it with Lena Dunham. You see it with —
Craig: Absolutely. Yeah.
John: Or, were you talking about this on stage?
Craig: I’m talking about on stage. And it’s not like that that’s new because Richard Pryor was doing it, too, but it’s very au courant. But you’re also very old fashioned actually in a way. You don’t curse in your act, so very kind of Seinfeld in that regard, or Cosby. And like Cosby, there’s a craft. You’re not winging it. But you’re not delivering something that feels over-workshopped or stale either.
Where do you see yourself sitting kind of in the continuum of comedy?
Mike: It’s funny you should say that because my new tour, which if people are interested in seeing me, for exact time/tour dates, you can see thirty cities, it’s going to be 100 cities, which is like I haven’t really told people.
Craig: Oh, we’re breaking news. Nice.
Mike: Yeah, breaking news. And it’s called Thank God for Jokes. And it’s all about what jokes mean to me. And I think what they mean to everyone. Which is to say that I feel like the moments in my life where I felt closest to anyone, to my family, to my wife, to my friends is when we share jokes.
And I feel like culturally we’re not really allowed to tell jokes at work. We’re not really allowed to tell jokes to strangers. You can do it, but there’s a real risk to it. And I think that the reward of comedy is worth the risk, like taking a chance and making a joke with someone actually payoff in this way that’s kind of amazing.
Mike: And makes you feel really close to people. And I actually talk about cursing in the show because I have four albums out there at this point and none of them have curses on them, none of them have explicit lyrics. And the reason is — I’m not proud of this reason, but it’s true — is that when I started doing comedy my mom was so ashamed that I was doing it that she said, “Just don’t become one of those dirty comedians.”
Mike: And I said okay.
John: Oh little Mike.
Mike: She goes, “You don’t have to use words like that. I mean, for example, Oprah is very funny.” And I was like —
Craig: Hysterical. [laughs]
Mike: So be kind of Oprah.
John: You need to be more like Oprah.
Craig: You are almost as funny as Oprah.
Mike: Yeah, I’m working on it. But so I didn’t curse.
And then oddly it ended up being this really good turn in my writing because even if you think about, you don’t want to really as a writer say any word 75 times more than another word. If I walked on stage and said “avocado” 75 times in an hour, after awhile people would be like, “This guy talks about avocados a lot. Is he selling us guacamole?”
And it ended up being a really good thing. In this new show I do curse a few times, but it’s with real purpose. And so, yeah.
John: So, this new show, is it more like standup, or is it more like a one-man show?
Mike: Right now it is standup. The way my shows have evolved over the years is by the time I film it it probably will have more of an arc to it. I have in mind an arc, but I want to let it evolve.
John: Well, let’s talk about what else you’re going to be doing because you said you’re working on two screenplays, so these are things for yourself to direct or things for other people?
Mike: Those are two films for myself to direct and I think in one of them I play a big part and one I play an ensemble part. And it’s really funny because a lot of times people go, “Who are you writing them for?” And I’m like, “I’m writing them for me.”
I feel like it’s almost old Hollywood in a way to say, to brag and say I’m writing this for New Line. It’s like I feel bad when people say stuff like that. I’m like, “Oh, too bad about you.”
Mike: How’s that going to get ruined.
Craig: That’s my life. Okay.
Mike: I’m sorry!
John: And do you see yourself sticking to films? Are you going to try to do some television? If I were a television executive I would say, “Well, let’s give him a show.”
Mike: I feel like, and I get that phone call quite a bit, more than one would think, and I don’t want to do that. Because I don’t think I have a lot to contribute to television and I feel like — I look at Louis and Lena and I just go, “You guys got it. You’re doing it. Way to go.” And I just don’t think that I have much to add to that conversation. But I think in film I — I think you got to do what you love. I love films. I feel like that’s why I like the podcast so much because you guys do, too.
There’s something about that 90 minute to two-hour experience that you cannot compare to anything.
Craig: And one story that resolves that exists in its own space. I’m with you. That’s always been, you know, that’s what I… — I mean, I talk about television all the time with people and I don’t, I think that’s the best way you just put it. That’s what I’m going to start saying instead of, “Uh…” which is my usual answer. I can just say, “I don’t think I have anything to add to that conversation.” That’s exactly right.
I think in terms of — and you clearly do as well, which is interesting, because standup comedy is very segmented. It’s serialized. And you can see how somebody like Jerry Seinfeld was able to just serialize it. But you really do tell encapsulated stories with conclusions. So, it makes total sense.
There’s something, you know, you said you love movies. And you seem like a very positive person, which I love, and when I was watching your movie there’s that scene where you talk to that other comedian and he’s so pissed off.
Mike: Yeah. Marc Maron plays the character, Marc Mulheren.
Craig: Well, no, not Marc Maron.
Mike: Oh, Alex Karpovsky plays the guy, yeah.
Craig: Marc Maron actually was very kind of avuncular. I liked his spin. He was sort of like, “Hey kid, it’ll get better. Now let me go bang this chick.”
Why, I think as somebody that works in comedy but would just be terrified to do what you do, to go on stage and do this, it seems so hard and it seems so raw and vulnerable. Why are comedians so mean to each other?
Craig: Can’t they just love each other?
John: Are they mean to each other? Or is that just one perception?
Mike: I think Craig’s right. I’ve been doing, at UCB Theater in New York, I’ve been recently doing an improv show. I was in an improv group in college actually with Nick Kroll who is another actor.
Craig: Yeah, funny guy.
Mike: Yeah. And I’ve been doing this show in New York called Mike Birbiglia’s dream. It’s a long form improv show with Chris Gethard who is super talented. And sometimes Vanessa Bayer does it, and Aidy Bryant, and Christina Gausas, and Tami Sagher, and all these really great people. And I love the camaraderie of it. That’s why I do it.
With standup comics, a little less camaraderie there. It’s a little bit — I don’t know, it’s a little bit of a Rat Packy thing. People break each other’s balls a lot.
Craig: Sure. But that’s different. I sense that there’s a —
Mike: Yeah. But I agree with you. I don’t know what to say about it. I think it’s a very lone wolf profession.
John: Yeah, is it because of the lifestyle? Is it because of the touring and because you’re always on your own and you don’t have your own group?
Mike: Yeah. I think you spend a lot of time alone and there’s just, I don’t know.
Craig: There’s that sense that people are clawing for some diminishing resource that’s being dangled in front of them, you know, when in the movie he says, “All my friends, they’re hacks and they’re getting sitcoms.” You know, that idea that there’s some closing window of success.
Mike: Yeah, I agree. And I think on your episode about positive moviegoing, the title of the episode Positive Moviegoing, I really liked how you guys were talking about screenwriters want other screenwriters to do well.
Craig: Largely. [laughs]
Mike: For the most part.
Mike: Cinephiles, I mean, I consider myself just a lover of movies. I just want movies to be great. Like this year, I love Spectacular Now, and Frances Ha, and I love Gravity. You know, and those are three very different types of films. And I loved that they were all made. And I want more made. I want more great movies.
Craig: Yeah, screenwriters, maybe it’s because it’s not us, it’s our work. We write screenplays, we hand them over. They’re made. We make them sometimes. But you guys, it’s you, it’s your faces. It’s your voices. And it becomes very personal. I could see that where it’s sort of like, okay, if John hands me a script or I hand him a script and we go back and help each other and say, “Well what about this? What about this?” That’s about the work.
If John walks off a stage and I’m like, “No, no, no. Your face — your hands, what are your hands doing buddy?”
John: Yeah, everything is wrong. Let’s talk about from the perspective of a 20-year-old college kid listening to this right now. And so he’s like, “I want to do what Mike Birbiglia is doing, that thing where I’m writing for myself and performing stuff.” How would that kid get started? What’s the roadmap for him or her?
Craig: Sleep disorder. [laughs]
John: Figure out what your biggest, strangest tick is and really dwell on that.
Mike: It is a really hard thing to say. And I think, I’m sure you guys have this with screenwriters all the time where it’s like, so I always feel like saying, “So the path is there is no path. And I’m sorry about that.” And you have to figure out what it is by studying what other people’s paths are. There’s tons of books on it. There’s this podcast. I would honestly say listen to every episode of this podcast to people who are aspiring writers. It is a wealth of information and it’s free.
Craig: There’s our promo. There it is. [laughs]
Mike: It is really a service. And what writing comes down to, being a performer, too, a writer-performer is you have to write and you have to perform. And that means you have to write anything and you need to perform anywhere. And because it’s about the ten thousand hours that Malcolm Gladwell talks about. You have to get on the stage for ten thousand hours. You have to write for ten thousand hours.
Craig: You drove around from town to town. I mean, that happens.
Mike: I hosted lip sync contests. I performed in the center of a walkathon for lupus in a gymnasium, you know. I mean, these are real life stories. This is still my life. I mean, I get booked at corporate events where I’m performing for bankers. And I have to do it. And, like, it sucks. It’s not fun. But it’s part of my job.
Craig: You should open with that. “This sucks.”
John: “I resent being here.”
Mike: This isn’t fun!
Craig: Yeah. “This is not fun. It’s part of a job. But you guys understand what it’s like to do something that sucks, that’s not fun. You work for AT&T.”
John: Yeah. And in about two hours I’m no longer working for AT&T and you’re still stuck working for AT&T.
Mike: You guys are really good at this.
Craig: I can’t believe that half of you haven’t killed yourselves by now.
Mike: You guys are coming up with great ways to not get the check afterwards.
Craig: We’re really good at that.
John: That’s how it works. But what you’re saying in general is what we kind of say on the podcast about screenwriting in general. There’s no one path that sort of goes through it. And so you can’t get started until you get started. And you have to write. And in this case of performing, you have to find places to perform. And whatever those places are you have to do it. And just make that leap and trust that you’re not going to — you will fall on your face, and that’s okay.
Mike: Yeah. I remember in Washington, DC when I was starting out, I would go — there were not — this is in the late ’90s, there were not standup comedy open mics. I would go to music open mics and I would sign up. And then they would say my name and I would walk up and I would do standup comedy. No one is expecting standup comedy.
Craig: Right. The guy says, “Um, that was a comedian.” [laughs]
Mike: And a lot of times it’s pushing a square peg into a round hole, or whatever that expression is, and it sucks.
John: People always forget that Lena Dunham made two movies before she made Tiny Furniture.
John: And so she just started. And she didn’t ask for permission. She just went and did it.
Craig: Well, you know, people ask us how do you get started, how do you break in, da, da, da, tell me how you…
And I’ve done it. We’ve done it. We’ve both told the “how we got started” story. But always with the caveat this could have only happened to me.
Mike: That’s right.
Craig: There’s no one else that could possibly succeed following the Mike Birbiglia plan. Not possible. Even if you replicated all of it and jumped out of a window, you can’t do it. The only thing that we individually have to offer is what’s unique to ourselves, which means that we’re going to all start differently.
The only thing I see that is common throughout all these stories, other than some — hopefully some — level of talent and some level of drive, is honesty with one’s self.
Mike: I agree.
Craig: I just don’t know how delusional people can make it. And there’s a lot of delusional people out there who substitute delusional confidence for substance.
Mike: I always say that when I go back to the screenwriting class, I studied under this guy, John Glavin, taught me screenwriting in college. And whenever I go back I always say as a writer all you have to give is yourself.
Craig: That’s it. That’s all you’ve got.
Mike: And if you’re not willing to give yourself, go home.
It’s time for One Cool Things. Did you come prepared for the One Cool Thing? You can take a pause while we —
Mike: Yeah, I can pause. I’m going to pause.
Craig: I got to pull mine up on my thing here, because I wrote it down in my thing.
Mike: I want to do the one that you guys did a few things ago, like Knock Knock, where you knock your phone.
Craig: Oh yeah. That’s great. I use it all the time.
Mike: That’s so cool.
Craig: It seems like it might have updated.
John: It did update.
Craig: It’s getting much, much better. They must have listened to me.
John: They listened to Craig complain about it enough.
Craig: They must have listened to the center of the world. Yup.
John: So, while Craig and Mike are figuring out their One Cool Things, I will tell you my One Cool Thing is actually a podcast One Cool Thing is that we finally have an app for Scriptnotes.
Mike: Oh, great news.
John: I sent you the link to this and you didn’t even open it.
Craig: No you didn’t. You totally did not send me the link to this.
John: Okay. Well, I’ll show it to you on my phone.
Craig: How dare you make an app and not tell me.
John: So, there’s now an app. The whole reason why we switched to our library over from where we were hosting to this new thing which was complicated was because there was this hope of being able to offer an app so people could listen to all the back episodes and all the episodes we’ve done on one handy app.
So, if you are listening to us on iTunes, that will continue to work great, and our last 20 episodes will always be free for people to listen to and that’s great. If you have the USB drive and want to buy the USB drive with the first 100, that’s always an option.
But what the Scriptnotes App lets you do, it’s available for iOS, for your iPhone and for Android, it lets you listen to any of the episodes of the show. And if you want to listen to those early episodes there’s a monthly subscription which is — we’ve already talked about the monthly subscription.
John: But it’s $1.99 a month and it lets you listen to any episode from anywhere back. The Netflix model of all you can eat. So, if you want to subscribe for a month and listen to 100 episodes and then cancel, that is absolutely welcome. And you can do that.
Craig: Does this charge recur?
John: The charge recurs.
Craig: Oh, so we’re like porn now?
John: We are basically.
Craig: Oh, well, it’s worked for them.
John: It’s worked great for them. So, cancel after a month if you have caught up and don’t want to listen to more.
Craig: No one is going to cancel.
John: No one is going to cancel.
Craig: They’re going to find these $2 charges on Grandma Tilly’s bill in 2070. And I love it.
John: So, if you would like the Scriptnotes App it is available right now in the iPhone App Store.
Craig: I’m so excited. The best thing about doing the podcast with John is that I know no more about what’s happening than anyone else listening.
John: So, Craig, you will check your email and you’ll see it’s there. So, this is what the little app looks like.
Craig: Yeah, I’m going to check my email. You totally didn’t send that to me. You totally did not.
John: I totally did.
Craig: You totally didn’t.
John: And so here’s all our episodes.
Craig: What?! Oh, come on, that’s awesome.
John: So, it looks a little iOS 6-y because it’s actually the Libsyn people who do most of the podcasts in the world. It’s really their app with our sort of content in it. So, it doesn’t look as good as Ryan Nelson, our own programmer had done himself, but it works. So, it’s there for you and it’s available on iOS and even on Android because we don’t want to be just —
John: Snobby Apple people. So, that’s my One Cool Thing.
Craig: All right. That’s pretty freaking awesome.
Mike: I got one.
Craig: All right. Let’s hear it.
Mike: Well, actually I did a really small part in this film this fall called The Fault in Our Stars. And it’s with Shailene Woodley and a bunch of really great actors. But the cool thing is it’s based on a YA novel by John Green of the same name, The Fault in Our Stars. And I guess, I have to say before I read it I had never read a YA genre book, because I thought it wasn’t for me. But it’s like this really compelling book about these two kids who have cancer and they fall in love in the cancer support group. And it’s about their journey.
And I just think it’s one of the best books I’ve read in years. It’s really touching. For any age.
Craig: YA novels are actually — one of the things I love about that genre is that they are still dedicated to storytelling, to proper storytelling.
Craig: They don’t need to soak you in a —
John: Wild conspiracies. The Dan Browns of the world.
Craig: Or just confuse me. You know, like a DeLillo novel. You’re confused, you know, or Pynchon. They’re not aspiring to that. They’re just trying to tell a good story. And there is something nice about a good well crafted piece of mainstream narrative.
I remember reading the Hunger Games books, and I struggle sometimes reading first person books, but I was like these are really well put together. So, all right, that is cool.
This is kind of a One Cool Thing in advance of Christmas because people are looking for gift ideas. And I try not to put things that are like super expensive, but this is kind of like $300.
John: That’s expensive.
Craig: It’s expensive. Okay, so it’s $300. All right. But it’s Christmas.
Mike: Okay, yeah. So, maybe your one gift.
Craig: I love karaoke. I love singing. I love karaoke. But the home karaoke modules and things —
John: Are terrible.
Craig: They’re terrible.
John: You shouldn’t use those.
Craig: They’re awful. Until…there’s this new thing now called Singtrix. And it’s pretty cool looking because basically they have a pretty good speaker and then they have this module that lets you actually properly affect your voice. You can add some reverb, or this or that, and they’ve broken out also the different parts of the music so that you can adjust it and make it sound good, so it doesn’t sound terrible. And then their library is enormous, but it’s based on, it’s through an app.
So, then you mount your iPad there. It comes with your microphone. And if your family or your friends love karaoke, and you have $300, you have more money than sense, Singtrix!
John: The model of this, is it a razor and blades model? Are they charging your per song also?
Craig: No. I believe that you have access to their library as part of your purchase of the $300 exorbitantly expensive Singtrix.
Mike: But that could be for the whole family.
Craig: That is in fact for the whole — so that is a gift that the family got for itself that really is just about the one person in the house that wants it, imposing it upon everyone else, and then angrily insisting that they will enjoy it, which is what will happen in my house with me, explaining to my kids.
John: “No, it’s your turn to sing a song. You will sing the song.”
Craig: “I said we would do things together as a family which means you’re all going to sit there and listen to me do something for myself.”
Mike: [as Craig] You will sing the song!
[as John] I think that you should sing the song.
Craig: Yeah. Sing it!
Mike: [as John] I think that you should sing the song.
Craig: Just sing it.
Mike: [as John] Well why not sing the song.
Craig: Ugh, sing it already.
John: There’s nothing better than when you sort of force your kid to like play a board game as a family and like they resent every role of the dice.
Craig: Any time a parent says to a child, “We’re going to do something together as a family,” the child knows they’re about to do something they don’t want to do.
Craig: Nothing is more anti-family than family activities.
John: Except half an hour into it they’re totally enjoying it and you can remind them, by the way, you did not want to do this.
Craig: You’re the worst dad ever. That is the move you should never do. “By the way, if you go back a half an hour ago you will see that you were acting like an asshole.”
Craig: And then you’ve lost them again.
Mike: I also want to say, I know this doesn’t count as my One Cool Thing, but my friend Mike Lavoie who was a producer on Sleepwalk with Me and worked with me for many years, like seven or eight years, introduced me to your website many years ago. He was the one who introduced me to it. And so I want to say hi to him.
John: Very nice.
Craig: A little shout out.
John: A little shout out. Mike, I am so glad you came in here.
Mike: That was awesome.
John: You’re a fantastic guest on our show. For like a damn near stranger, I can’t believe how well this —
Craig: He’s a super fan.
Craig: A super fan.
Mike: Avid listener.
John: And that helps. It does help a lot.
Craig: Writer, director, actor.
John: But talk about things we didn’t even know about, the performance stuff, the standup stuff. It was great.
Mike: It was all the insecurity I had as we were going through is that people will go, “They’re assuming as they talk about it that we like his movie, too, and we hate it.”
Craig: Oh, you mean the people at home listening?
Mike: Oh yeah.
Craig: Oh, yeah, they may very well hate it.
Mike: Yes. So, if you are writing in the comments, don’t write like, “Hey, by the way, I hate it.” We know. I know you exist. You don’t have to write about that.
Craig: Yes, we’re aware that some of you out there. No, if you hate this movie —
Mike: Then maybe it doesn’t apply to you.
Craig: Yeah. And also I hate you. Stop listening.
John: Thank you all so much and join us again next week. Oh, we should do our normal boilerplate here at the end. So, if you have questions for me, or for Craig, or for Mike Birbiglia, we’re all on Twitter. I’m @johnaugust.
Craig: I’m @clmazin.
Mike: I’m @birbigs.
John: And @birbigs would be a great place for you to find out more information about his upcoming tour and for new dates. You’re going to see him all over your television on various talk shows as well, so tune in for those.
Craig: Yeah, lesser shows than this, like Conan.
John: But while you’re on iTunes leaving us a comment about our show, you should also check out his movies and specials and comedy albums.
Mike: Yeah. Sleepwalk with Me. My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend.
John: They’re both there as movies and then also your albums are there as well.
Craig: Buy all of it. Just buy all of it.
John: Just buy it. Don’t think about it.
Craig: Don’t bust my chops over here. Just buy everything.
John: Buy it all.
John: Cool. Great. Thanks Mike.
Craig: Thanks guys.
- Write in and tell us if we’re wrong
- Mike Birbiglia, and on Wikipedia, IMDb, Twitter and iTunes
- The Tricky Part write up in The New York Times, and in book form on Amazon
- Use BroadwayBox.com to find discounted shows in New York
- Download the Scriptnotes app now for iOS and Android devices
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
- Singtrix home karaoke
- Outro by Scriptnotes listener Cole Parzenn