The original post for this episode can be found here.

Craig Mazin: Hello and welcome. My name is Craig Mazin.

Mike Birbiglia: And my name is Mike Birbiglia.

Craig: And this is Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.

Mike: To screenwriters.

Craig: [laughs] Today on the podcast, John has been replaced, upgraded, possibly downgraded, we’ll find out in a few moments with comedian, filmmaker, friend of the podcast, and plain old just friend me, Mike Birbiglia. And we will be discussing his new movie, Don’t Think Twice, which is in theaters now. And we’ll also be answering some listener questions. All told, I believe based on the circumstances, this will be the best single episode of the podcast we’ve ever done. No pressure.

Mike: I believe so, yes.

Craig: Mike Birbiglia, welcome.

Mike: Thank you very much.

Craig: So, you are here in Los Angeles on a bit of tour, bit of a press tour.

Mike: I am.

Craig: To promote your new film, Don’t Think Twice, which you have written, you directed, you star in as one of the ensemble.

Mike: With Keegan-Michael Key and Gillian Jacobs and others. Yeah.

Craig: And others. I like that they all just get shoved into others.

Mike: Kate Micucci. Tami Sagher. And Chris Gethard are others.

Craig: Very good. I have seen this film. Aside from being a terrific movie, I think it also has a lot of relevance. The film and its topic has a lot of relevance for what we do as filmmakers and for what our people at home who listen to the show care about. So, first, why don’t–

Mike: It may crush them.

Craig: Yeah.

Mike: It may rip their hearts in two.

Craig: That’s all I’ve ever wanted.

Mike: [laughs]

Craig: Right? I mean, you know me.

Mike: Yes. You’re doom and gloom. Or you want–

Craig: Winnowing. Winnowing.

Mike: Winnowing.

Craig: A constant winnowing. I just don’t – I hate the idea that somehow this podcast or anything that is encouraging might keep somebody from pursuing a career in which they would discover some life-saving medicine.

Mike: I agree.

Craig: And instead they’re working on as a fourth level staff writer on a–

Mike: My wife and I talk about that all the time. I did a benefit for – because my wife and I always talk about how it doesn’t seem like science is something people are – the kids are aspiring towards, because we need someone to cure different types of cancer and what not. And I did a leukemia/lymphoma society benefit recently, and there was one of the sort of the top researchers in the field was speaking and did a bit with Ellie Kemper. It was like Nick Kroll, Ellie Kemper, a bunch of people. And I just did stand up. John Oliver was in it.

And I asked this guy, because, you know, you never get to talk to these people, the top researchers in the field. And I said, “My wife and I always feel like, tell me if this is wrong, like there’s not enough young people who are interested in science in America. Like everyone is interested in sort of getting famous or whatever.” And he said, “Yeah, it’s a huge problem.” And the other huge problem is the US government gives very few grants for research.

Craig: Right. Well, it is – we live I think in a culture that celebrates dreams, chasing your dreams, don’t give up on your dreams. Dreams, dreams, dreams, dreams, dreams. And science isn’t so much about a romantic dream. It’s about rigor, and commitment, and hard work.

Mike: Discipline. Helping the planet. There’s this great op-ed, Angela Duckworth I believe wrote it, in the New York Times around the time of commencement speeches where she said, “If I were to give one, I would say don’t think about what you want to be when you grow up. Think about what’s the world I want to live in and how can I help be a part of that?”

Craig: Well, that’s a wonderful message that apparently did not sink in to any of the characters in your movie. Because your characters are absolutely right in the pocket of dreamers.

Mike: They are.

Craig: They are all dreaming of becoming big comic stars. So tell us about, just give us a general sketch of what this movie is, what it’s about.

Mike: So, this movie, Don’t Think Twice, is about a group of best friends in an improv group, and it’s sort of a Big Chill-esque sort of dramedy where someone gets a chance to audition for like a Saturday Night Live type of show and the rest of them don’t. And they’re losing their lease on their theater we learn very early in the film. And it’s this staring in the mirror of these characters in their 30s, late 30s, and early 40s, going, “What am I going to do? What do I do now?” Which is something that I think me and a lot of my friends have faced in our 30s.

Craig: It’s a true story, even though it’s fictional, because that is the nature of these more well-known improv troupes, Second City, and the Groundlings.

Mike: Yeah. And UCB. And all these places.

Craig: I’m sure there are many people who participate in those for the joy of it. And there are many people who participate in those because that’s where they want to be. But it does seem like the advertisement is this is how you get onto Saturday Night Live, and then that’s how you become a movie star.

Mike: Except it’s unspoken advertisement, I think. I don’t think that UCB, for example, is saying this is how you get on SNL. But it’s hard when you read an article about Kate McKinnon and saw that she was in a sketch comedy group there. And then you see that Aidy Bryant was in Second City. It’s hard not to draw the connection.

Craig: You’re movie, I think, suggests that a lot of the people that do enroll to take classes, as well as the people who are there teaching and part of the troupes, they’re certainly aware. I mean–

Mike: I think so. Yeah.

Craig: Yeah, you are proposing, I mean, it’s an interesting thing. The way you are proposing a very unromantic view.

Mike: It is.

Craig: You’re movie is assiduously unromantic in its portrayal of the creative life and creative ambition and the petty, often envious, nature of creative people. Which I loved, because I thought it was so true and so brave. But I’m kind of curious why every movie – like you could write about anything, right? And this is your first truly fictional–

Mike: Fictional piece. Yeah, it is.

Craig: And you wanted to write this. Right? Like the anti-love letter to yourself.

Mike: Oh my god. [laughs]

Craig: And your friends, right? Why?

Mike: Oh god.

Craig: Why?

Mike: When you phrase it that way, Craig. Well, when I think about it, my first film, Sleepwalk With Me, is about success, is this is a film about failure. You know, I think someone kicking around in my head was, after the first movie, I had a lot of people come up to me and say I started doing standup because I saw Sleepwalk With Me. And I thought, well that’s not what the movie is about.

Craig: Yeah.

Mike: The movie is actually about finding your voice in whatever field that you might be in. And so I felt like why shouldn’t there be a movie about failure and how life is unfair.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

Mike: You deal with studios all the time. I don’t deal with them. But I imagine they’re not loving a pitch like that. Like the movie is about failure. How does that go over at Universal?

Craig: I think it’s cute that you thought it would even get that far.

Mike: [laughs] Like I’d get a meeting.

Craig: Right. Like they don’t ask you what the movie is about. They’re like, “First of all, we’ll tell you what we want movies about. Is it one of these four things? No? No.”

Mike: Wow.

Craig: Is it about a superhero? Is it about an explosion? Is it franchise-able?

Mike: Wow.

Craig: No? How will this play overseas?

Mike: Oh my god.

Craig: No? Right. So all of those questions, you would be able to happily check no to. But this – listen, independent film more than ever is distinct and discrete, clearly separate from studio fare. There was a while where every studio was like, “We want a Miramax, we want a Sony Pictures Classic. We’ll all start doing that.”

Mike: Right.

Craig: Not anymore. So now it’s back to independent. And this is about as independent as it gets.

Mike: They’ve all kind of disbanded that part of their company, right?

Craig: Well, they were like, “So, after we made 20 of these semi-independent films, we made like $12.”

Mike: There was like Paramount Vantage or something, right?

Craig: Absolutely.

Mike: And there were all these Universal blah, blah, blah. I don’t know, like you know this better than I do.

Craig: Universal had Focus.

Mike: Yes! That’s right.

Craig: Which was their specialty arm. Paramount had Vantage. Warner Bros had Warner Bros Pictures Independent I think it was called. They did March of the Penguins, I want to say.

Mike: Sony still has Sony Pictures Classics, but they do less movies I think than they used to.

Craig: Disney had Miramax.

Mike: Yes.

Craig: They finally got rid of it completely. And then Fox had Searchlight.

Mike: The jury is out: Hollywood doesn’t like making independent films, or small films.

Craig: They do not. It turns out they like making Hollywood movies. But the good news is you are the beneficiary of that. You have made a true independent film in all regards. I love it when independent films are movies that the studious wouldn’t have also made. And this is clearly one of them. I’m kind of curious, when you go down the path of being the writer and director, and I assume you’re also a producer of the movie.

Mike: Yeah.

Craig: And you’re in the cast. So the downside of working for a studio is you have multiple layers of people meddling, each with an agenda, some of whom are well-intentioned, and some of whom are not. You have nobody technically meddling. So then the question is–

Mike: It’s all on you.

Craig: And I’m always fascinated with this, and I guess this will lead into our how we kind of interacted on this early on, but how do you deal with the struggle when you are entirely in charge of something? Okay, if somebody tells me they don’t like a thing, and I make a change, am I somehow selling myself out? And on the other hand, if someone tells me they don’t like something and I say, “No, you’re wrong,” am I somehow being self-indulgent? How do you play that balance?

Mike: That’s a great question actually. I would have these readings, as you know, because you were at one of them at my house. I encourage all screenwriters, aspiring screenwriters, to do this. My friends are actors and writers. They don’t have to be. They can just be friends, random people, just reading the script out loud. And I would offer pizza afterwards.

Craig: You did.

Mike: And it was always great pizza.

Craig: It was really good. Well, because you live in Brooklyn. Even bad Brooklyn pizza is good.

Mike: With [Colley], you know, [Tecca], Luzzo, like I made sure the pizza was good. And at the beginning of each reading I would say, “This script might be bad, but the pizza is phenomenal, and so it’s all going to be fine. Like don’t worry about it.”

Craig: Actually it was curiously comforting to hear that.

Mike: Yeah. Well, because, you know, and this harkens to your question, or this dovetails to your question which is like I would encourage people to give me their harshest criticism. Like I would invite you and Brian Koppelman and Phil Lord and Nicole Holofcener, and I would–

Craig: Michael Weber.

Mike: Yeah. Michael Weber. Greta Gerwig. Like I did ten of these. A zillion people came. But I invite people who are better than me at it. [laughs] I want people who are smarter, better. Ira Glass. You know, like people to come at me hard with notes and say the toughest thing.

I mean, you said some stuff to me that was so tough in the early process and it was so helpful. That’s the thing that I think writers, particularly aspiring writers, don’t get. The idea of early on, and I didn’t get in my 20s either, to be clear, is that you actually want the toughest notes.

Craig: You do.

Mike: Not because they’re right, but because you want to know how your vision is being conveyed. Is it being conveyed well or not well?

Craig: Right.

Mike: Is what’s in your brain working with people, or is it not working? Because it doesn’t mean – just because you read my script and something’s not clicking for you doesn’t mean that the idea in my brain is wrong. It means that the idea in my brain isn’t on the page.

Craig: Right.

Mike: I heard Ron Howard say in an interview once that he shows rough cuts of his movies to strangers, not to find out what the vision of the movie is, but to find out if the vision of the movie is connecting with people. And if it’s not, then he makes a ton of changes.

Craig: Well, that’s something that you inherently understand because you’re a stage performer. And there’s this – I don’t know if you ever read this book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Mike: I don’t know that one.

Craig: It’s a fantastic book. A very difficult book. It sounds like it would be fun. It’s actually maybe the most dense and difficult to understand book I’ve ever read in my life.

Mike: Sounds great.

Craig: Written by this guy named Robert Pirsig, who’s a moral philosopher, among other things. And in it he investigates this question of quality. What is quality? What’s good? And where he eventually ends up is that there’s no such thing as an inherent quality, but it’s not also true that just because lots of people like something that it is quality.

He said ultimately quality comes down to the relationship between a thing and the people observing it and listening to it. It’s about a relationship. Comics, standup comics, I think know this better than anybody. Right.

You go up there – I’d have to assume, I’ve never done it, but I have to assume that you have been in two different rooms on two different nights, feeling the same, telling the same stories and jokes, and getting two completely different responses.

Mike: Constantly. Oftentimes I’ll take jokes to like three different places. I’ll take them to somewhere like Cincinnati, I’ll take them to Brooklyn, and I’ll take them to Manhattan. Three completely different responses. And what I want, ultimately, and Cincinnati could be Iowa City, it could be St. Louis, whatever. What I want is the jokes to work in all three places, because what I’m ultimately trying to grasp at is something that’s human.

And when I would show people drafts of the script and drafts of the movie, or cuts of the movie, it’s the same thing. I want old people, I want young people, I want everybody to have an experience that ultimately is just a human experience.

Craig: It seems to me that you, through your experience as a standup, would have a kind of a comfort that I’m not sure a typical screenwriter gets. Because you have experienced so many times–

Mike: Being hammered. The audience just crushing you.

Craig: But knowing that the material itself, maybe it’s just, okay, this group here. But this works generally. So, let me not go home and tear it all up.

Mike: Agreed.

Craig: You know, so that helps you keep your – because I, you know–

Mike: It even makes me lose my breath hearing you describe it, but it’s so true. Yeah, I have shows all the time where I bring something to the Comedy Cellar in Manhattan and it doesn’t work, but I know the seed of what’s there is right.

Craig: And so you experience this rejection, but you do not turn in on yourself. That is an amazing ability. It’s something I struggle with all the time.

Mike: I think we all do, yeah.

Craig: You know, someone says, “I don’t like it,” and I immediately think, oh, okay, what do I need to do to make you like it? That’s not actually a great instinct.

Mike: Yeah.

Craig: At all. But it’s the normal instinct, I think. It’s how we’re brought up. You know, well, if somebody is upset with you, stop doing that. You know what I mean?

Mike: Yes. Yes.

Craig: But this is different and so I went to your house. By the way, you live next door to Mari Heller.

Mike: Marielle Heller and Jorma Taccone. Power directing couple.

Craig: Amazing. She was on our show as well. That building, it’s a duplex, right?

Mike: Well, we share a wall.

Craig: You share a wall. If there’s like a gas leak in that building, American culture will suffer. Primarily because we lost the writer of MacGruber.

Mike: That’s correct.

Craig: Because you know how I feel about MacGruber?

Mike: Oh, I feel identically about MacGruber. It’s one of the great comedies in American history.

Craig: The greatest. The greatest.

Mike: Along with Popstar, Jorma’s recent movie.

Craig: I haven’t yet seen it. But I’m going to, because I believe in him.

Mike: You will love it.

Craig: I will. If I loved MacGruber. So that’s an amazing home.

So I go to your home and you have this very impressive group. You have Frank Oz, by the way, reading one of the parts.

Mike: Yeah.

Craig: I didn’t know that was Frank Oz.

Mike: That’s what Ira said.

Craig: I didn’t know. I walked in, I sat down–

Mike: He’s like, “You’re getting notes from Yoda?”

Craig: I know! So I showed up, I sat down next to this guy, I didn’t really know anybody except for you and Mike Weber, who hadn’t shown up yet. And he’s just this nice man.

Mike: He is.

Craig: And I just started chatting with him and we were just like, you know, laughing and stuff. And then someone told me that was Frank Oz and my heart just – you know, like when your heart sinks and rises at the same time. You’re like, I’m scared and thrilled. I mean, it’s funny, like Yoda, but really for me, Grover.

Mike: I know.

Craig: It’s Grover. Like this man was there when I was four.

Mike: And he’s Cookie Monster.

Craig: I know. Miss Piggy.

Mike: He’s Miss Piggy. He’s Fozzie. He’s Animal.

Craig: Plus, he’s Frank Oz. I mean, the guy’s made some terrific movies.

Mike: Oh my god, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, What About Bob? You could list them all day.

Craig: Did he make In & Out?

Mike: Bowfinger. In & Out.

Craig: Amazing movie.

Mike: Yeah. I know.

Craig: Paul Rudnick script, I believe. Very funny guy.

Mike: Those films are a great example of films it doesn’t seem like Hollywood is making right now.

Craig: Because they aren’t.

Mike: What?

Craig: They’re not. They just don’t make them. They don’t.

Mike: And those are great comedies. Those are great studio comedies.

Craig: It’s a tale for another time. But that room was very impressive because you had intentionally assembled a lot of high powered people.

Mike: Wrecking crew.

Craig: A wrecking crew. And then exposed yourself to them. And then everybody has opinions. So many opinions.

Mike: Oh yeah.

Craig: And there were so many opinions that I made a choice to just write all my opinions down.

Mike: That was very generous of you.

Craig: Because ultimately, you can’t – I don’t know about you. I get into opinion overload where suddenly everything, my brain stops. I get numb.

Mike: Oh yeah. I had that. Every single reading.

Craig: It’s a weird feeling, isn’t it?

Mike: Yeah.

Craig: And you just want people to leave and take their pizza. Just get out of my house.

Mike: I would drink a lot.

Craig: [laughs] That’s healthy. I think that’s a great idea. Because from my understanding, drinking solves all emotional problems.

Mike: Yes. But, Craig, be cautious. Use it in moderation. No, there’s extreme stories.

Craig: Really?

Mike: Yeah. I’ll tell you. When the podcast ends, I’ll tell you all about it.

Craig: Sounds alarmist. Anyway, I want to talk to you about the paradox involved in writing a movie about a troupe of improvisational comedians. You’re doing the least improvisational thing there is, writing a screenplay.

Mike: Yeah.

Craig: And yet you somehow–

Mike: You’re trying to immortalize an ephemeral art from.

Craig: Correct. You are attempting to catch lightning in a bottle and freeze it, which of course then ruins it, right? There’s no way to have great improv that’s not improv’d. Everybody can smell it, right?

Mike: Yeah.

Craig: So how did you approach this from a screenwriting craft way?

Mike: I was doing a regular show at the Upright Citizens Brigade called Mike Birbiglia’s dream, where Tami Sagher from the movie and Chris Gethard from the movie and a rotating cast of people each week, Connor Ratliff, sometimes Aidy Bryant would play. Sometimes Gary Richardson would play. And we’d improvise every week and I would always ask as a prompt, “Has anyone had a hard day?”

And there’s a few, like in the movie where someone said like I saw my dad for the first time in ten years and he was driving a taxi. And that’s from a real show. And so I wouldn’t rip from the shows’ improv, actual improv, but I would rip sometimes the suggestion.

Craig: That’s fair.

Mike: And then I would free associate as though I were all the characters. And then I brought the cast to town early. Actually, Frank Oz gave me this piece of advice. When he came to the reading, he says, “The script is pretty much there. Just get the cast to town and take them bowling.”

Craig: Wow.

Mike: It’s something he does when he directs films. And it worked. We all went bowling.

Craig: Take them bowling?

Mike: Yeah, he said because if they’re believably friends, the movie works. If they’re not, it doesn’t.

Craig: He really is Yoda.

Mike: I know.

Craig: Why? [Yoda impression]. I mean, it works. It legitimately works that way. I want him to do that for me all the time. That’s great, great advice. Because the thing about the movie that buoys everything, I think, is the absolute believability of all of those characters. There isn’t one of them that feels like they’ve been dropped in by a screenwriter. And it’s the best compliment I can give you as a writer.

Mike: Thank you. And I will compliment you on something that you’ve said on the podcast before, and then you said to me – your notes on my specific script is, you were like, “Cut a character.” You and John have said this before, many times, I believe. Think about cutting a character. It’s easier for your cinematographer to make frames. It’s easier for the audience to follow these characters.

One of the things that we found in the edit is that we had to cut a whole plot line and a character back to like a minimal amount because the audience can’t always follow all these characters. When you have six principals, it’s like how many more characters can people juggle in their head?

Craig: One thing that has always surprised me – it never stops surprising me – are the confusions that audiences do experience. I think, you know, on studio sides, they’re always obsessed with confusing the audience. So, they think audiences are confused by details and plot, and that’s why in movies a lot of times people are telling you things in a way that feels insulting to your intelligence, because many people’s intelligence was not insulted by that information.

But mostly what people are confused by are the strangest things like, “I didn’t know that those two people were two different people until halfway through the movie when they were in a scene together.”

Mike: That’s why casting is crucial.

Craig: Yes. Yes.

Mike: I had to keep that in mind when casting the six principals. Do they look different enough from each other so people don’t think that person is that person?

Craig: Exactly.

Mike: It sounds like we’re exaggerating by the way, and it’s actually 100% true.

Craig: Even smart people. Very smart people will say, “I didn’t understand that that person was her boyfriend.”

Mike: For example, I will never be cast in a movie with Ike Barinholtz.

Craig: Well, hold on.

Mike: It’s not going to happen.

Craig: There’s a good reason for that. Ike Barinholtz, way funnier than you.

Mike: Wait, I will walk out of this podcast right now.

Craig: So much funnier. Better looking.

Mike: Better looking, sure.

Craig: Better looking you. Funnier. He’s basically the best version of you. He’s like, if I’m making a movie of your life, I’m casting him.

Mike: Well, Seth Rogan is moderating a Q&A of the movie this weekend, and I’m going to make a pitch to him privately. “Can I play all the Ike Barinholtz parts in your movie? Because I’m cheap. I’m cheaper. I’ll do it for less. It’ll be more fun.”

Craig: By the way, it’s that classic thing.

Mike: I look like him. You can sub him out.

Craig: Who’s Ike Barinholtz? Get me Ike Barinholtz. Get me Mike Birbiglia. The young Ike Barinholtz. Who is Mike Birbiglia? [laughs] Get me Ike Barinholtz. This is Hollywood. This is it.

Tell us about the rollout of your movie. Right now in theaters.

Mike: Yeah. So we’re in that stage where we’re being sort of tested in the major markets. So it’ll be like in Chicago, Detroit, Boston, DC, Seattle, Austin, Portland, Los Angeles, all that kind of stuff. And then if it does well, it could end up in 500 or 1,000 theaters. There’s no way to know.

Craig: And who is releasing – tell us about the business of this.

Mike: A company called the Film Arcade is releasing it. It’s a company owned by Miranda Bailey, who is a great producer, and run by Jason Beck and Andy Bohn, who are – I had a meeting with Miranda, and Andy, and Jason like right after Sleepwalk With Me came out. And they said, you know, we have this company. It’s a small distribution company. They did Afternoon Delight. They did James White, which was a good indie film from last year.

Craig: Right.

Mike: I think it’s a company – I hope I don’t get in trouble for saying this – but I think it’s a company that gets outbid a lot by companies like A24 and some larger mid-range sort of indie distribution companies.

Craig: Tough business to be in.

Mike: Tough business, yeah, out of the festivals. And so they were game for this idea of like I said, “Here’s what I learned from releasing the film with IFC Films last time. I learned that when I show up around the country that it works. That you end up with people who, I answer questions, I went to 10 or 15 cities with Sleepwalk With Me. And when you talk to people about your movie, they can kind of see how much you care about it.”

Craig: Right.

Mike: Because I really do care about these things I make. And I try not to put out garbage. And I try desperately not to. And so I said to them, I was like I want to do that bigger. I want to do 30 cities. And I want to really strategize with you guys. And they were game for that.

And we’re like in the middle of it right now. I mean, it is a doozy.

Craig: This one is bigger than Sleep was, right?

Mike: It is. And it has the potential to be bigger. I think like what’s weird about it is in some ways it’s filling a need for a type of film that studios aren’t quite making, like we were saying, which is movies like The Big Chill, and like Hannah and Her Sisters, and Beautiful Girls, even, Almost Famous. These like mid-range budget films that actually are–

Craig: But you’re movie isn’t even in that what they would call mid-range budget, in other words like studios will say we’re trying to not make the $35 million adult drama.

Mike: No, I know.

Craig: This doesn’t cost $35 million.

Mike: No, no, no. It’s a fraction of that.

Craig: But the point is that–

Mike: But that’s the niche, I think, we could fill.

Craig: Yeah. I think it does. I think there is this desire to see adults navigating life. This group of characters that you put together is kind of remarkable. I think they work together beautifully. I believed them all as improvisational comics. I mean, they all are.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. They’re all comedians and comedic actors. But I had them come to town two or three weeks early, which was, you know, this is an indie film, so you have to sort of beg people like on the phone. “Hey, it’s all about us being friends, so can you come to town and we’ll rehearse things. And I can’t pay you. It’ll be fun.”

Craig: Right. Don’t tell SAG.

Mike: Yeah. And so they came and we did these improv workshops with Liz Allen, who is sort of an improv guru and friend. And we did improv shows. UCB and the Magnet. We actually did shows–

Craig: I didn’t know that. That’s amazing. As a troupe?

Mike: Yeah, to the point where like–

Craig: How did it go? Just out of curiosity.

Mike: Pretty good.

Craig: Really?

Mike: Yeah, the shows were–

Craig: That’s a risky move, Mike. Because you’ve put your cast together. You do a show. And you guys bomb and you’re like, oh boy.

Mike: Well, yeah, it’s ridiculous. I mean, Gillian always makes the joke that we’re doing a photoshoot in New Jersey for photos that are in the movie. And then they were like, okay, next thing in your itinerary is you guys are performing at UCB at 8 o’clock. And she’s like, “We are?” So, yeah, I mean, and I would say to them, like you don’t have to participate a lot if you don’t want. You can. You can stay on the backlines.

But anyway the point is we improvised and, I mean, Gillian got to be so good as an improviser. She denies this, but like she’s incredible. She was recommended by Lena Dunham, who read the script and said you have to get Gillian Jacobs for this part. And I said I’ve watched everything she’s done, and I’ve never seen her play a part like this. She said, “Gillian Jacobs can do anything.” And it proved to be entirely true.

Craig: Amazing.

Mike: Yeah. I feel very lucky. I quote you a lot in interviews and they say, “Wait, Craig who?” And then they say, “How do you spell that?”

Craig: And why?

Mike: And then I spell it. I say it over and over again. And then finally they just say, “Can we just say an anonymous screenwriter?” And I say, sure, doesn’t matter.

Craig: Jew. Can we just say Jew? Some Jew?

Mike: I’m not in this part of the conversation.

Craig: [laughs]

Mike: [laughs] No, but I quote this thing that you’ve said before, which is that TV is a chemistry experiment and film is a biology experiment, which is to say that TV you can work on the next episode, change this, add this ingredient, add this chemical. Next season we’ll try this. Next, you know, whatever.

Movies, you put in this cinematographer, this director, this cast, this gaffer, this makeup artist together, here’s what happens. It works or it doesn’t work. And so when I think about this movie, I just think, oh, I just got lucky.

Craig: Well, yes. But no. I mean, that’s the thing. Chance favors the prepared mind. You did all the right things. There’s no denying that luck happens, right?

Mike: Of course.

Craig: But even then the luck that occurs, I think, is a product of the fact that you are a talented guy that people love. Right? So Lena Dunham isn’t just chatting with other people.

Mike: A niche group of people. Sure.

Craig: But they’re a great niche of people. And I actually think it’s in your nature to be able to lead people to do things they may not otherwise have been comfortable doing. Because you’re so nice, and you’re so humble. I don’t know if it’s fake. It’s the best fake humility in history if it’s fake.

Mike: Thank you. No, I mean, I feel terrible about myself all the time.

Craig: Fantastic. Because it really shines through. And I think that, you know, I’ve always said some people motivate through fear and other people people just want to hug and make feel better. And I want to make you feel – I think everybody is rooting for you. And you somehow managed to be that guy, but also then be a legitimate leader, because you can’t survive directing a movie. Especially, I mean, look, directing low budget movies is hard.

Mike: Yeah.

Craig: I mean, how many pages were you guys doing a day?

Mike: At least five a day.

Craig: Yeesh. It’s tough.

Mike: It’s hard.

Craig: It’s tough. And it’s exhausting. And you’re acting in it. So how do you do that when you are tired and you are worried about the 14 other things that are happening?

Mike: Well, when I was casting the movie, Jorma Taccone, who we were talking about earlier, said you’ve got to play Jack, because it’s the best written part. And I was not being falsely modest. I said I’m not talented enough to play Jack. Like Keegan has a thing. Keegan-Michael Key has a thing that is – you look at him. You’re like, “What’s he going to do?”

Craig: I wouldn’t say that you’re not talented enough. I would say that that part requires the sort of person that Lorne Michaels would go, “You.”

Mike: Absolutely.

Craig: Right. He has that glow.

Mike: He’s one of the great sketch comedians of the last 30 years.

Craig: That’s the other thing. In your mind you’re like, well, he does kind of deserve it, right? In real life he actually does have his own show, so yeah, he probably deserves it.

Mike: Yeah. And so then it was like, well, what part do I play? And in the readings I would do all different male parts. And with Miles, the part I play, it’s like, well, I can do bitter. I can handle bitter.

Craig: Well, you know what’s interesting. As I – when I saw the movie and I thought back to my initial impressions when I read the script, there were two interesting things that happened. One was that the character of Jack became so much more identifiable to me and sympathetic to me, even though he was succeeding and leaving people behind. I cared for him and I felt all of his dilemmas. Your character actually went the other way, because I felt so bad for your character. And it’s your portrayal, your directing and portrayal – on your own of your writing, he comes off as more broken.

Mike: He’s broken.

Craig: He’s broken.

Mike: Miles has had a hard time.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, and that’s your choice. You went for the broken guy. Who also is a little scummy.

Mike: Yeah. He’s a lecherous person.

Craig: Yeah. So that’s what you went for.

Mike: I know.

Craig: You could have picked anyone. Mike Birbiglia.

Mike: Yeah. But I’m lucky that the cast works in the way it works.

Craig: It’s brilliant.

Mike: It’s weird with movies. It’s like the biology/chemistry thing you say. You watch a movie and you just go, like sometimes when I watch Gillian Jacobs’s performance I go, “If she didn’t do that, wouldn’t be a movie.”

Craig: Well, that’s the thing. You know, and that’s where part of it is luck, but you also understood that that was the thing. Because in the end, the great fear of every actor, you know this, is that somebody in a room somewhere is going to make a decision about whether the camera should be on them or not, and which take to use.

So, it’s a credit to you. I mean, ultimately you can’t get more authorial than writing, producing, and directing your own movie, and starring in it.

Mike: I think there’s something to be said for when you do that you run the risk of spreading yourself too thing. And certain elements being not strong. But, the flip side of that, the positive is it pares down the amount of people on the set. So, it’s more likely that everyone is on the same page about what the vision of the film is. Because I think it’s Sidney Lumet who says in his book on directing, “The most important thing is everyone is making the same movie.”

Craig: Exactly.

Mike: And I can’t – if anyone is an aspiring director – I can’t emphasize that enough.

Craig: No one really is there to undermine you. Whereas I think, you know, a lot of directors making movies for studios, someone at some point is going to make them question everything. Which isn’t necessarily great.

Sometimes it’s important, but maybe not at that time.

Mike: Yeah.

Craig: Well, you did a fantastic job. I loved the movie. I think you did a great job.

Mike: Thanks.

Craig: I know that–

Mike: One of the things I want to, just in terms of the directing thing, too, is I’ve been traveling around the country, going to 30 cities with Liz Allen who coached our improv team in the movie. And she does these free improv workshops at these theaters and then I kind of speak about how improv related to my process as a director, and writer, and actor. And the thing that I always say, and I say this to everyone who listens to this, and I’m an avid listener to this show.

Craig: Of course you are.

Mike: So, we’re of the same people, all of us listeners. I would highly recommend people make something. If they’re aspiring, you know, they’re living in Austin, or Iowa City, or Chicago, or anything, and you feel like you have something to say, or a story to tell, we’re in an era where you can shoot something for nothing.

Craig: For nothing. With an HD camera in your hand.

Mike: Yeah. And if you don’t believe me, go on Netflix. You can use my password. And watch Tangerine. And you will just go, “Oh, that can be a movie. Holy cow.”

Craig: We say this all the time. There’s no real way to understand what the job of screenwriting is if you only do half the job. Because half the job is putting some document together. And then the rest of it is seeing it through.

Mike: Yeah.

Craig: I mean, you know the first time you saw what you wrote, then edited and put on screen, you thought, okay, now I have to go back and relearn everything and rethink everything.

Mike: Oh, of course.

Craig: Now I understand what this means. So, you’re 100% right. I don’t know – I mean, look, I think a lot of people do make little shorts. They’ll shoot a scene. But I wouldn’t suggest necessarily to people to go out and start making things so you can become famous and sell those things. Make them as part of your education.

Mike: Yeah.

Craig: You don’t have to show them to anybody. If you make something of your own thing, and you hate it, you’ve learned so much.

Mike: I did that in college. I shot a short film called Waiting to be Great.

Craig: It’s still waiting.

Mike: It’s still waiting. I mean, it was really not done. I mean, in the edit we kind of gave up on it at a certain point. And like we showed it to friends. And it was terrible. And they said, “Nice try.”

Craig: [laughs] These friends sound awful. Well, you are our good friend. We’re very, very proud of you. The movie is getting terrific reviews, although, frankly, you know, I don’t care about that.

Mike: You’re not a reviews guy.

Craig: I just care about my own review. Well, come on, Ira Glass is producing it. It’s like rubbing bacon on something and holding it in front of a dog. Of course they like it. Please. But I like it. And I matter. So, everyone should go see this movie. If it is playing in a city near you, think about going and bringing a friend, because it’s also good to support this kind of cinema, I believe.

Mike: I think it’s like your favorite coffee shop on the corner, your favorite sandwich shop. If you want it to still exist, get your coffee there.

Craig: Right. And best news of all, this movie is entertaining and funny. It is not homework. We’re not asking you to eat a bunch of sprouts on a plate. It’s good. It’s like comfort food.

Mike: The cool thing is people keep tweeting me things like I’ve seen it four times now. Yeah, that’s all I want to hear.

Craig: That’s amazing. So, fantastic. Why don’t we move on to some listener questions, because I want to hear your wisdom about things. I got to start with this question, because the name is so fantastic. [Ayish Taccuh]. I believe I’m pronouncing [Taccuh] correctly. [Ayish Taccuh] writes, “First of all, I’m a big fan of Scriptnotes and I appreciate what you guys are dong. Keep up the great work.”

Mike: Agreed.

Craig: I presume they’re talking to you and me, and not John.

Mike: Yeah, not John. No.

Craig: “So, I am writing a screenplay in which my plot demands to assassinate the President of the United States and the objective is completed. Can you please tell me if it is legal to do that? Or if it is a felony of some sort.”

Mike: Oh my gosh. It depends on how well it’s written.

Craig: Exactly.

Mike: It depends on what font it’s in. Don’t put it in ZDingbats.

Craig: Like clipped together newsprint. Yeah, exactly. You don’t want to scroll it on the back of a wrinkled picture of yourself in blood. You know, we get questions a lot–

Mike: Markers and blood.

Craig: Yeah, that’s probably a bad idea. With bits of your hair taped to it. That’s probably not the way to go. We get legal questions all the time. You know, so neither John nor I are lawyers. Obviously, Mike Birbiglia, admitted to the New York State bar and is a practicing attorney in the area of – what do you work in? Mostly family/divorce stuff?

Mike: Yeah. I do divorce law.

Craig: Divorce law. You are allowed to assassinate a fictional president in a movie.

Mike: In a movie script, yeah.

Craig: Of course. And you know this, Ayish, because it’s happened so many times in movies. But, no, you definitely don’t want to write something that makes people go, “Uh, is this a cry for help?” Just don’t be weird about it.

It’s actually a good question. You want to be careful to not make people think that you’re nuts, or that you’re – anytime that you write something that seems a little scary, it’s a reasonable question for people to say, “Are you also scary? Or is it just your movie?” You know, like was it Andrew Davis who wrote Se7en? Andrew Walker Davis, I believe.

Mike: I don’t know.

Craig: It would have been fair to say, “Is this guy okay?” Or he’s just a really good writer, right?

Mike: But that’s why you’d say don’t hold back. Like I always say I try to write in the morning at 7AM. I go to a coffee shop, before I’m afraid of the world.

Craig: Interesting.

Mike: You know what I mean? I never want to hold myself back from what’s in my subconscious. I like to blurt it out and then edit it later. It’s like the Hemingway quote which is like write drunk, edit sober. And I don’t write drunk, but I write sleepy.

Craig: By the way, I tend to write sleepy on the other side. You know, I let the day go through–

Mike: Late at night. Yeah, I’ve heard that about you. I heard people get emails from you at three, four in the morning.

Craig: Well, you know, it’s business hours somewhere.

Mike: Exactly.

Craig: The hell with them if they don’t like it.

Mike: No, they love it.

Craig: Look how quickly I get angry about everything. All right, next question, this is from John Lambert. John says, this is appropriate to what we were talking, being in your 30s and facing this crossroads. “I’m 34. I’ve made the conscious decision to move to LA and chase my screenwriting dreams. My long term goals, I think, are irrelevant at this point. My short term goal is sufficiently daunting and difficult. My short term goal being getting staffed on a TV show. I guess I’m just looking for some advice from two very trusted sources, whom I respect.” Or in this case, just one.

Mike: One, yeah.

Craig: “By the way, I’ve been speaking to a manager, but I know I shouldn’t expect meetings to be set until I’m an official LA resident.” So, he’s looking for general advice, I guess, being 34. It seems like, okay, maybe I’m starting a little later than the kid out of college. What do you think about that as a general?

Mike: Well, they say, I don’t write for TV, but I have friends who have come out here and written – they say write a spec. I’ve heard that, kind of let your imagination run wild, because no one is going to ever make the spec. But you can kind of show them the extremes that you’re kind of–

Craig: When you spec, you mean like a spec episode of an existing show?

Mike: I’m sorry. Write your own original.

Craig: Yeah, your own original. Exactly.

Mike: Yes. And then kind of like with no respect for budget or talent or whatever. Just sort of like let your imagination run wild, the way that Charlie Kaufman did with Being John Malkovich, I think, was intended as something that he knew would never be made.

Craig: Correct. Right.

Mike: And so he wrote this wild script, and then sure enough it got made.

Craig: Because I think Charlie Kaufman was working on, I want to say Alf. I mean, he was a sitcom writer.

Mike: Yeah. He was staffed on a lot of shows.

Craig: I think that sometimes people get a little too hung up on how their circumstances narrow their possibilities. You know, so John is 34, and I understand he’s a little concerned that maybe he’s not 20. And how do you get to this place. And I always think, well, I guess if everything lines up perfectly for you, the odds are a million to one. So, now maybe the odds are three million to one, or five million to one. What’s the difference? At that point, the odds are bad. Just presume that. Doesn’t matter who you are. Does not matter who you are, the odds are bad.

Absorb that. Now do you still want to go for it? Go for it. But I always say to anyone – I don’t know if John has a family. It doesn’t sound like he does. But if anyone is relying on you, please make sure you have a job, a job of any kind, with health insurance. Because it goes back to our dream discussion.

Dreams are nice and everything, but “follow your dreams” is actually terrible advice. Attempt your dreams while doing other things just in case your dreams don’t work out. I’m a big believer in that. I’m a bets hedger.

Mike: And I would say, this is just hitting me about the TV question, because I feel like I don’t write for TV, but I always think like I’m making independent film, not because it’s going to make me rich, because it won’t, but because it’s what I love. I would always say like if you love TV, go after that.

Craig: Don’t go after it just because you think the jobs are there. I completely agree.

Mike: Because they’re not.

Craig: Well, that’s the thing. You could say like, oh, there’s five extra jobs for the 14 million people that want them. You’re absolutely right. You’re best odds are you doing the thing that you’re best at.

Mike: Yeah. Do what you love and not what you like.

Craig: Right.

Mike: Doing what you like only leads to a lot – you’re in competition with people who love it. And that will lose.

Craig: I will give Brian Koppelman credit. This happens once every four years. Maybe the best two words of advice that I’ve ever heard for people that want to break into show business. “Calculate less.”

Mike: Oh interesting. I like that.

Craig: Because, man, they’re always, and I understand the instinct to try and reason your way to success, and if I do the following and I arrange these things. It just doesn’t work that way.

Mike: Eugene Mirman says this thing, because he gets approached by young comics all the time, and they say what do I do. And he says, “Start doing comedy, keep doing comedy, call me in ten years.”

Craig: I mean, isn’t that it? Right.

Mike: And I think that applies to anything in the artistic realm. It’s like it takes a hard ten years.

Craig: There is no – I know, it’s rough when people are like do you have any words of advice. He’s asking a reasonable question.

Mike: How can I get staffed on a show?

Craig: I’m just looking for some advice. There is kind of none.

Mike: Well, it’s the thing, and I think you guys have said this before. There is no path to becoming a professional screenwriter. And the reason there’s no path is that once someone has paved their own path, that path is done.

Craig: It’s done.

Mike: And so then not only do you have to be a great screenwriter, but you have to invent what your path is that hasn’t been done before.

Craig: That’s right. Which echoes, of course, what your value is to the business anyway, which is some kind of unique voice or expression. We see this when there’s a big explosion of somebody. And it doesn’t happen often, but when it happens, everyone notices. Quentin Tarantino or Diablo Cody.

Mike: Yes. Diablo Cody was a big one.

Craig: Or Lena Dunham for instance.

Mike: Absolutely.

Craig: In their wake are a thousand pretenders who are like, “Oh, that’s how you do it.” No, no, that’s how they did it. The way is shut. When the way is shut, the way is shut.

All right, let’s get to Freddie. Freddie Hernandez has two questions. One, he’s always been curious as to how long it takes either John or I, or you, Mike Birbiglia, to write a feature. “Is there a timeframe I should try to build towards as a writer? I realize that timeline is probably driven by other factors, but I’m curious as to your thoughts in how long a professional screenwriter should take to crank out a draft, and what is acceptable in the industry.”

So, let’s start with that question. You have an answer for that?

Mike: My script of Don’t Think Twice took about a year and a half, which is a long time.

Craig: That’s one draft or multiple drafts?

Mike: Multiple. Probably about 13 to 15 drafts.

Craig: Right.

Mike: The Coen brothers, god love them, three months. I mean, it’s baffling to me.

Craig: They’re kind of amazing that way.

Mike: The degree to which they’re prolific, and Woody Allen the same way. Three months or whatever. I don’t understand it. I imagine you write scripts fast, because when you would give me notes on my script it was like your brain was like a fountain of ideas and solutions. And that was so sort of like flowing that I was astonished by it. And I thought that’s because you’ve been doing this for 20 years. Your brain is somehow like – how long does it take you?

Craig: Well, you know, we have to draw a distinction between a draft and coming up with a story and the final script. You know, Scott Frank says, “Anything good should take a year, minimum.”

Mike: I generally feel about the same way.

Craig: I agree. And the truth is it may take the Coen brothers three months, but I don’t believe that they just lock it down and then they’re not changing a word after three months. Plus, there’s two of them. And they’re brothers. Granted, they’re also geniuses. So, maybe their genius thing.

But for me, I think—

Mike: I wish that they had a podcast.

Craig: That would be amazing.

Mike: Then I could understand the secrets of them. But not to disrespect what you and John are doing.

Craig: No, no, of course.

Mike: But if the Coen brothers had Coen-Notes, I would subscribe to that so fast. And I would unsubscribe to this.

Craig: So would I.

Mike: Oh my god.

Craig: I would mostly come on this to just talk about what they said. God, would John get upset. Oh my god, would he get upset.

Mike: We’d start a podcast called Talking Coen-Notes.

Craig: That’s right. Post Coen.

Mike: It would be us and Chris Hardwick.

Craig: Oh, is he a big Coen–?

Mike: No, he does Talking Dead after Walking Dead.

Craig: This is how little I know about podcasts. We just had our own one, like John did as a joke, a quasi-joke, Matt Selman–

Mike: Talking Scriptnotes?

Craig: Matt Selman, who is the head writer at Simpsons, did a Talking Scriptnotes episode.

Mike: Oh, that’s awesome!

Craig: With Aline McKenna and Rawson Thurber.

Mike: Is that on the premium?

Craig: Yeah.

Mike: Oh my gosh. I got to get that.

Craig: Yeah. I haven’t listened to it.

Mike: Wow.

Craig: Because I don’t listen to podcasts. But we’ll have to get to that.

Mike: By the way, Scriptnotes, I don’t know if this is a first, you’re thanked in the credits of the movie, Don’t Think Twice.

Craig: What? The podcast?

Mike: Yep.

Craig: Awesome.

Mike: Scriptnotes podcast.

Craig: Wow. Oh, that’s fantastic. John’s going to flip.

Mike: And you and John, separately.

Craig: Nice, but did I get a slightly larger–?

Mike: Yeah. It’s a huge font.

Craig: Like I get my own card. Like the first time in history someone got their own special card at the end–

Mike: Single card.

Craig: In a picture. [laughs]

Mike: And your Facebook status. Married.

Craig: It’s so great. Thank you for that. Freddie, I think, I could tell you how long it takes me. It takes me usually about four weeks to really break out a story, and about eight weeks to get to the end of first draft. So now you’re talking about three months. But then another six months of revisions and thinking and revise, and revise, and revise. If it’s going to be done properly. I don’t often get that luxury.

A lot of times I’m told, “We need this to be fixed. We need it within—“

Mike: Fast.

Craig: Yeah. Like there’s an actor who will say yes or no to this, so your job is to get an actor to say yes. At that point, my job actually isn’t screenwriting, it’s this other thing that I can’t really quite describe. But for things that I’m doing that are original to me, I’m looking at about a year.

So, don’t beat yourself up, buddy. Don’t worry. There are writers who will tell you that they work super, super fast. There are writers who will tell you they work super, super slow. If there’s any trend I can identify with the writers that I think are really good at what they do, they’re a bit slower. They actually seem to be taking their time.

Mike: And I think, again, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite I think is the key. I always try to think of get a pass done. I think John says this on the podcast that he’ll go away and break the back on the script, I think is what he says. And then revise from there.

I mean, when I was in screenwriting class in college, my professor brought the American Beauty screenplay in for us to read. And he said, “Note that it says Draft 13 on the front.”

Craig: Right. Exactly.

Mike: And we all were like, “Right, for this movie.” And you don’t realize until you’re in this field that, no, it’s 13 drafts, 14, maybe 20.

Craig: Right. And some of those are smaller revisions. Some of them are larger. But it will never stop, really. You stop writing the movie when you lock picture, basically. That’s the end of it.

All right. We have time for one more question. Let’s go for, I’ll skip his second question, because he only gets one. Here’s an interesting one. It sort of ties into Ayish’s question about assassinating the president. Chris Christ, that can’t – I mean…

Mike: Stage name.

Craig: Yeah. Chris Christ writes, “Huge fan of the show. Been listening for nearly four years now.” I wish that were the question, but there’s more. “My question is, is there such a thing as too violet a script? I have a scene where a main character is brutally murdered by the villain, and while the brutality aligns with the villain’s character, I worry that it may be off-putting to future readers. However, I then think about people’s heads exploding on Game of Thrones, or people being eaten alive on The Walking Dead. Where is the borderline between shocking yet effective violence and gratuitous violence?”

Mike: This is so subjective. I don’t enjoy gratuitous violence in film. But, yet, I love Quentin Tarantino films.

Craig: Well, there you go. So, gratuitous is the word we give to violence we don’t like.

Mike: Yes.

Craig: And effective and impactful is the words we give to violence we do like. And it is – violence to me is like nudity. In and of itself, there’s an inherent power to it. And so you have to employ it with skill, otherwise you’re just being pornographic, or you’re just being gross. And it’s amazing how the slightest differences in tone can turn something from beautiful or evocative into porny or disgusting.

Mike: Yeah.

Craig: So, the answer is write it well. All right, I think it’s time for our One Cool Thing. So, my One Cool Thing this week is an app called FING. F-I-N-G. It’s free. It’s a wireless network scanning app. It shows every device currently accessing your wireless network. So, you got a Wi-Fi thing at home and you’ve got like 4,000 little bitsy-bobs in your house that are all on your Wi-Fi network, but something is not working or something is slowing down, this thing shows you every single device that’s currently connected.

Mike: Oh yes.

Craig: And it also shows you who manufactures the device and whether or not they’re connected through the Internet. And you can do a ping or trace route. If you are the IT expert in your home – are you? I’m going to say not a chance.

Mike: Not really.

Craig: The baby, right? It’s the baby?

Mike: The baby, Una.

Craig: Una is like–

Mike: Una Birbiglia. 14 months old. Tech expert now.

Craig: By the way, greatest name. Because her name is One Birbiglia in Italian.

Mike: Oh, my wife is going to love that.

Craig: That’s amazing. Una Birbiglia. Always wondering if she’s getting good ping on a particular device. So, FING. And it’s free. So an easy one to download if you are the IT expert in the house.

Mike: I used your One Cool Thing from many, many episodes ago, the password protector thing. One Password.

Craig: How great is that?

Mike: Phenomenal.

Craig: Isn’t that amazing?

Mike: Yeah. That’s phenomenal. And also, by the way, I always tell people about this podcast, and any aspiring screenwriter, and if people are listening for the first time because they wanted to hear me, and then unfortunately they have to listen to Craig, just know that all of the episodes – this podcast, there’s hundreds of episodes and they’re all brilliant.

And I think people always ask me what episodes should they crack into, and I always say the one with the psychiatrist.

Craig: Episode 99.

Mike: That one is phenomenal.

Craig: Yeah.

Mike: And then there’s one about TV versus film, what’s the difference.

Craig: Oh yeah. I don’t know the number of that one off hand.

Mike: That one was really interesting. Isn’t there an episode about what is the best episode? I think there is.

Craig: We’re not that self-serving.

Mike: Oh, yeah, okay. It’s not that?

Craig: You can do that on After-Notes, or whatever they call it.

Mike: Yeah, yeah, Talking Notes.

Craig: [laughs] Talking Notes. We have a name for it. I can’t remember. He came up with a name for it.

Mike: But listen to that doctor one. The psychiatrist one. 99.

Craig: That’s a great one. He’s a psychologist, actually. Dennis Palumbo was, I’m not in therapy currently, but for many years he was my weekly therapist. And he’s just awesome.

Mike: He’s a writer-therapist.

Craig: I mean, how amazing is that? He has an Oscar nomination. And he’s a therapist.

Mike: It’s unbelievable.

Craig: He’s terrific. And I think about what he says all the time.

Mike: So my One Cool Thing would be indie film. Support your local indie film cinema, wherever you are, so that more movies like ours, and Captain Fantastic, and Tickled, to name a few, get made.

Craig: And when you saw local independent cinema, are you talking about the movies – the places. Like the actual physical buildings that run these movies need people to show up.

Mike: They do. So your Landmark Cinema. The Main Art in Detroit. Or the Music Box in Chicago. The Landmark New Art in Los Angeles. Just look at what they’re playing, because chances are they care about what they’re playing. And they’re not just looking to play the movie that’s going to make them the most money.

Craig: No question.

Mike: If they wanted to make money, they’d play Batman v. Superman on every screen.

Craig: Well, they can’t. Because they don’t get Batman v. Superman. But that’s the point is that they will disappear if people–

Mike: If you don’t go.

Craig: If people say, “Well, oh, yeah, I loved Mike Birbiglia’s last movie. I’d love to see this one. I’ll Netflix it. I’ll iTunes it.” Well, okay, then these places will go and you won’t get to actually see them on – and especially a comedy like yours. I mean, it’s dramatic, and it’s sad, and it’s sweet, but it’s also really funny. There’s nothing like seeing it in a big room.

Mike: With strangers. To laugh and cry with strangers and to feel like, oh, I’m not the only person who feels like that.

Craig: Right. Exactly.

Mike: And BAM, in Brooklyn, we’re playing at. That’s a great cinema.

Craig: I’m going to say before we hit our little conclusion here that you did have your stand up show running in New York called Thank God for Jokes. Is that going to be touring?

Mike: I’m going to do probably 15 cities that we haven’t announced in the fall. And then we’ll film it and release it as a comedy special. But you can find out all that if you follow me. I’m @birbigs on Twitter. Or like me, Birbig Fans, on Facebook, which I try to go minimal political tweets.

Craig: Oh, yeah, me too. [laughs]

Mike: But I sometimes am so enraged. But, trust me, I hold back.

Craig: These days, I think, I don’t know, the gloves are off.

Mike: Follow Craig for all Ted Cruz – all tweets about a candidate who didn’t get the Republican nomination.

Craig: It’s so great. Feels so good, man. Are you going to be, I assume, Thank God for Jokes will be touring here in Los Angeles?

Mike: I hope so. Yeah.

Craig: Because I’d like to…

Mike: Like to check that out?

Craig: Yeah. Maybe come back stage.

Mike: Oh. I don’t think we’re available that night.

Craig: Oh, okay.

Mike: I’m not sure what the night is. But–

Craig: Who’s the “we,” anyway?

Mike: Well, it’s an organization of people. There’s a lot of–

Craig: I understand your team.

Mike: It’s my team.

Craig: Your team is not available.

Mike: There’s just not enough room backstage.

Craig: I understand. At the Pantages.

Mike: [laughs] But I appreciate your interest. But, no, of course I’ll invite you to that when it comes to Los Angeles. And I bow to you and John, whose seat I’m filling. It’s an honor to be sitting in your seat this week, John. I appreciate, and I think a lot of us appreciate what you guys do, making this podcast, for free.

Craig: For free. Always for free. That’s the most important thing. Except that I feel like John is making a lot of money. As always, meaning for a few days now, our show is produced by Godwin Jabangwe. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli. Our outro this week comes from someone that Godwin is going to select, so it is a surprise to me, but we’ll be sure to credit him or her next week.

If you have an outro for us that you would like us to try, send it in to That’s also a place where you can send longer questions, of the type you heard today. For shorter questions, on Twitter I am @clmazin. John is @johnaugust.

You can find us on iTunes at Scriptnotes. Just search for Scriptnotes. And while you’re there, leave us a comment, because John always says to do that. And he loves comments. He loves them. You know, a lot of times he says, “You know what we should do? We should read some of the nice comments.” And I always think, oh, I want to read the terrible ones. I’m only interested in the terrible ones.

Mike: You want people to go after you.

Craig: And, you know, luckily my life has brought me a lot of that, so there’s never been a lack of abundance of criticism for me.

Mike: Yeah, you got to hit the Internet more.

Craig: Unfortunately, in this case, the comments are all incredibly lovely.

Mike: Oh, that’s nice.

Craig: And it’s weird for me. Mike, thank you so much for being here. And for everybody listening at home, please, if it is in your city, check out Don’t Think Twice in theaters. I think it’s got a 100% on the critical slurry site where they take all of the irrelevant opinions and blend them into a thin paste of nonsense.

Mike: [laughs]

Craig: And fear not, John will be back next week. And we will see you then. Bye-bye.


You can download the episode here.