Comedian and former sleepwalker Mike Birbiglia is on medication now and has a wife, thank you very much. But a conversation about his ascendant career should begin, of course, with his well-placed stint on Ira Glass' NPR program, "This American Life," on which he describes, with unflinching detail, the times he fought off an "insectlike jackal" in his bedroom, crashed through the second-story window of a La Quinta Inn and lost his girlfriend. He was, of course, sleepwalking during the first two occasions. He was wide awake for the third.
Birbiglia, who portrayed a fictionalized version of himself in the hilarious 2012 film "Sleepwalk With Me" (co-written by Glass), has moved on from his dangerous beginnings. For one, he's starring in a one-man standup show, "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend," which he'll perform Friday at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts. When the show first opened off-Broadway, Birbiglia says, he spotted a surprising, spotlight-stealing guest in the audience.
"It was John Mayer. It was so strange having him in the audience. I'd never met him. But him just sitting unlit in the audience was getting more stares from the audience than me onstage. My wife was staring at him," the 33-year-old comic recalls by phone from the lobby of Manhattan's Gershwin Hotel. "My wife is like, 'He's good.' I'm like, 'I know, but pay attention to the show.' "
As with his other intimate and anguishing tales of amusement, "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend," appropriately enough, begins with a car crash. "I was hit by a drunk driver in Los Angeles — no, really — and they actually made me pay for the damage to this drunk driver's car. I fought it," Birbiglia says. "That's kind of what this show is about: about being obsessed with being right, about not believing in the idea of marriage and that I only believe in Jenny, my future wife. It's my Achilles' heel."
That particular anecdote first appeared on "This American Life," of which Birbiglia is still an occasional contributor. Also shared on that show: the dream where he was chased by a bear that had been hiding inside his cupboard ("the scariest part was that he had opposable thumbs"). He was sleepwalking through that, too.
"My shows are designed to be really freaking embarrassing. I just have shame, but ultimately, it's just for laughs and comedy," Birbiglia says. I know that I'm on the right track comedically when I have nothing but embarrassing things to say, and people have to come up to me afterward."
"Mike Birbiglia's My Girlfriend's Boyfriend" will appear 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25, at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts, 2855 Coral Springs Drive. Tickets cost $35. Call 954-344-5999 or go to CoralSpringsCenterfortheArts.com.