Chad White, In Netflix’s Romantic Section, Still Searching
I don’t know if I’ll ever get married.
As a society, we like to perpetuate the idea that everyone must be married by a certain time with a person they love. Just look at the show How I Met Your Mother where the main character, Ted, is constantly on the search for a wife. Throughout the series, he meets several women who the audience is forced to believe is the mother. Up until the ninth season, Ted never finds the mother. If a fictional character can’t find the love of his life then where does that leave the rest of us mooks?
Mike Birbiglia’s My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend is based around him getting into a car accident, he uses the “culinary definition” t-boned, and making a realization about his belief set and the relationships in his life. Each joke has a point within the main story which is not common among standup comics. This special also has one central theme: marriage.
Birbiglia doesn’t believe in marriage and yet he is married. He makes that evident throughout his act several times. He dislikes marriage so much that he can’t even bring himself to live with another person. Birbiglia even admits he tried to stop marriages of friends by repeatedly asking them “are you sure this is what you want to do?”
He tells stories about trying to kiss a girl at the carnival in the 7th grade but getting sick. His actual first kiss, he tells us, was at a dance with a girl with braces that was just too rough. Like any young guy who never kissed a girl, Birbiglia gets attached but she’s not into it because she said he’s a bad kisser. Then he tells us of his first love in high school at the game changing age of 17. She had a boyfriend already but she’s looking to break it off (It’s all complicated but hilariously so.)
Birbiglia is a comic that opens up his life to us. In his book turned movie Sleepwalk with Me, Birbigs tells us about how sleepwalking has affected his life. We get comfy as he tells us his stories and experiences. It makes us feel as though we’re actually friends. His stories are not outlandish which helps with the truthfulness in them. They have a base in reality. In his story telling, Birbiglia is very animated, something that suits his dry comedy very well. The deadpan humor he regales his story with also bodes well throughout his set with punchy, heartfelt jokes.
The real crown jewel of the main story is how it ties in with how he and his wife met. In his past, Birbiglia got a ton of red flags as to why he should not be with the girls he was with before. Either he gets sick or the experience wasn’t good enough or the girl already had a boyfriend. These are all pretty noticeable signs. He’s better off with these experiences. They made him the comic who he is today (something he mentions in his act).
With Jenny, however, he makes moves he’s never done before and she rejects him but doesn’t leave. There’s something about that girl that she was special enough to stay with him. Hell, on the second date, Birbiglia slips up and says “I love you” to her. And yet she stays. Slowly, we learn early on in the relationship that the two go on a trip and open up in ways that some married couples have yet to do.
It’s important to know that Jenny shares the same “I don’t want to get married” ideology too. Mike is a constant worrier. She argues “that’s how I feel” when they disagree with each other. He always wants to be right. On paper, these two should not be together, and yet they are. Why does something like that happen? We can’t be too sure. Maybe it’s fate. Maybe Mike was just tenacious enough. Mike doesn’t believe in marriage but he believes in Jenny so he decides to give up being right. That is what a man does for someone he loves.
The ending Mike produces gives the audience a sense of closure that is well deserved for having to listen to his heartbreaking but hilarious love stories. It’s fitting that the song playing during the end credits is Death Cab for Cutie’s “I’ll Follow You into the Dark.” It shows us that we have no idea where we’re going but if we find someone else that doesn’t know either, then we can find the right path together. Now I understand why this special is in Netflix’s romantic section. I want this. I don’t want to George Clooney my way through life. Although, living through parts of his life would be pretty cool.
Mike Birbiglia stuck the landing on this one. Hands up and everything (you’ll get the joke if you watch the special.)