Learn the Finer Points of Comedy and Criticism with Comedian Mike Birbiglia and Ira Glass

A few weeks ago Joss Whedon released a great video sarcastically addressing a growing concern involving independent films taking away precious screens from bigger Hollywood movies (like Whedon's Avengers). Sleepwalk With Me, written and directed by comedian Mike Birbiglia and co-written and produced by This American Life's Ira Glass, was singled out by Whedon as a particularly egregious offender. If your sarcastic nerve is broken you might not have found the humor in it, but Birbiglia and Glass have since responded. Now we have the pair sitting down with Film Courage and DP/30's David Poland talking about their careers and the making of Sleepwalk With Me.

Here is the trailer for Sleepwalk With Me:

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=u9tRN7bok4o

Film Courage interview:

The advice about listening to criticism from Birbiglia is great, and it's one of the things that most people are the worst at. No one likes to be criticized, but if you can surround yourself with knowledgeable people they will undoubtedly give you great pieces of constructive criticism along the way. Below is a slightly lighter interview with David Poland:

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=2_J06XTb3vw

While there is less concrete information about the making than I would have liked in the DP/30 interview, they did mention one particularly good piece of advice about comedy. If you know that a joke is funny but an audience isn't laughing, there's a good chance it has to do with the framing of the joke. For example, they talk about a particular dream sequence that they knew was hilarious, but it was really a punchline without a setup -- so the joke needed to be framed in a way that the audience would understand the context.

On a side note, I would like to reiterate my jealously for the fact that Birbiglia is now the most famous filmmaker to come from my hometown -- but at least we both share a love for Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale (easily a top-ten favorite film of mine).


Your Comment


if there is anything awesome about being a PA is that i got to work on this for additional photography and despite my meager contribution i like knowing i helped make this happen. (thanks to the best AD i've ever known for the opportunity) love this site!

September 3, 2012 at 9:16PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

You voted '+1'.

Hi Joe,

Two videos in one week! Thank you for sharing our conversation with Mike and Ira. Our short interview with them was their first interview of the day. So we were all getting warmed up. This is a really funny film if you haven't had a chance to see it yet, I would highly recommend it.

September 6, 2012 at 1:16PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM