PoliticsThursday 04.21.22

Mike Birbiglia and Alex Edelman On The Art of the One-Man Show

John Heilemann talks with comedians Mike Birbiglia, best known for his acclaimed one-man shows Sleepwalk With Me, Thank God for Jokes, and The New One, and Alex Edelman, whose buzzy new monologue Just For Us, produced by Birbiglia, is one of New York’s hottest tickets. Heilemann and the two performers discuss why Birbiglia took Edelman under his wing and how their mentor-pupil relationship works; what Just for Us — in which Edelman unfurls an extended, acutely observed, often hilarious yarn about the night he crashed a meeting of white nationalists in Queens — says about broader questions of identity in American culture; and what drove Edelman’s decision to focus the show on his Judaism, which has long been central to his sense of self but not his comedy. They also assess the arc of Birbiglia’s career from stand-up to storytelling; his biggest influences, from Mitch Hedberg to Steven Wright; the personal experiences that have inspired him to be vulnerable on stage and take emotional risks; and why, for both Birbiglia and Edelman, a pair of comics who readily and repeatedly land killer jokes, there’s a lot more to comedy than making people laugh.

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