Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Bite-Sized Book Review: The New One by Mike Birbiglia

With laugh-out-loud funny parenting observations, the New York Times bestselling author and award-winning comedian delivers a book that is perfect for anyone who has ever raised a child, been a child, or refuses to stop acting like one.

In 2016 comedian Mike Birbiglia and poet Jennifer Hope Stein took their fourteen-month-old daughter Oona to the Nantucket Film Festival. When the festival director picked them up at the airport she asked Mike if he would perform at the storytelling night. She said, "The theme of the stories is jealousy."

Jen quipped, "You're jealous of Oona. You should talk about that."

And so Mike began sharing some of his darkest and funniest thoughts about the decision to have a child. Jen and Mike revealed to each other their sides of what had gone down during Jen's pregnancy and that first year with their child. Over the next couple years, these stories evolved into a Broadway show, and the more Mike performed it the more he heard how it resonated -- not just with parents but also people who resist all kinds of change.

So he pored over his journals, dug deeper, and created this book: The New One: Painfully True Stories From a Reluctant Dad. Along with hilarious and poignant stories he has never shared before, these pages are sprinkled with poetry Jen wrote as she navigated the same rocky shores of new parenthood.
So here it is. This book is an experiment -- sort of like a family.

I enjoy Mike Birbiglia's comedy in that he is very relatable, self-effacing, and not overly blue in his content. I could just about recommend him to my mother. In his recent release The New One, he reflects on many aspects of his life, with much of the attention devoted to his relationship with his wife Jen and their new status as first-time parents. Jen also offers her own poetry, with passages interspersed between his chapters.

If you've seen Mike's Netflix special of the same name, much of the material in that program is directly used here. Seeing the special has the benefit of allowing us to hear his tone of voice, feel the rhythm of his delivery, and he is able to use props to illustrate his point. One example completely and suddenly covers the stage with parenting tools and child paraphernalia.

However, if you are not a Netflix subscriber, or if you'd like to have additional content not available in that recording (such as Jen's thoughtful and honest poetry), I do recommend The New One. It was a light, brisk read with short chapters that I would read before bed at night. Parents (or those considering parenthood) can certainly relate to much of the angst in Birbiglia's mind, and there are many laugh-out-loud moments that are a wonderful glance into the world of parenthood.

About the Author

MIKE BIRBIGLIA is a comedian, storyteller, director and actor who has performed in front of audiences worldwide, from the Sydney Opera House to Broadway. His shows, “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend” and “Thank God for Jokes,” were both filmed for Netflix. His most recent show, “The New One,” ran for 99 shows at the Cort Theatre.

In addition to performing live, Mike is an author and filmmaker who wrote, directed and starred in the films Sleepwalk with Me and Don’t Think Twice. Mike’s book Sleepwalk with Me and Other Painfully True Stories was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor. As an actor, Mike has appeared on “Inside Amy Schumer,” HBO’s “Girls” and “Broad City,” as well as in the films Trainwreck, The Fault in Our Stars and Popstar. He plays the role of Danny Pearson on “Orange Is the New Black” and Oscar Langstraat on Showtime’s “Billions.” He is a contributor to “This American Life” on public radio. In 2017, Mike was honored with the Kurt Vonnegut Award for humor. 

For a little sample of Mike's material, check out the trailer below:

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