CHICAGO – Mike Birbiglia brought his one-man show “The Old Man and The Pool” to Chicago in May, wrapping up a month-long residency at the Steppenwolf Theater.
For the Chicago show, Birbiglia sauntered through themes of mortality and anxieties of aging in “The Old Man and the Pool.”
Henry Gessner from Northbrook, Illinois, attended the May 7 show. He has been a fan since Birbiglia put out his special, “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend.” Gessner said that show resonated with him. He saw Birbiglia for the first time at a Q&A for his film “Don’t Think Twice” at the Music Box theater in July of 2016.
“To be able to see him now after seven and a half years … that was a real full circle moment,” said Gessner.
He said he thought the performance was a bit somber but expected, given the subject matter. Gessner brought up the moment of silence as one of highlights of the night.
“The Old Man and the Pool” was his first time seeing Birbiglia perform comedy. As a comedy-loving theatergoer, this combined two of Gessner’s favorite things.
Mel Burbules from River North in Chicago has been a fan since Birbiglia’s half-hour Comedy Central Presents special. During college, Burbules also traveled to see Birbiglia’s movie “Sleepwalk with Me” at a small independent theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Steppenworlf performance was her first time seeing Birbiglia perform. She was drawn to the thematic one-man show element of his Steppenwolf performance.
Since the early 2000s, Birbiglia has directed and produced two motion picture films: “Sleepwalk with Me” and “Don’t Think Twice.”
He has also toured four one-man shows around the world. “Sleepwalk with Me” arose from his diagnosis with a sleepwalking disorder. His take on love in “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend.” His amalgam of comedy and faith in “Thank God for Jokes.” Birbiglia’s previous show “The New One,” was born from him being a first-time dad giving him a new life.
Jenny Beightol from Old Town in Chicago also attended the show. She has seen Birbiglia perform in Chicago multiple times. She went to his Chicago runs of “The New One” and “Thank God for Jokes.” She also got to experience three of Mike’s virtual shows that were held over the pandemic to raise money for comedy clubs that were being financially hurt by the pandemic. One of the virtual shows that she really enjoyed was his extended show devoted entirely to pizza.
Some audience members even flew in from out of state to see Birbiglia take the stage. Jenn Trumbull from St. Petersburg, Florida, has flown to see Birbiglia twice: Once for his broadway run of “The New One” and recently for “The Old Man and the Pool.” She’s been a fan since “Sleepwalk with Me” and his appearance on Pete Holmes’ podcast “You Made It Weird.”
She also listens to Birbiglia’s podcast “Working It Out” where he speaks with fellow comedians as they pitch each other joke premises and work out their material together. Fans could listen each week to hear Mike fine tune his jokes for “The Old Man and the Pool.”
Birbiglia wrapped up his Chicago run with four sold out shows.
Birbiglia continues his tour of “The Old Man and the Pool” with a residency in Los Angeles in August at the Mark Taper Forum.