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REVIEW: Mike Birbiglia’s The New One Hit (Ordway)

Comedian Mike Birbiglia.

A clean comic can be hard to find these days. Not in terms of personal hygiene – that’s something we wouldn’t presume or want to have to judge – but in terms of content. Shock-value, fame, and R-rated comics seem to go hand-in-hand, which does tend to segment the potential audience. Not so with comedian Mike Birbiglia, whose show at the Ordway brought a wide band of attendees with ages ranging from the 20s up to the 80s.

Not that Birbiglia doesn’t talk about sex in The New One, his fresh-from-Broadway solo comedy show that’s in town for a four-show run at the Ordway. After all, the titular new one is a baby in the family, and there are no storks involved when you decide to expand yours. Rather, the way that Birbiglia talks about the subject is such that you could easily bring a parent or grandparent along for the ride. The travails of parenting and family planning are played for high comedy on top of serious truths, and the opening night audience responded with gales of laughter.

If you’re familiar with Birbiglia from National Public Radio’s This American Life or the Moth Radio Hour, you might be interested to know that The New One features plenty of material not performed elsewhere. However, if you’re a faithful listener of the above, you might also be interested to know that there a few callbacks to previous story threads that he’s related, where you get a little more insight and follow-through (with attendant humor) to these episodes. First-time Birbiglia attendees and listeners will get pulled right in.

Mike Birbiglia at Brooklyn’s Union Hall. Photo by Evan Sung.

The New One runs about 80 minutes with no intermission and no opening act. If you just read the description, you might not think that parenting and family planning would fill that whole time well and with great comedy. You’d be wrong: with Birbiglia’s melodious voice and deft comedic timing, the evening flies by, and when the show comes to close it has both a natural ending and a feeling that you really want to hear Birbiglia’s again for the sequel sometime soon.

The New One runs through October 19 at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, MN.


Basil Considine