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Michael and Mike: A Brief Experience

Declan Sullivan | Friday, September 10, 2010

At 9:15 p.m. Friday night, I walked into a nondescript room on the 2nd floor of LaFortune, not really knowing what to expect.  I was told that me and a few other students would be interviewing comedians Mike Birbiglia and Michael Ian Black here in five minutes, but I hadn’t received any other information aside from that.  

I was surprised, then, when I saw a whole video camera/talk show setup going on inside the room — apparently an interviewer from Scholastic and I would be just sitting in on an NDtv interview with the opportunity — if there was time — to ask a few questions after the interview concluded.  

I was bummed, but regardless I took my seat next to the camera and waited for the comedians to enter.

After what seemed like an eternity, they finally entered. Michael and Mike were both extemely friendly, introducing themselves personally to everyone in the room and asking for our names.  Not only did this ease the tension in the room — all the students were a bit nervous — but also it gave me happy moment No. 1 of the interview.  

When Mike Birbiglia came over to shake my hand, I introduced myself prompting a response of “Hey …  Declan?  Like D-U-C-K-L-I-A-N?”  Everyone laughed, I corrected him, and then I proceed to giggle like a schoolgirl on the inside, knowing that one of my comedic heroes now has my ridiculous-sounding name ingrained into his head.

The NDtv interview started and while Mike and Michael were hilarious, playing off each other — often at the expense of the NDtv interviewers — for the most part it was uneventful for my Scholastic counterpart and me.

Our time to shine came after the NDtv interview ended. Both comedians had to get to the quad to perform, but there was enough time for each of us to ask one or two questions. Unfortunately, a disproportionate amount of this time was spent discussing the lack of microphones for the NDtv interview, the low quality of my audio recording equipment — my broken iPhone — or the possibility of including live video in The Observer newspaper — unlikely.

But I did get the opportunity to ask one question I was proud of to Birbiglia: “You’re an interesting comedian in that your jokes aren’t usually just one liners; they’re stories.  You’re also on the Moth, NPR, This American Life; do you view yourself more as a comedian or as a storyteller when you’re doing your shows?” to which he answered “I think I’m a comedian … pretty sure.  I kind of evolved into being a storyteller because I was doing a lot of college shows — like this — with an hour, hour and a half of material. What I found was that when you do that much stand-up comedy, if it doesn’t have some kind of conclusion, ark, or build to it, then it can be a little bit directionless.  

That led me to tell more stories, which led me to the Moth, which led me to This American Life …  I started working with Ira Glass, and now what’s sort of developed is that I’m a storytelling comedian. It was a long way to get to that.

That’s over a hundred words for one question. Bam. Not quite the interview I imagined, but bam.