It is freezing cold outside, the sun having disappeared hours ago, taking with it what little warmth it had provided over the course of the day. I want to cancel my plans for that evening, mostly because they involve taking a forty-minute train ride down to Park Slope, a beautiful place so distant and removed it is safe enough for every New Yorker of child-bearing age to move there and breed. My friend has invited me to see Mike Birbiglia’s show, which turns out to be one part intimate memoir, two parts intelligent standup comedy, and one more remaining part: me, left banging my hand against the adjacent wall, holding my stomach while fighting for the ability to breathe. Needless to say, I was glad I came.
Union Hall reminds me of BJ’s Brewery, a contrived restaurant idea geared towards suburbanites who enjoy a good Pizookie (Translation: Pizza/Cookie – a deep dish, melted chocolate dreamscape that requires only a spoon and an elastic waist band). It’s not that Union Hall is actually cheesy or contrived; it’s just that the room itself is so expansive and spacious, I feel obligated to make some comparison to my youth. That, and after nearly a year in New York City, excessive amounts of room makes me uncomfortable.
I have beaten Sean to the venue and while I wait, I consult a wise friend back in Los Angeles as to how to pick up guys at a bar, something I have never been able to master, or even attempt, to be honest. “Just stand up straight…be confident…and then get drunk and go back to his place…” she advises via text message. Though the instructions sound fairly uncomplicated, I try desperately to conjure up a vision of me knocking back shots of tequila and winking at some kid who, at that stage of weakened judgment, probably wouldn’t end up being cute the next morning. Sean arrives before I can contemplate this tactic more thoroughly.
We walk through the massive bar, passing by skinny kids holding tumblers of whisky and playing a game of indoor bocce ball. Towards the back, stairs lead down to a much more humble room, where through the closed double-doors, I can hear the mumblings of a monologue.
“He just started,” the man with a list and blonde hair says as he stamps my hand, the one that doesn’t have the fresh burn scar on it. I’ve recently discovered that the giant, bright pink, Fight Club-esque circle on my hand is something to contend with. The other day, while shopping for myself while I supposed to be shopping for Christmas presents for other people, I tried on a pair of dainty riding gloves with perforated leather and shiny snap buttons. I pulled the glove over my fingers, buttoned a strap across my wrist, and stared at my scar, conveniently framed by an artful gap in the leather. I stared down at my right hand, which now matched the fucked up one. Perfect.
The room is packed, filled wall-to-wall with people standing near the door or sitting in chairs. Lucky bastards. We move to a back corner of the room and sit on the concrete floor for what turns out to be nearly two hours, a decision I feel the next morning in my lower back. I am twenty-six going on eighty-seven. When the real pain of old age kicks in, just fucking kill me.
I hadn’t heard of Mike Birbiglia until this morning when Sean sent me an email extending the invite, stating that I would appreciate Mike’s comedic sentiment, a varietal of humor suitable for NPR. Sean described his typical set as “smart, self-deprecating, long-form stories that are super funny and super personal,” prefacing the comment with “Mike Birbiglia is right up your alley.” My friends know me too well.
By the time we sit down, Mike has already referred to his receding hairline and protruding gut and called himself an “I’d Fuck Him Maybe,” which was better than what he used to be, which was an “I’d Fuck Him Never.” His wounded boy humor is so good it makes me wish I was born with a penis and found myself ostracized from my peers for the better part of a decade, forced to spend my adolescence cultivating a brilliant sense of humor based on the fact that no one wanted to sleep with me, let alone kiss me. As I stare up from the ground, in between white people in dark jackets, I fall in love with Mike Birbiglia. But I am not drunk enough to tell him, nor willing to destroy a well honed act based on the beautiful fruits of low self-esteem.