ABOVE: BIRBIGLIA (LEFT), GLASS, AND THE CAKE. PHOTO COURTESY OF AMANDA SCHWAB/STARPIX
Last night was a big one for writer and comedian Mike Birbiglia. In addition to the premiere date of his film Sleepwalk with Me —based on his one-man show by the same name—which kicked off the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinemaFest, it was also Birbiglia’s birthday.
Birbiglia is a noted pizza connoisseur—in fact, pizza probably ought to be given third billing in Sleepwalk with Me, after Birbiglia and co-star Lauren Ambrose, to acknowledge its many appearances in the film. But he seemed not to anticipate that he’d be presented, by longtime friend and co-writer and producer Ira Glass onstage at BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House after the screening, with a remarkably true-to-form birthday cake decorated to look like a pizza.
“This has got to be a cake from the Internet,” Birbiglia noted.
The film, out later this summer, tells the very funny, tender, and extremely autobiographical (Birbiglia’s protagonist is named Matt Pandamiglio) story of Birbiglia’s struggle with somnambulism, which happens to coincide with the rise of his career as a standup comedian and with the devolution of an eight-year relationship. Matt’s troubles begin when, sleepwalking, he mistakes a laundry hamper for a jackal; and they culminate—not to give too much away—with him running, bloodied, through the parking lot of a La Quinta inn.
Since the episodes in the film are based on Birbiglia’s real-life bouts of sleepwalking, we were curious as to whether the condition has ever proved helpful—does he ever wake up and find his subconscious has done his taxes, or cleaned out the refrigerator? “It has never been useful,” he told us laughing. “The only thing I do effectively in my sleep is before I go to bed, I sometimes ask myself a question about the writing I’m doing. I’ve been told that’s a good trick; I find it to be very effective. I highly recommend it to any writer. But don’t, I will say this, if you have a sleepwalking disorder, don’t spend too much time watching cable news right before bed or ruminating about the nuclear holocaust.”
As for Glass, his reams aren’t so vivid. “I rarely remember my dreams, and when I do remember them, they’re repetitive and filled with anxiety,” Glass said. “And they’re really corny—like, I have a repetitive dream where I’m supposed to put on my radio show, but I’m not ready. Like, that’s the level of sophistication that I have. There’s literally no art to it at all.”
In a postmodern twist, Birbiglia said making a film about his sleepwalking only caused his incidents of it to reflect that he was making a film about it. “During the making of the film, I would have sleepwalking incidents that I was directing myself in the movie. And I would be adjusting lights in my bedroom. And my wife would be like, ‘Mike, you’re not making the movie right now.’ And I would be like, ‘I am. I’m sorry, but I am.'”
SLEEPWALK WITH ME IS OUT IN LIMITED RELEASE AUGUST 24.