9/8/13

"My Girlfriend's Boyfriend" Resonates


My best friend Lindsay introduced me to Mike Bibirglia on the way home from a "Back to the Future" screening at the Hollywood Palms a few years ago. Lindsay is one of those people who knows about everything good before 98% of the other people on planet Earth. She's a tastemaker. I think the only thing I ever introduced her to was "Wicked" and Jim Gaffigan. The other thousands of things that we both love came directly from her.

Mike Birbiglia is funny. But he's also skilled at writing and performing emotionally resonant material. His film "Sleepwalk With Me" floored me. It ran through my thoughts for days after my initial viewing. It was hilarious, beautifully shot, but most importantly, it had something specific to say. There's a lot of meaningless comedy in the world. (Which is okay. Sometimes the meaninglessness has a meaning.) But Birbiglia's comedy is grounded, focused and helpful. It's adding something to the world instead of taking something away... 

I used to say these really preachy things in columns I wrote about religion and relationships for various print magazines. Birbiglia speaks to similar subjects, but it's more palatable because he's the fall guy in his own stories.

Listening to his material rings a bell inside my mind. It makes me reflect on the fact that I cook my writing from the outside in. I start with an idea, a passion for a specific genre or a superficial goal and I find what I have to say from there. This often leaves my writing emotionally hollow and unfocused. It's usually why I walk away from a project. What is the point of writing anything if you don't have something important, specific or personal to say?

I'd love to hear about Birbiglia's writing process. Does he start KNOWING that he wants to talk about how he feels marriage is an outdated tradition or does he write his way to that conclusion, go back and redraft based on what he has figured out from his writing process?

I have to read my own writing like tea leaves. I lack a lot of self-awareness and it takes me a long time to figure out what I'm trying to say. It's frustrating. Or maybe that's not it, maybe I'm afraid to write anything too personal. Maybe I hide behind genre.

But I know I can change. I think I'm ready for that kind of artistic growth.

Have you ever watched or listened to something and just thought, "Well, if I knew you could do it THAT way, I would've tried it a long time ago." That's how I felt last night watching "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend".

I don't mean that in a, "That looks easy, I bet I could do that!" sort of way. Since I've been acting again, I find that everyone thinks they would be a really great actor. That's been true of everything I've ever done. Making a short film, writing a script, doing voiceover...everything I've ever done professionally (with moderate success) there's ALWAYS been that one guy standing on the sidelines kind of going, "I could do that," in that smug way that sort of diminishes your efforts.

But I think that guy has existed since the dawn of time on the outskirts of every profession and every friendship. That guy was rolling his eyes at Marie Curie at a dinner party. That guy was telling his friends he had a better idea for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. That guy.

So, what's new? What have you discovered lately? What gets you amped? What completes the puzzle in your mind? How do you "recognize" material like this? What do you do once you've finally recognized it?


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