Mike Birbiglia can certainly draw a big crowd.
The Mark Taper Forum in downtown Los Angeles hosted a star-studded pool party Wednesday for the opening night of Birbiglia’s latest one-man show, The Old Man and the Pool. Ewan McGregor (with daughter Clara), Jack Black, Jimmy Kimmel, Nick Kroll, Allison Brie, Zooey Deschanel with Jonathan Scott, Rachel Bloom, Pixar chef Pete Docter, celebrity chef David Chang, comedian Pete Holmes, writer, producer and stand-up Neal Brennan, Kristin Schaal, Jason Nash, Peter Paige, Kate Micucci, Michaela Watkins, Larry Wilmore, Taylor Tomlinson, Raviv Ullman, Sam Daly and Riki Lindhome were among the stars spotted by The Hollywood Reporter.
The screening was the last tour stop for Birbiglia’s Old man and the pool and brought him back to Center Theater Group where he last performed his Broadway hit The new on the Ahmanson stage of CTG. The new show explores questions of life, health and mortality as Birbiglia recounts scenes from his past using a doctor’s visit as a starting point. And, true to his title, he describes trips to the YMCA and dips in the pool, as well as meeting an elderly man in the locker room. (That particular story made Jack Black laugh double at one point.)
Prior to the performance, his friends walked the red carpet in front of the theater and were not shy to share praise for both Birbiglia’s work and his humanity. “Mike is remarkably human,” explains Seth Barrish with multiple hyphens, who has known the comedian and directed the show for more than two decades. “He’s really willing to talk very openly and honestly about things he’s going through or has been through.”
Docter, in the Bay Area town where he lives, made sure he didn’t miss Birbiglia’s show. “His work is always drawn from real life stories, things that really happened to him and it’s told in a really funny way,” he explains about the appeal of Birbiglia’s work. “The hard work is putting all these things together into a coherent story that leads to a feeling at the end. That is what good storytelling does.”
Schaal said her longtime boyfriend is “a bit of an every man” because his work is very accessible, but as brilliant as he is, he remains “very humble in how he sees the world”. That way, “everyone feels like they’re part of the story.”
Bloom described it as authenticity. “That’s not a persona. That’s just him doing it on stage. He’s both a stand-up and a storyteller and that’s not super common. There is also a real arc in what he does and a real theatricality.” She was quick to credit Barrish with whom she is also currently working on her own stand-up special. “Seth is a fucking genius and those two just know how to make really good theater together.”
Their work will be available to the public in Los Angeles at the Mark Taper until August 28. Birbiglia then sets off tour with stops in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Toronto, Atlanta, Cincinatti, Columbus, Detroit, Nashville, Mesa, Arizona and Salt Lake City through Nov. 19.
When it was all over, Birbiglia posted on Instagram that the night was “a dream come true.”