Students cautiously optimistic about SPB spring comedy show

and | Student Life Editors

Dennisvan Tine | Abaca Press | MCT

Q&A after a screening of “Sleepwalk With Me.”

Students expressed mixed reactions to Social Programming Board’s announcement that actors Mike Birbiglia and Judah Friedlander would perform on campus for the spring comedy show.

In the aftermath of the announcement made at about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, many students were unsure who the headlining comedians were. Others expressed optimism about the quality of the performers based on previous shows and were excited about having more big names come to campus.

“I hope they make me laugh, [but] I don’t know who they are,” sophomore Senit Kidane said.

Others were excited by the announcement for the upcoming show. Senior Nicole Mann understood why SPB chose the artists it did.

“I’m a big comedy fan, so having Mike Birbiglia and Judah Friedlander at [Washington University] is a pretty big deal for me. Judah Friedlander will pull ‘30 Rock’ fans too, which is great, and anyone with a soul will fall in love with Mike Birbiglia,” Mann said.

The show will take place on March 5 at 6:30 p.m. in Edison Theatre, and doors will open at 6 p.m. Sean O’Brien, a local comedian and friend of Birbiglia, will open the show. Birbiglia will take the stage after O’Brien, and Friedlander will close the show.

This will be the first SPB comedy show with an opener and more than one headliner. The group’s goal was to craft a lineup that would appeal to a wide audience.

“We brought Nick Offerman last time, and he had a broad appeal because ‘Parks and [Recreation]’ is so well-known…we thought it would be good to bring in someone who was really well-known in the comedy circuit as well as someone who would be well-known to someone who doesn’t follow comedy,” sophomore Ishi Metkar, SPB comedy director, said.

Freshman Alejandro Martinez echoed these sentiments.

“I’m really excited because last semester, the comedy show was amazing. It was hilarious. So I’m excited that they’re bringing these bigger names to Wash. U.,” he said.

Dennisvan Tine | Abaca Press | MCT

Judah Friedlander attends the premiere of “The Ides of March” at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City on Oct. 5, 2011

Even though there will be three performers for the show as opposed to one as in previous years, SPB stayed within the same budget as last fall for Offerman’s show, working out a deal with the agents to bring in all three for the same overall price.

Birbiglia is best known for his role as producer and starring actor in the one-man show “Sleepwalk with Me,” which was subsequently transformed into a feature film following the show’s critical success. The movie won the Best of NEXT Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, and Birbiglia’s role in the film garnered him a nomination for the Breakthrough Actor award.

Birbiglia is also a contributor on “This American Life,” a public radio series about American culture. He has appeared in five episodes thus far.

“People really enjoy [Birbiglia’s] laid-back, story-telling type of comedy, which is very different from a lot of other comedians who get really excited and riled up,” Metkar said.

Friedlander, who gained notoriety for his role as Frank Rossitano on “30 Rock,” is a standup comic by trade. He even continued to perform his stand-up routine while shooting for “30 Rock” in New York.

Friedlander is also known for his distinct appearance: long hair, T-shirt and a trucker hat with a short slogan on the front. He told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in 2007 that he makes his own hats and has been doing so for over a decade.

“[Friedlander] is one of those comedians who will interact with the audience. He sometimes will call out audience members and just have a conversation with them,” Metkar said. “He’s really casual, so we thought [Birbiglia and Friedlander] would complement each other really well.”

Friedlander has played roles in several feature films, including “Zoolander,” “Meet the Parents” and “Along Came Polly.” He performed at the Firebird last February.

O’Brien is known locally for hosting the podcast “Tackling Tough Issues” and emceeing the St. Louis Funny Bone.

With additional reporting by Eliana Goldstein

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.