‘The New One’ runs through Jan. 20 at the Cort Theatre.138 W. 48th St., thenewone.com.
Comedian, actor and Brooklyn resident Mike Birbiglia has made the journey from the West Village to Broadway — literally.
To promote the Broadway transfer of his enjoyable one-man show “The New One,” Birbiglia recently led a crowd in a two-and-a-half-mile march from Off-Broadway’s Cherry Lane Theatre (where the show played a sold-out limited run over the summer) to Broadway’s Cort Theatre. Not a bad publicity stunt, plus good exercise.
The Off-Broadway incarnation of “The New One” (which followed an extensive national tour) marked my first exposure to Birbiglia’s stand-up comedy, although I had seen him on television in recurring roles on “Orange is the New Black” and “Billions.” Since then, I have explored some of Birbiglia’s earlier recordings, including “Sleepwalk With Me.”
Similarly to his previous work (such as "Sleepwalk With Me") Birbiglia relies upon a well-honed "nice guy" persona. In doing so, he comes off as heartfelt and relatable — not so different from any given audience member who is figuring out life as it goes along. There is an appealing smoothness and simplicity to his shows, which tend to be autobiographical in nature. Birbiglia excels at offering fun anecdotes, dramatizing conversations with offstage characters, making Seinfeld-style observations about daily life and performing occasional physical bits.
Directed by Seth Barrish, with additional writing by poet Jessica Hope Stein (who is Birbiglia’s wife) "The New One" would appear at first glance to be a pretty generic title for a new stand-up show, but it actually turns out to have a substantive secondary meaning.
It focuses on Birbiglia’s hesitant and bewildered transition into fatherhood, from being steadfast against having any children (a good chunk of the show consists of an extended list of reasons as to why he considers himself unfit to take care of any child) to his wife’s pregnancy and the arrival of their daughter.
At my performance, after comparing children to a deadly contagious disease and claiming that “kids hold us back,” Birbiglia noticed a few children in the audience, so he gently tried to break the news to them about what they can expect out of life.
Birbiglia also briefly discusses several of his medical conditions, including a sleeping disorder, which once led to a life-threatening incident (previously revealed in “Sleepwalk With Me”) and now requires him to sleep under lock and key in a custom-made straitjacket made of sheets.
Running approximately 80 minutes, the show loses some steam as it goes along, trading bite for sentimentality and taking meandering turns, but overall it is very funny and well-constructed. Parenthood is well-worn territory for comedians, but Birbligia manages to be fresh, revealing and (as always) relatable.