The Old Man and the Pool’ is the smiling comedian through middle age at the Steppenwolf Theater – Chicago Tribune

I last saw comedic storyteller Mike Birbiglia in 2012. He was at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater with a solo show he called “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend”, detailing how a woman named Jenny got him to see him again his views on marriage. The audience was mostly 20s and 30s on dates. I remember being struck by how many of them looked like Birbiglia himself.

Somehow a decade has passed – swoosh! — and the now considerably more famous Birbiglia is back in town for a weeks-long tour of the Steppenwolf Theater with a show he calls “The Old Man and the Pool.”

There was, in fact, an appearance here in between, a show called “The New One” at the Chicago Theater in 2017, a change of venue that says a lot about how quickly the Birbiglia star has risen. At the top of this Steppenwolf concert, which puts him in a much more appropriate place, he steps out and tells his audience that he intends to start precisely where he left off last time. Except, of course, time has passed and his stories are now about parenthood, middle-aged health issues, and mortality.

He is now old enough to discover that the objects in the doctor’s office that he thought were decorative, “are actually quite functional”.

The Gen-X audience still looks like him. I’d bet a lot of them are the same people there who were watching it in 2012. Birbiglia’s quality comedians and storytellers can carry their fans through their careers.

Birbiglia is in many ways, the ideal comedian for the podcast era of progressive cultural domination, a performer whose sweet jokes stem from autobiographical experiences with punchlines that mostly zing. He is non-threatening and has a disarming, goofy smile as well as a quixotic enough linguistic curiosity to be fully qualified for, say, “Wait, wait… Don’t tell me anything!” or another nerd weekly date on NPR. He can, for example, make hay with a sign at the YMCA pool with the words “Slippery While Wet”, a questionable use, he says, of the subjunctive clause, given the likelihood of slippery being a constant presence.

He observes that Airbnb is a misleading acronym, given the typical lack of a stocked breakfast. About as cutting as he gets is when he observes that nutritionists only “know what we know”, and that a visit to one is a lot like visiting an annoying friend handing you a bill.

I doubt nutritionists are taking Steppenwolf by storm. Birbiglia doesn’t elicit that kind of reaction, given that these comments are always fun, kind-hearted, warm-hearted analysis of surprisingly comfortable city life in the Brooklyns or Lincoln Parks of the world.

He figured out long ago that he could talk about love, a topic that many male comedians shy away from, and given his history of health issues, he’s also adept at delivering his most important message: enjoy. of each original moment, because tomorrow is not promised. And feel the love. That’s what you get for about 75 minutes for your $75 downstairs at Steppenwolf, and it’s like a warm soak in a cold spring with time left over for dinner.

Review: “Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man and the Pool”

When: Until May 22

Where: Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St.

Duration: 1h15

Tickets: $55 to $75 at 312-335-1650 or

Comments are closed.