Mike Birbiglia is a stand-up comic, improv teacher, writer and actor, in addition to being a new father. So what made him decide to direct a second feature film, the follow-up to the 2012 “Sleepwalk with Me”?
“Masochism. Addiction to pain,” Birbiglia jokes during a recent visit to The City, during which he spoke at a screening of the film and taught a special improv class.
“’Sleepwalk with Me’ was so hard, and then the moment I finished I just wanted to do it again,” he says. “I can do it better! Trust me!”
His new movie “Don’t Think Twice” tells the story of a New York improv group. Their small, loyal following — and their friendship — is threatened when two of the members get a shot at a “Saturday Night Live”-like TV show.
In addition to Birbiglia, the cast includes Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Chris Gethard, Kate Micucci and Tami Sagher.
With the promise of little to no pay, Birbiglia convinced these actors to assemble three weeks early to build improv-group camaraderie.
“I told them: Let’s think of it like college theater, where it’s only as good as what we put into it,” he says. “If we do improv workshops and live improv shows, I feel like we’re going to feel like best friends. That’s the goal.”
To make the world of late-night comedy television also felt real, Birbiglia consulted with two former “Saturday Night Live” writers, Jorma Taccone and Alan Zweibel, both of whom advised: “’Make sure you get across how hard that job is.’”
“I really took that to heart,” says Birbiglia. “I really tried to twist the knife.”
Though he himself never auditioned for “SNL,” he has no regrets.
Today, he gets a charge from improv.
In the movie, a character finds a book called “Something Wonderful Right Away,” and Birbiglia quotes a line from that book: “On any given night an improv show has the ability to be the best-written, best-acted, most timely play on earth.”
He adds, “That can happen anywhere. It’s a pretty exciting thought. It’s empowering.”
Yet movies are still a draw for Birbiglia. He says he “craves” movies about people, relationships and friendships, the kinds of movies that aren’t made much anymore.
Regardless of his current projects, he says he hopes to continue to learn. “I feel that the people who stagnate are the people who think they’ve got it,” he says. “I feel like the moment you think you’ve cracked it, you’re done.”
IF YOU GO
Don’t Think Twice
Starring Mike Birbiglia, Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Kate Micucci
Written and directed by Mike Birbiglia
Running time 1 hour, 32 minutes