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 chief 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 showing was the latest 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 One on CTG’s Ahmanson stage. The new show explores questions of life, health and mortality as Birbiglia recounts scenes from his past by using a doctor’s visit as a jumping off point. And, true to its title, he details trips to the YMCA and dips in its pool as well as an encounter with an older man in the locker room. (That particular tale caused Jack Black to double over with laughter at one point.)
Ahead of the performance, his friends walked the red carpet in front of the theater and weren’t shy about sharing praise for both Birbiglia’s work and his humanity. “Mike is remarkably human,” explained multihyphenate Seth Barrish, who has known the comedian for more than two decades and directed the show. “He’s really willing to talk really openly and honestly about stuff he’s going through or has gone through.”
Docter, in town from the Bay Area where he lives, made sure not to miss Birbiglia’s show. “His work is always pulled from real life stories, stuff that actually happened to him and it’s told in a really funny way,” he explains of the appeal of Birbiglia’s work. “The hard work is weaving all these things together into some coherent narrative that leads to a feeling at the end. That’s what good storytelling does.”
Schaal said her longtime friend is “kind of like an every man” in that his work is very accessible but for 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 is just him that he’s doing on the stage. He is both a standup and a storyteller and that is not super common. Also, there’s a real arc to what he does and a real theatricality.” She was quick to credit Barrish with whom she is also working on her own standup special at the moment. “Seth is a fuck fucking genius and the two of them together just really know how to make good theater.”
Their work will be available to Los Angeles audiences at the Mark Taper through Aug. 28. Birbiglia then heads off on 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 delivered “a dream come true.”