Writer/Director Mike Birbiglia on New Comedy… by Uinterview

Mike Birbiglia wrote, directed and stars in Don’t Think Twice, a film that centers on a New York improv troupe that sees one of its members leave to pursue a TV gig.

Mike Birbiglia On ‘Don’t Think Twice’

From the plot line, it is easy to assume that Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice is an autobiographical bit of filmmaking. But while the comedian did draw on his own experiences in show business for the project, he insists that it tells a story removed from his own.

“It’s a fictional film, but I definitely think it has autobiographical themes. I mean, it’s about a group of friends, and it’s about jealousy, and it’s about feeling like someone else got something that you deserve and I know what that feels like. But, it’s certainly not my story,” Birbiglia told uInterview in an exclusive interview. “I never auditioned for Saturday Night Live, that part of it is not me.”

While it’s becoming increasingly popular for filmmakers to provide a framework for scenes and encourage the actors to develop the dialogue in real time, Birbiglia had a relatively tight script for Don’t Think Twice – despite the fact that the film focused on improvisational acting. Here and there, though, the cast came through with some improvised lines that the multi-hyphenate felt compelled to keep in the finished film.

“It’s surprisingly written for a film about improv, but that being said, there’s real nice gems of improv that are sprinkled throughout. When you have people like Keegan-Michael Key from Key and Peele and Gillian Jacobs from Love, you want the best of them and their creative brains,” Birbiglia explained. “There’s one that Gillian says: ‘The last drop of blood is the sweetest nectar you’ll ever taste.’ So weird and she improvised that and we’re all like, ‘Huh, I guess that’s what she’s thinking about.’”

The emotional arc of Don’t Think Twice has to do with the pursuit of dreams, and when those dreams aren’t achieved. In Birbiglia’s eyes, the dreams not achieved often pave the way for new dreams, one that are a better fit for the one in pursuit.

“I think in your 20s you think of success as this one thing, like me and all my friends all wanted to write for Conan, or write for SNL, or write for The Daily Show. Then, in your 30s, you realize that first of all, not everybody’s gonna get that, probably none of your friends are gonna get that,” Birbiglia mused to uInterview. “And then there’s this whole spectrum of other things that can happen with your life and those things are probably better for you and more appropriate to who you are.”

Don’t Think Twice is currently in select theaters.


Q: How autobiographical is the film? -

Well, it’s a fictional film, but I definitely think it has autobiographical themes. I mean, it’s about a group of friends, and it’s about jealousy, and it’s about feeling like someone else got something that you deserve and I know what that feels like. But, it’s certainly not my story. I never auditioned for Saturday Night Live, that part of it is not me.

Q: Is there a lot of improv in the film? -

It’s surprisingly written for a film about improv, but that being said, there’s real nice gems of improv that are sprinkled throughout. When you have people like Keegan-Michael Key from Key and Peele and Gillian Jacobs from Love, you want the best of them and their creative brains. There’s one that Gillian says. I don’t know if you remember when she’s improvising on stage and she says, ‘The last drop of blood is the sweetest nectar you’ll ever taste.’ So weird and she improvised that and we’re all like, ‘Huh, I guess that’s what she’s thinking about.’

Q: What was it like working with an ensemble of comedians? -

It was a ton of fun for them and a lot of work for me. I was always jealous that everyone was having a great time, because you know you have to direct the film. So I was sort of the camp counselor of the group.

Q: How do you feel about your character not achieving his dream? -

I think Keegan-Michael Key, who plays Jack in the movie, he always describes the movie to people as what happens when your dreams come true for someone else. I feel like that’s part of it. It’s isolation, like what happens when you realize not everybody’s gonna get the same thing in life. It’s definitely a revelation I had in my 30s that I did not have in my 20s. I didn’t have that kind of perspective. I think in your 20s you think of success as this one thing, like me and all my friends all wanted to write for Conan, or write for SNL, or write for The Daily Show. Then, in your 30s, you realize that first of all, not everybody’s gonna get that, probably none of your friends are gonna get that. And then there’s this whole spectrum of other things that can happen with your life and those things are probably better for you and more appropriate to who you are.