The new Netflix comedy special from storyteller/comedian Mike Birbiglia is worth watching for anyone who is a parent, but it’s particularly good if you sometimes feel like you’re a parent who isn’t in control of their lives. Somewhat famously, Mike Birbiglia has a dangerous sleepwalking disorder, which is why you’ve probably heard of him: He became semi-famous for this one-man show Sleepwalk With Me.
Now, he’s back with a Netflix special called The New One, which is a taped performance of his 2018 one-man Broadway show of the same name. The subject matter is mostly focused on marriage and fatherhood, which means that Birbiglia alternates between feeling sorry for himself and making fun of himself. But the best bit is actually a small thing that focuses on what happens with parents realize they can no longer speak to each other. And not for any reason other than your kid won’t let you.
The bit is connected to a moment when his daughter Oona starts screaming, which Birbiglia describes “Like the meanest heckler I’ve ever encountered, like a heckler who not only hates what I’m saying but every word individually in any context.”
And then his wife responds: “Oona doesn’t like it when we talk.”
This joke is hilarious, and partially because it’s a very common thing and literally no one ever talks about it. Like Birbiglia, my daughter has done this exact same thing to me and my wife; often prevented us from having a regular conversation about something as simple as the best route to take to the grocery store. Children pick up on the adult world from a very young age, and they hate it. It’s a confusing moment in any marriage, mostly because it’s one of those rare times that, as a husband and father, you’ve done nothing wrong. Sometimes, simply talking at all is enough to land you into trouble.
Birbiglia gets this. He’s not always super-relatable in The New One, but in this moment, and in several other bits, he hits on something many fathers struggle with: When everything we say can create a meltdown, should we just stop talking altogether?
The New One is streaming now on Netflix.