Happy Scribe Logo


Proofread by 0 readers

From W.H y y in Philadelphia, I'm Terry Gross with Fresh Air. When comic, actor, filmmaker and writer Mike Birbiglia got married, he and his wife had agreed they didn't want to have children. But several years later, she changed her mind. Mike's new memoir, The New One, is about reluctantly becoming a father. It includes what he described as some of his deepest, darkest and funniest thoughts about their decision to have a child and his life as a new dad.


His writing is interspersed with poems about pregnancy and early motherhood by his wife, Jen Stein, who publishes under the name J. Hope Stein. She'll join us, too. Mike Birbiglia also wrote the memoir, adapted from his one man show, Sleepwalk With Me. He made and costarred in the film Don't Think Twice about a group of improv comics. He has a recurring role in billions and had one in Orange is the New Black.


My guest, Mike Birbiglia, is a comic, writer, actor and filmmaker and a contributor to This American Life who tells personal stories about the kind of experiences and thoughts many people would not want to reveal at a fear of being embarrassed or judged harshly. But Big Leah has done it again in his new book, The New One Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad. It's about all the reasons he did not want to become a father. How he became a father in spite of that and all the reasons why he felt he wasn't connecting to his baby daughter and feared his marriage was falling apart.


It didn't fall apart.


His wife, Joanne Stein, who writes under the name J. Hope Stein, collaborated on his new memoir, contributing her side of the story through poems interspersed through the book. Their daughter, UNOPS, is now five years old. The book ends when she's around 14 months. Mike Birbiglia also made and starred in the films Sleepwalk With Me and Don't Think Twice. He had a recurring role in Orange is the New Black and is now in the Showtime series Billions.


His new memoir, The New One, is expanded from his stage show of the same name. Mike Birbiglia. Jen Stein, welcome to Fresh Air. Congratulations on the new book. I really I think it's great.


So, Mike, how did you fear your life would change if you had children?


Well, one of the interesting things about putting this material on stage is and a lot of authors say this is that it's when you write that you understand how you feel. And so I had this resistance from day one with Jan and really and before that of, you know, I'm never gonna have a child. I remember one of my first jokes that ever worked on stage was I'm not going to have kids until I'm sure that nothing else good can happen in my life.


And and and then I when I expounded on that in the show, in the book, I broke it down to seven reasons why I would never want to have a child. I know things that include like I love my marriage, I love my cat. You know, the earth is sinking into the ocean, all these things.


And I just felt so logically, I felt so correct about all of my reasoning that that it really took my wife putting it, I would say in more emotional terms for me to understand it, which is to say she heard me out on all those reasons.


And she said, I I know all of that. And I think you'd be a good dad. And that was sort of a thing that really melted me because maybe I don't know if this is true. Maybe underneath all of that was a fear that I wouldn't be a good dad.


But you saw things in your brother's life and in the lives of friends who had children that you didn't want in your life that you wanted to avoid. What were some of those things that you saw in your peers who were fathers?


It just seemed like, well, my brother Joe, who is like possibly my best friend and collaborator for many years, runs my company. He has two kids. And, you know, I make the joke in the book. I say he used to be so cool and now he's he's a loser and he's a loser, but he's just, you know, sort of less able to do go go out or do anything he eat. It seemed like he was so bound.


He was so restricted in this way that I did. I just didn't want to be. And and at one point I said to Joe, what's it like having a kid? And he took a long pause and he thought about it and he said, it's relentless. And then then he said, I'm not worried about you because if you have a kid, it's going to be. Better or worse, it's just going to be new. And that's sort of where the title of the show in the book came from.


Which is the new one, genuine from Mike's telling. When you and he decided to get married, you agreed that you didn't want to have children. But January, you changed your mind about that. So give us the short version of why you didn't think you wanted to have children, but then changed your mind.


I guess it wasn't something I was really thinking about when we met and we got married. It was almost kind of a goof because we had been dating a while and had been pretty tumultuous. But we really loved each other. And then we were like, let's just get married. And and we eloped. And. And my mom, like, we called my parents and I'm like my stepfather thought it was a joke when we called and said that we got married and my grandmother assumed I was pregnant if I got married.


So I think felt like nobody really thought our marriage was going to last and maybe we didn't know if it was gonna last. So having kids was really far from my mind in terms of what our relationship would produce. It was just kind of like, let's get married. That's kind of fun. And then we just had our anniversary. It's been like 14 or 12 or 14 years or something.


It's Terry. It's either 12 or 14 years. We're gonna get back to. Don't fact check for me, please. It's actually it's actually twelve. To be clear. OK.


So, Jen, what changed your mind and made you think you did want to become a mother?


I don't know if I can put that in towards. But I really did feel like there was something that I didn't know that we that Mike and I would develop in terms of like we developed a really beautiful love, I thought in our house, sort of had a beautiful love to it. And I felt like we had something to offer to a child. And I don't know. It's something it wasn't it wasn't too much to us anymore. We just saw it.


We're living this beautiful life. And I felt like Mike would be this amazing dad. And I felt like it was the kind of challenge that we were ready for.


Well, sounds like you were ready. I was. I think Mike was ready. He just didn't know it had it.


When you realized, Jenn, that you wanted to have a baby. Did you. Did you rehearse how to bring it up to Mike, knowing that he might be resistant to the idea?


I didn't rehearse it, but I just know him so well. So I knew he didn't want to. So I guess the you know, the conversation was like, I know you don't wanna have a kid. I totally get it. You're right to feel this way. But I see something different for us. And it was kind of that kind of dialogue.


Mike, did you feel betrayed like we had an agreement where we weren't gonna have children? What do you what are you pulling on me now?


Well, I make the point that when she first brought it up, I said to her I was very clear when we got married that I never wanted to have a kid.


And I said, which, by the way, gets you nothing. Apparently, being very clear is useless. But it's true. Like, I think it ended up being a series of conversations that I say over months and months. You know, I think I say in the book, like, there was never a moment there's never a moment in life that creates one big decision. I think it's a series of moments that form an evolution. And I think I think that's what happened is over time.


I just felt like, well, this is my life partner. This is this person who I love and trust and and and who I'm going to spend the rest of my life with. And this is really what she wants to do. And I know she'd be a great mom.


And so the idea of holding her back at a certain point felt almost I don't know. It felt very selfish to hold her back from that. And it was a dilemma. But then just to come full circle. It's so funny. Like it's five now. And it's you know, sometimes people ask, what what about when he gets older and she reads this book, Hello, Stefan.


Jen always laughs at that question because Anna is so doted on by both me and Jan that I think for her it would be inconceivable that we would ever have anything less than a thousand percent enthusiasm for having a child. And and and the other thing is that ultimately where the book lands is at. You know, I don't want to give his way spoiler alert, if people really want to experience the book exactly in order. But the end is a letter to to my daughter.


Saying to her, like, I you know, this book is for you, like I want you to read this book because ultimately it's about being honest, like I'm being I'm being, you know, painfully and darkly honest in a way that I think that we should all be to each other, because I think that when you're honest with people who you love, ultimately, even if it's painful in the short term, in the long term, it makes you even closer.


And then so I don't know if GM wants to speak to that.


Yeah. I'd also say that, you know, make voicing all of his concerns for me and the way our relationship works, it actually calms me down. And I don't have to wonder what he's thinking. And I think in relationship, sometimes people keep those kinds of fears to themselves. And then you have to have wonder and that the you know, the feeling is still in the air, but you can't quite put your finger on it. I don't have to worry about quite putting my finger on it.


It's completely like vocalised on a daily basis, you know. So I don't have to wonder where I stand or where things stand. And there's some comfort to that for me, because I feel like I'm actually not not much of a talker. And so for me, it's I don't know. It helps it helps me sort of it helps comfort me somehow. And so I don't feel so overwhelmed by Mike saying I don't want to do something and knowing that I would do want to do it, I don't feel like we're that far apart because he's so vocal.


And we can can we can actually talk about it. And we're not. I'm not wondering about it.


There's a there's a joke in the book where I say Jen is an introvert and I'm an extrovert. An extrovert is someone who gets energy from being around other people. And an introvert doesn't like you or she might like you, but she's going to need me to explain why we're leaving the party. But that's I mean, that the introvert extrovert thing that Jan is alluding to is like in some ways our dynamic. And and what she's saying, I think is true, like in and it's building on what I'm saying, which is like I grew up in like a Catholic, like a conservative Catholic upbringing in Massachusetts.


That was very much the opposite of the way that I write, which is it was very sort of like, don't you know very much? Don't say how you feel.


And it leads, you know, that kind of that kind of behavior leads to repression. And I feel like I tried to reverse that. Maybe I go too far.


Oversharing. Yeah. Exactly. Jen, you had a difficult pregnancy. You were so thrilled to be pregnant, but you had in your second trimester, you had a bleeding placenta, which at first you thought was a miscarriage. So I know you were very concerned through the pregnancy that something could go wrong. And then you found out you had hyper mobile hips, which meant that during childbirth you could possibly dislocate or even break a hip. So I want you to read a poem about the pregnancy.


And this is a poem called Magic Trick. Magic Trick. I bled and bled. I thought of friends who have gone through much worse. And I bled. I thought of women across the world and in our own country who have no medical care and bled. I thought of blood and it's magic trick flowing cell by cell through time without ever leaving the body. How differently it performs. Another liquid's girl. I whispered to my belly before they tell me she's a girl.


My body may fail you. Sorry, but no. This your life belongs to you. And our time together it has already begun. Thanks for reading that. And that's one of the poems in Mike Birbiglia, his memoir. Mike, were you afraid not only of being a father, but afraid of losing the baby and a fear, fear that Jan might be injured in the process of pregnancy or childbirth?


Yeah. I think that the pregnancy was very precious to her.


For her to think through her out of it was. You know, getting pregnant was challenging. I think Jen can speak to this better than I can, but I feel like the first and second trimester or so challenging. And then there was a point in the in the third trimester where Jen started, there's a period of time where she was she was enjoying it. And she started eating like a college freshman, just like hot dogs and ice cream and Manet's.


And at one point, she's eating like three hot dogs. And she looks up to me and she says, I feel like I understand you now.


And I said, I think that's a little bit offensive. You have the best offensive thing you've ever said to me. But but we really did have like a bonding period in the third trimester.


But where where I feel like in some ways Jen pointed this out before.


In some ways we're as close in that third trimester as as we've ever been. And yeah, but it was scary. I mean, the whole thing was scary. And I was really scared for her. I was scared for who knows. You know, it was it was terrifying.


Were you terrified, Jen? I was. And I had a mixture of feelings. I was excited. And it was like some days were the greatest days I've ever experienced in my life in some ways. But, you know, and with the poems about, too, is just like the closeness I was starting to feel with the unborn child because I was so. Day to day. And so I started to sort of I feel like being sort of maybe over connected to the child because it felt like any day anything could happen.


And so I was very aware of my own struggle and the struggle, her struggle as well. And I've sort of felt like I started to have a connection to her early. Not knowing if she was gonna make it or not. And then, you know, from as far as Mike and I, I feel like we're very close in this time. And his feelings about not wanting to be a father. I didn't I didn't hear that a lot from him.


I don't feel like that was part of the experience when I was pregnant. It was more about my health and his health. And then once, you know, when I was born, it went back to I went back to he did not want to be and he was not ready.


So your baby Owen was born. And Mike, the book is about your reluctance to become a father and your lack of connection early on to your daughter. And so you write that after she was born, you were not immediately in love with her. You didn't feel committed to her. And you started trying to figure out how to finance your life with this new child for the next 20 years. Can you talk a little bit about the feeling that you weren't immediately in love with her?


Did you think that there was supposed to be this kind of chemical reaction and just automatic sense of wonder about this connection? But you just weren't feeling it. Did you feel like something was wrong with you?




I mean, I think that in the first 13 months, which is where the book mostly takes place, I felt like all of the things that I had thought, all the seven reasons I never wanted to have a child. I was right about it. And I was like, see, I. I told you, you know, and and and it was it was scary. I mean, I really was. I mean, it was a scary.


Yeah. Moment in my life.


And then what's interesting, though, I will say this is from from performing these stories onstage, I can't tell you how many fathers come up to me.


But also, I'd say disproportionately mothers come up to me and say that they felt exactly the way I did, which was very illuminating for me. This idea of like sometimes parents bond with the child at birth or before birth. Six months into the baby's life or 12 months or a year and a half or whatever it is. And that that's not just a you know, not a father thing. It's a it's a parent thing. And I've spoken to actually so many mothers and fathers who have experienced that.


Jenny, did you experience that in all the sense of I don't feel the connection to my baby that I should be feeling?


No, I didn't experience that. I understand why Mike didn't. And I don't really understand why other parents might not feel that. But I kind of had the opposite, which is perhaps I was too connected to her and to maybe just because I had a rough pregnancy, I still like maybe more worried than I should be. And so I think I went the other way. And I think that's part of us being in two different places in that time.


My guests are poet Jen Stein and comic, writer, filmmaker and actor Mike Birbiglia. He's the author of the new memoir, The New One Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad. It includes her poems about pregnancy and early motherhood. We'll be right back after a break. This is fresh air support for this podcast.


And the following message come from going through it. A male chimp original podcast hosted by Tracy Clayton. Tracy speaks with 49 notable black women, including Jose Duffie Rice, El-Hai, Omar, Lena Waites, Angela Davis and more, discussing a pivotal moment when they decided it was time to make a change. Subscribe and listen on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.


Let's get back to my interview with comic after director and contributor to this American Life. Mike Birbiglia, author of the new memoir The New One Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad. Also with us is his wife, Jen Stein, who writes about her experience of pregnancy and early motherhood in a series of poems included in the book. She publishes her poetry under the name J. Hope Stein. The baby had trouble sleeping at first. And you're an insomniac.


And Mike, you have a really serious sleepwalking problem.


You nearly killed yourself a couple of times, and so you were concerned that you could hurt the baby while sleepwalking. So describe what you had to do to protect the baby from your sleepwalking.


This is something that Jen and I spent a lot of time gaming out because. Yeah, I mean, I my last Brooksley Born with me, I talk about how I sleepwalked through to be clear to the listeners through a second story window of a lucky kinda in in Walla Walla, Washington, almost 15 years ago. And and so since then, I take medication, I sleep in a sleeping bag and with and with Huna coming, we decided that I should just sleep in a separate bedroom and and and sleep in a sleeping bag and and then to make it even more secure her.


I invented, I invented. I mean it's not trademarked but it's high. It's a sleep sheet that has a hole in it for my head. And then and then one for Jen though she never used it. And and then I would lock the door and I actually put a chain lock on the inside so that I couldn't get out because I was, you know. And then Bazzy, our cat, would sleep in that room with me. And occasionally she would pee in the bedroom that I was locked in in a sleeping bag.


So it was not it wasn't the best surroundings that period of time.


I also wanted to add to that that before I was born, Mike's sleepwalking was really sort of a big issue in our relationship. And it's it's hard to explain to people how dangerous it is. And he actually jumped through a glass window that he's capable of.


What he's capable of doing in his sleep is very different than what he's like in his waking life. And it's really scary. And I was kind of the person not in charge of it, but I was like his partner in that. And being so connected to Yoona, I think took me away from that for a little while. And I usually had such strong, like, tabs on what's going on with my sleepwalking. And it was just very much a part of my day to day.


And I was stretched so thin I kind of let that go.


So, Jim, what was it like for you? Mike kind of like himself in the bedroom to protect the baby from his sleepwalking, which meant if the baby woke up, it's all on you.


Yeah. And we had agreed on that because of Mike's sleepwalking issues and because he takes medication at night.


We had agreed that I would be in charge. Everything at night. And so, yeah, I was exhausted and, you know, as a terrible sleeper. And I didn't really see that coming. You know, in my head, I sort of had this idea. I didn't have a lot of fantasies about having a child. I tried not to, like, put anything on her. You know, before she's born. But when, like, idea I had is that she would sleep eventually, like she would.


Like, I would be able to put her down and do a little work while she's asleep. And it didn't feel like that. It was like she I had to hold her all the time. And if I ever put her down, she would scream. So she would just sleep on top of me for a long time. And so that I mean, that definitely created a lot of distance between Mike and I. And then, you know, he was shooting a film.


So during the day, he was gone all day. And so I feel like in those in those months, you know, and I, you know, got very close. And Mike hadn't really caught up to the sort of basics of how to sort of raise it, baby, you know. So I was really doing most of the things at that point. Diapers, baths, nighttime, everything. So and, you know, and it was it's not a huge surprise given how he felt about it and sort of all the discussions we had before it.


But the actuality of it, you know, created distance between us for sure, because we were growing in different directions.


And Mike, it sounds like you thought that you and Jen were growing apart. Were you afraid the marriage would end?


Yeah, I. I was raised by two Catholic parents who have been married for 50 years, despite a really strong case for them not still being married.


Like, I think I don't know a better way to put that. Like, I, I think they love each other. But I also feel like in a certain in a different set of circumstances, they are in different era. They might not they might might not be together. There is a lot of not physical conflict growing up, but it was very a lot of verbal conflict that was hard to you know, it was hard. And so the way I understood marriage was who I was taught marriage as a child was that it was forever, no matter what.


And so I thought, I'm not going to. I'm not going anywhere. But also, you know, Jen had a different upbringing. And so I felt like she and we've since this is interesting, Terry, like in writing the book. Janet, I ended up saying things to each other that we didn't say in that period of time. And one of the things is that Jen felt like she thought the marriage might end in that period of time, that first 13 months with the child.


And I didn't know that. But I could feel it. I could really feel it.


Jen, why did you feel the marriage, Dad? Well, I thought, you know, we had been together a while, and that was definitely one of the more tumultuous times. And because there was so much distance between us, you know, that that's the time period that my parents got divorced. And so it's probably part of my experience that that's something that can happen in that time period. If things go that way. And so, you know, I didn't want that.


But it was definitely it occurred to me like, oh, I guess this is that time period that people can get divorced or something like that. And so and we hadn't really we just hadn't figured things out. And so there was a question of are we going to figure things out or not? And I guess I didn't know at that point and I didn't know I guess I just didn't know if we were gonna find each other in that moment or not.


If you're just joining us, my guest is comic, writer, filmmaker. And after Mike Birbiglia, author of the new memoir, The New One Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad, the memoir is interspersed with poems about pregnancy and motherhood by his wife, Jen Stein, who's also with us. She publishes under the name J. Hope Stein. We'll be back after a break.


This is fresh air support for this podcast. And the following message come from the Glenn Leavitt's new Caribbean Reserve expression, a new single malt with a bold tropical twist that is selectively finished in barrels that previously held Caribbean rum, offering a sweet and smooth taste. Learn more at the Glenlivet dot.com, the Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, single malt scotch whisky. Enjoy our quality responsibly. 40 percent alcohol by volume 80 proof 20-20 imported by the Glenlivet Distilling Company. New York.


New York. This is Fresh Air.


Let's get back to my interview with comic, writer, filmmaker and actor Mike Birbiglia, author of the new memoir. The new one, painfully true stories from a reluctant dad and his wife, Jen Stein. Some of her poems about pregnancy and motherhood are included in the book. She writes under the name J. Hope Stein. There were body issues for both of you. After Ono was born, you know, Mike, you had put on weight during the pregnancy and the early time of easy.


Terry, please.


Yeah. And I think part of it was, you know, at the end, like Jen was eating so much that you might have eaten along with her. But also you say like you're addicted to food. And I'm sure stress and the stress of the pregnancy and becoming a father just added to that. You'd become prediabetic. You know, you've you had cancer when you were 19.


You were just very aware of all the health issues you had. And I think you were feeling that especially after becoming a father, whereas, Jen, you had to deal with the, you know, the pain of the after effects of of of childbirth. And but you have a really beautiful poem about it called Body. I never knew I could love you. And it's it's about all the joy of having had, you know, a baby growing inside you and seeing her in the world.


Would you read it for her body? I never knew I could love you. I never loved my body until she was inside it. I never loved my breasts until they made milk for her. I never understood why people took naked pictures of themselves until she was inside me that taught an expanding skin over the relentless womb, the anti gravitational breasts. They are the only naked photos you will find of me on my computer. Release them. I don't care.


Release them for science. I'll say it just once and only to myself. I don't want to give up the power to feed my child with my body. I don't want to give up the power to be able to feed my child without a bowl or green or utensil or dollar or bottle or government, this government or job or faucet or jar and on airplanes. We are a smooth operating machine on takeoffs and landings. Passengers come up to me and say, your baby could solve world peace.


She's the face of the cease fire. It scares me to depend completely on the world around us to feed my child. What if we get lost and I forget to pack snacks? What if the economy dives and we have no money for food or a natural disaster or the dictator comes to power or some kind of attack? Or how will I feed her gendered pregnancy and childbirth? And how it changed your feelings about your body? Did those feelings remain?


Do you feel differently about your body and what it's capable of than you did before you became a mother?


I think so, yes. I mean, I was really I became a mother pretty late in life. And so how old were you? I was 41 when I met your mom. So I was. I had sort of lived a long time as not a mom. And I don't know, I it seems so obvious to me now, but I really wasn't really connected to my body. I wasn't really thinking of myself as a woman or a man.


I was just feeling pretty much just like a person. I didn't really understand how I don't know. I just didn't understand something that I felt like once I became pregnant, I understood like, oh, I'm a woman.


And actually, it was kind of like I was experiencing my body for the first time. And then the idea that I could be food to another living thing is something I'll just, like, never get over. It's just something because I think it came to me so late in life. It was just kind of shocking. I was like, oh, my gosh, I have these capabilities that I didn't even know I had. Now, five years later, I do think that sticks with me a little bit.


Yeah, I definitely see myself more as a woman than I did before I had a kid. Mike, how did you start to connect to your baby daughter?


What changed things for you?


I feel so silly when I think about this because it's so simple is that when she started to talk, I started to understand how she felt.


I mean, it's so silly. Like like I said, there's this chapter in the book where I take Urna for pizza on the corner and it says Pee Pee, which which I think means pizza.


And also. Yes, and I would say, do you want to you know, do you want some pizza? You. P. P. And and I'm such a verbal person. And so I and I think I'm a decent listener and so I could really listen and understand her. And I still can, like she and I are so close.


Now we just talk and talk and talk and have the verbal communication for me was really profound.


And I think for Jan it was the physical relationship was it was their version of talking.


So they can talk now to. No, no. I've cut it off. Yeah, I know now now that I have the upper hand, I've I've really taken over.


Let me reintroduce you both if you're just joining us. My guest is comic, writer, filmmaker and actor Mike Birbiglia, author of the new memoir, The New One Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad and his wife, Jen Stine. Some of her poems about pregnancy and motherhood are included in the book. She writes under the name J. Hope Stein. We'll be back after a break. This is fresh air.


Every business has to figure out what to charge for its product and how to keep out competitors. You know who does this better than anyone else? Drug dealers. On the next episode of Planet Money Summer School, we explain pricing theory with a drug kingpin.


Summer school, new classes every Wednesday. Listen now to Planet Money from NPR. I'm Jen White. The new host of NPR's One. A take what you hear on up first and dive deeper with one. A The show listens to the beating heart of America. Expect a dynamic debate that asks America what it wants to be. This is a show for those who are relentlessly curious. Join me next time on one. Let's get back to my interview with comic, writer, filmmaker and actor Mike Birbiglia, author of the new memoir, The New One Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad.


His wife, Jen Stein, gives her point of view in a series of poems about pregnancy and early motherhood interspersed through the book. She writes under the name J. Hope Stein.


So it's interesting.


I've seen this with other parents, too, that first you worry that having a child is going to ruin your work and ruin your career. And then the child somehow becomes a subject of some of it. Like, you have this great book and show that you did as a result of becoming a father. And Jen, you have these great poems about being a mother. So it's just interesting how things change. Speaking of things changing, so you had these long talks before, you know, becoming parents about, you know, Mike's reluctance and Gen why you wanted to have a child and I know you couldn't possibly have fathomed.


That you'd be raising a child during a pandemic and that the child wouldn't be able to go to daycare or go to school and that you'd be, you know, teachers and parents and that, Mike, you were worried you wouldn't be able to tour? Well, you can't tour. That decision has been made for you for the time being. And you can't make movies right now and you can't do your stage show right now like everything is on hold for now.


How are you dealing with. This new unit, the new the vote, feels like forever changing your lives as parents and as professionals.


We had enough start going to school and she was one and a half years old. So we really feel it. Her not being in school. And I think it's a lot like when we first had her. I feel like the dynamic between Mike and I is probably reminiscent of that time period right now. And for the reasons that you're saying and that he can't tour. And it's hard. It's hard. I mean, we have a lot of beautiful family experiences that we're thankful for, but those things are really hard.


I mean, I think they're hard for everybody.




I mean, I'm not I'm I'm alive performer as my primary source of income and live touring performer, and it's gone.


I don't know any other way to put it. It's on hold for a year.


And that's we rescheduled our book tour, which was going to be 15 or 20 city tour, and it's rescheduled for next spring. And even then, we're looking at those dates and not entirely convinced that that's going to be the case. And so I've I've had to I created the working at out podcasts where I'm basically taking my work and I'm placing it into a live audio format so that I can continue to not only work artistically, but also have a job.


And so and so that's reminded me actually of when I was 23 years old and I was driving my mom's station wagon around the country cold calling comedy clubs and saying, hey, do you want to have me perform at your club? And. And the struggle and rejection of that. And so it's been it's been hard, but I have to say, like the silver lining of it and I've heard other parents say this is in this period from March through August, if it were not for the pandemic, I would have been on Tahor and I would have missed some of these milestones from our daughters, age five, which are a astonishing like this.


You see shit. She'll do a five minute monologue to me about dinosaurs, facts about dinosaurs that I do not know and and monologues about rocks and insects. And and she's learning to read and and she's learning to to swim, you know, like we she was in the ocean the other day and she got, you know, pummeled by waves in the ocean and then got fell down to the sand and jumped right back up and said more, you know.


And it was awesome. And so it's like it's been a lot of highs and lows during this period of time.


And, you know, without childcare, you know, Mike and I really don't have a lot of time to spend together alone. And there was one day and all of this where we took a walk, just the two of us, while somebody watched, you know, distanced. That's how little time we have to just be a couple. You know.


But. And then the and then the analogy to the thing that I say in the book is in the middle of this pandemic where, you know, we're struggling and a lot of people are struggling, is because other people are struggling, you know, exponentially more.


We have to say it's the most joy I've ever experienced. I didn't know a joy was until now. And now I know what it is. It's this.


And Jen's pointing out this thing that it is similar to the first 13 months of having Urna. And she didn't bring that up to me directly. But it sometimes it takes fresh air, Terry.


Yeah. Yeah, true.


So your next book, Mike, is going to be about death?


Yes. This book is about new life and now you go on to death. Why is that going to be the subject?


Well, the new the new show, which I tentatively have called the YMCA pool pending the legal agreement of the pool or the YMCA organization, is about how as a child, I went to the YMCA pool constantly. I went to nursery school there. I took swimming lessons there.


And I just I vowed I would never return to the why is he here? Like, I don't know if it was the chlorine smell or the or the snack machine room that also sells soup or the you know, there's something about like I just. Don't want to return. And then here I am in my forties and I'm back at the at the Brooklyn YMCA swimming laps because my doctor, my doctor says, you know, you're you're you know, I failed the pulmonary test.


I had type two diabetes. I've since reverse that.


But but yeah, I'm trying to live to live longer.


You know, like, yeah. I feel like you get to this age where I'm 42 now. But, you know, they they call middle age being over the hill, which I never understood until I got on the hill.


And then I looked around and I was like, oh, well, there's natural causes, you know, and like, they're not close, but they're common. And it's just what I honestly it's what I think about is sort of like it's sort of how does this end? And then similar to the new one, I feel like it's a taboo subject. People don't want to talk about death, but yet it's all around us all the time. And then and then with Calvet, of course, I'm going to have to write extensively about how that affects how we feel about death, because, again, it's it's it's all around us and it's.


Yeah. I mean, I do I try to write about the things that we think about, but we're uncomfortable talking about.


I feel like if there's a service in what I am doing as a writer, there may not be a service. But if there is a service, I think that's that's what it is.


Well, I'm so glad you collaborated on this book. I want to thank you both so much for talking with us and for being so open. And I wish you good luck during this covered crisis. And good luck with parenting. And Mike, with all the work that's on hold right now, that will hopefully resume in the not too distant future. Thank you both so much for talking with us. Thanks, Terry.


Stay safe. Thanks so much, Terry. We really appreciate it. Mike Birbiglia is new memoir, the new one includes poems by his wife, Jen Stein, who writes under the name J. Hope Stein. Tomorrow on Fresh Air, my guest will be former poet laureate Natasha Trethewey. Her black mother and white father had to leave their home in Mississippi to get married because interracial marriage was still illegal there after their divorce. Her mother married a man who turned out to be abusive.


And after years of marriage, shot and killed her. Truth Away's new memoir is about her mother and about race. I hope you'll join us. Fresh Air's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our senior producer today is Roberta Sharrock, our technical director and engineers, Audrey Bentham. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman. They are challenger Seth Kelly and Joe Wolfram, our associate producer of digital media is Molly C.V.


Nesser Teresa Madden directed today's show. I'm Terry Gross.