If you're a Mike Birbiglia fan, or a comedy fan, or just listen to NPR sometimes, chances are you’ve already crossed paths with some version of Sleepwalk With Me. The seriocomic adventures of an aspiring standup comedian avoiding commitment to his girlfriend, Abby, while coming to terms with a dangerous sleep disorder have already been the subject of a book, a comedy album, an off-Broadway one-man show and a bunch of segments on This American Life and The Moth. Barring a video game, the feature-length movie is likely Birbiglia’s last shot at mining this particular vein of comedy gold. Perhaps it’s because of that extended, multimedia gestation period that the low-budget Sleepwalk With Me movie — co-written and produced by Ira Glass — works so well.
Birbiglia plays the suspiciously identical-in-every-way Matt Pandamiglio, a charming, bedheaded, maturity-stunted rookie comedian who talks to the camera about trying to launch his career while ignoring his bigger issues. For one thing, there’s the reverse rom-com arc he’s going through with his dynamite longtime girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose). For another, there are those increasingly dangerous sleepwalking episodes (shown in hilarious and surreal Walter Mitty-esque dream sequences) that often leave him bleeding and bewildered. Along the way, the movie has some smart things to say about the delusional life of the road-warrior comic, driving lonely miles to tell the same jokes to half-empty rooms for low pay. A number of Birbiglia’s comedy peers — David Wain, Jesse Klein, Marc Maron, Wyatt Cenac, Kristen Schaal — score a little screen time, but nobody steals a scene like Carol Kane, who plays Matt’s mom with warm, tipsy grace.