Last Saturday night my friend Diana opened for Maria Bamford at the Comedy Bar in Toronto. I didn’t check out anything online before the show because I wanted to be surprised. Diana was hilarious, as usual, and then Maria came on stage in jeans and a track suit jacket and proceeded to give one of the best stand-up performances I’ve ever seen.
Oh man, was it ever the right time for me to discover her comedy. I went home and watched her web series “The Maria Bamford” show on Youtube. The first episode is called ‘Dropping Out of Society’ and it’s totally nutty and fantastic. She says she had a nervous breakdown doing stand-up in LA and moved back in with her parents in Duluth, Minnesota with her eleven-year-old pug, Blossom. She makes her mom, dad, sister and various others from the town characters in the show, acting them all out herself. The show reminds me a bit of the writing of David Sedaris, but a lot more zany and unhinged.
What I like about Bamford’s comedy is how she is able to come across as both totally insane and sharp as a tack at the same time. For example, from Episode 19: when asked by an operator whether she has any friends she could talk to, she replies “Well I do, but they ask me to come out, and I’m like, well I can’t come out I’m filthy, and they’re like, why don’t you take a shower, and I say no, it’s on the inside.” Her skill with voices and impersonations is also super impressive.
I think being able to name this pervasive state of malaise and ennui that many of us find ourselves in these days, and then probe it and mock it is a challenging task for any writer and Bamford nails it. In her stand-up, she says, “I’m not depressed, I’m just paralyzed by hope,” which is just a perfect way of putting it.
Check it out, it’s fabulous. The show is great, but if you have the opportunity to see her live, do it!