Maria Bamford’s my favourite comedian and that’s not just because we’re both enormously mentally unwell. Well, okay, her discussions of her experience of mental illness is a big aspect admittedly, but I just love her take on the world in general, and the way her stand up is a mixture of observational material and impersonating the loved ones in her life in shockingly funny ways. Add to this the fact that she’s also incredibly smart and a captivating performer, and for me she’s the complete package.
Now she’s back with a new special, her first after 2017’s Old Baby, and it’s a joy to behold and then some. Tackling a variety of subjects a fair part of it sees Maria consider her place in the world right now, with the realisation that “This isn’t temporary, this is who I am”, and though the subject matter of identity is one that a fair few comedians have explored recently (most notably Stewart Lee in Tornado/Snowflake) the way Bamford jokes about the subject matter is pretty unique.
So there’s routines where she worries if she’s a good person, and to find out she calls her mum to see which one of them is the better woman, but as her mother is a Christian she recounts three stories from the Bible and applies them to their own lives. It’s sublimely funny as we get to hear about how Maria reacts in some fairly unusual situations, but also poke fun at the religious text by casually mentioning how “Somebody has to die, this is a children’s book”, along with being genuinely disturbed at one section which involves a father who can’t stop touching his daughter’s feet.
She also touches upon the fact that she’s mined her mental health for a lot of material over the years but how that now that she’s happy and in a good place she worries she may no longer have any material. This is quickly proven not to be the case in the slightest though, with a beautifully twisted segment about a comedian’s suicide and what happened when she attended his funeral. As well as this, another large element of the show is her relationship with her husband Scott, and given the gushing praise I’ve heaped upon it so far it probably won’t come as a shock that I loved that too. But again, it’s the unusual viewpoints that makes it so special, especially in a fantastic bit where she talks about their sex life and role playing where she acts out most of the dialogue they exchange, before mentioning “My husband Scott doesn’t like to act so I do most of it” which in context is a hilarious punchline and one of my favourites of the set.
She also shares with us a few thoughts on the state of the world and my only complaint is that this section isn’t longer as it’s so good, as she talks about Donald Trump and how it is of course wrong to want to physically harm him, but at the same time “It is not illegal to lead him in to a bramble” or an uneven pavement and perhaps some rocky terrain too. The quotes from how the far right react to her material is stunningly funny as well, and anyone who doesn’t laugh at the way she responds to being called “a crazy cunt” by saying “No, that’s just accurate” is a human being I’ll never understand.
Also thrown in to make the show all the more delectable is an anecdote from the time she gave a commencement speech at Minnesota University, her thoughts on spiritual awakenings and how she wishes she had her own “Red Dragon” to give her marketting advice, and her experiences on the celebrity reality show “Worst Cooks In America”, before Scott joins her on stage to end the set in a memorable manner. All of it is extremely funny, and a show which I just didn’t want to end, Maria gives an amazing, incredibly assured performance and for me it’s her best special yet, an essential piece of comedy that you’ll want to to watch over and over again.