If you really think about it stand up comedy is just making the human condition open, exposed and relatable. Most things that are funny are because they are true. How many times have you sat there during a stand up set and thought or vocalized just that. “It’s funny because it’s true!” Good comedians really know how to tap into that and even though it was only my first time (ok, I saw her do a 7 minute bit during Hosts with the Most, but that does not really count, does it?) seeing Maria Bamford (nope, have not seen her Netflix series Lady Dynamite or any other stand up specials) I feel I can say that this is something she does really well. Better than most. In a weirder kind of way.
For those who don’t know much about the lady she is someone who has mined her personal life for her material. Bamford, at a young age, suffers from depression, anxiety and OCD. She has been hospitalized during her life as a result of depression and suicidal thoughts. None of this is off limits when it comes to her comedy. In fact, it makes a up a big part of her material and on stage demeanour. She even addressed the tremours in her hands right off the bat with a quip about how people often approach her with the advice of “why don’t you take medication for that?” To which she replies that she is already on a myriad of drugs. Something that some might see as a detriment she seems to be proud of. It is part of her act. “Weakness is the brand” she cried. Good for her!
Her delivery style is rather stream of consciousness. You just get the feeling like you are watching the ramblings of a very busy mind. It does give you a window into how that wonderfully quirky mind works as she jumps from one thing to the next with it getting sometimes weirder and weirder as she goes on. The only consistent is that it is brilliant.
The material on this evening involved her four year marriage to her husband, Scott. Which she told us is her longest relationship ever. Towards the end she let us into a typical Maria and Scott day. On this day they debated where they should put the new television and after having decided (after long discussion) on one location Maria asked the installer to put it over the fireplace. The exact place her husband told her not to as it is a 200 year old fireplace. Oh, you could just picture it all. The long debate…the awkwardness afterwards…a beautiful window into her life.
Linked to that was a longer bit about role playing to keep things fresh. Now, many a comedian has done bits about their sex lives, but not like Maria does. Her version of coming up with personas she and Scott could take on included such skits as “Living Wage” and “Gentrification”. You never thing “awkward” rather you are in complete wonderment about how she comes up with this stuff. Her mind definitely works on a different level. A better one.
Another important thing in Maria’s life is her parents. They (especially her mother) are sprinkled throughout her hour long set. From her father saying after seeing her Netflix series “You do what you gotta do to earn money” to how a passive-aggressive conversation with her mother led to the set closing song she wrote with Scott.
Part of the way through the set she apologized that some of the material people will have heard before. She has not written much new stuff of late. That is not because of her mental health issues rather because she is happy. Contentment does not breed jokes it would seem. She even used that to make a joke, though, saying that productivity is boring when you think of it. Calling out Elon Musk, Oprah and even The Muppets. Then saying she has written probably only “three minutes” of new comedy of late. But I will tell you that three minutes is better than what most do in a lifetime.
Though everything is done with a kind of nervous energy and in a slapdash kind of way you never feel like you are scared or uncomfortable in the rabbit holes Bamford brings you into. Rather you find yourself thinking “I could listen to this lady all night long”. Then sadly, too soon, it is over.
Opener was Bamford’s touring partner Jackie Kashian. Being an opener for a stand-up headliner is often a thankless job. No one is there to see you. All the anticipation and energy that produces is not for you. Yet, this stand-up veteran handled it like a pro and made the most out of her 15 minutes. Including earning a new fan in me. She got as many laughs as the headliner did which is quite rare.
She started off by joking that she never was a political comedian and then came Trump. She is an unapologetic liberal who possesses a quick wit, a keen mind and no fear in speaking her mind. A good combo for a comedian.