If they ever remake the movie Sybil, casting directors need look no further than Maria Bamford. She’s already got the multiple personality thing down so well, I’m starting to wonder if her actual speaking voice (think a more intellectual Georgette from The Mary Tyler Moore Show) is really one of her characters and she’s hiding elsewhere. Because as hilarious as it is to hear the caustic observations Bamford shoots out like so much confetti, it’s even funnier hearing it coming out of the mouth of the innocent sounding attractive lady who is holding the microphone. It’s as if her face is just the conduit for a couple of dozen people in her head fighting for stage time…in a controlled, orderly compulsive fashion, of course.
This is Bamford’s third album, and like How To Win and The Burning Bridges Tour, is flat-out hilarious. She’s savaged family members before, but never as funny as scripting her parents lines so she can practice being heckled, or torching her more-successful sister. (Oh, to be a fly on the wall at Thanksgiving at the Bamford home). Of course, ehe also targets her own inadequacies as well as some deserving targets (my favorite being the tyrannical pet advisor). And anyone who starts a routine by imitating the baby Jesus (a/k/a/ “B.J.”) leaving voicemails is telling you there aren’t many lines she won’t cross…or in Bamford’s case, vault over.
Even though I’m familiar with her work, I’m still stunned when she lets out with a few well chosen obsceneties because she’s that good keeping me locked in on her stage persona. A wonderful mimic, she doesn’t just do characters, she inhabits them, and if there’s one drawback to her audio CD it’s that you don’t get to see her posture, gestures and facial impressions. But that’s a small price to pay when the material is as consistently funny as it is here.
The tag “alternative” comic really boils down to the antithesis of a Vegas joke routine or the standard hackneyed observational comedy targets, with more journeys into storytelling or character assimilation. Bamford is extremely comfortable – and fearless – playing in this arena; her tightrope walk across a chasm of insanity is dazzling to the point where one wonders whether she’s crafted a majestic persona or has merely stripped her psyche bare for all to see…and in an entertaining way.
Crazy? Or crazy like a fox? No one ever really figured out Andy Kaufman, and I imagine only those close to Bamford know the truth here either. If you are one who can get on board with her journey you will be richly rewarded. Look no further than the last track where she channels a hack “chick comic”; it’s such a complete and overt transition it’s as if someone suddenly switched channels on your TV from Adult Swim to The View. (And I imagine there are a few lady comics who will delete Maria from their Christmas card list…)
The CD alone would be highly recommended, but the fact that it includes the entire web series The Maria Bamford Show, it’s a no-brainer. The webisodes are hilarious and now can be enjoyed in a better format and setting.
Buy the CD/DVD directly from Maria (autographed!)
Check out some clips on Rooftop Comedy.