The surreal genius of Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite
For those out there who have yet to hear of the irreverent genius of Maria Bamford, let me introduce you to your new favorite female comedian. For nearly 20 years Bamford has been one of those comedian’s comedian types that you hear about. Much like Zach Galifianakis early in his career, Maria has up until recent years been the kind of jokester that comedy professionals adore but has still seemed to have issues grabbing the attention of mainstream audiences, and with good reason.
Her style is oddball, to say the least; best described as alt-comedy – a genre mainly dominated by male acts such as Patton Oswalt, Todd Barry, and Eric Andre. Nontraditional comedy techniques like anti-jokes (jokes without punchlines or even logic), excruciating silences, and occasional displays of absolute nonsense, isn’t a lane often taken by many female comedians, but one that is clearly working for Bamford. Oh, and Maria is diagnosed with bipolar type II, a fact which she not only openly acknowledges but has made a centerpiece of her material.
…excruciating silences, and occasional displays of absolute nonsense, isn’t a lane often taken by many female comedians, but one that is clearly working for Bamford.
This brings us to Maria Bamford’s semiautobiographical highly imaginative Netflix comedy series, Lady Dynamite. Now in its second season, Lady Dynamite, is, in a nutshell, bonkers. In the same vein of shows as Maron or Louie, Lady Dynamite follows the off-kilter day-to-day happenings in the life of a comedian. A main difference, however, is that where those other shows choose to play it safe, Maria’s show lives in the surreal (imagine Mary Tyler Moore meets Tim And Eric). The show’s animated aesthetic feels at times unhinged and in key with the internal mental health struggles of Maria’s character (a fictionalized version of herself). Lady Dynamite can feel at times warm and fuzzy and then in a flash, frenzied and neurotic. Similar to Maria’s stage shows, Lady Dynamite is the kind of experience that on paper shouldn’t work, yet somehow a balance is struck which makes it relatable and palatable.
The show’s animated aesthetic feels at times unhinged and in key with the internal mental health struggles of Maria’s character (a fictionalized version of herself).
All-in-all, the message of the show is clear, just be you and never give up. As is displayed by Maria’s character on the show, no matter the odds and regardless of personal hangups, it’s never too late. Much of Lady Dynamite is spent following Maria’s fall from grace due to mental illness and then her eventual return to the spotlight. As highly ridiculous as the show can be at times, it has a very powerful message which should be taken to heart. As Maria’s character so poignantly points out:
“Let’s laugh about our problems and look at some cute pugs.”