Maria Bamford at the UP Comedy Club | Comedy review
I don't know if my ubiquitous ringing endorsements of L.A.-based comedian Maria Bamford are a signal of good taste (Bamford is arguably one of today's most in-demand stand-ups) or merely a confession of kinship (we're both crazy). Bamford both opened and closed her show speaking openly and freely about mental illness. When she hit the UP stage in blue jeans, a grey hoodie and a mop of peroxide hair, she apologized for cancelling her appearance at Mayne Stage last fall. "I made it to Chicago," she said, "but I was confused and bleeding." Bamford killed it.
To the uninitiated, pick up her stellar 2009 album Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome (a new one is forthcoming). It is Bamford at her confessional best, nudging both her wounded self and the audience toward a better place via a dozen comic voices she's honed over the years including her type A sister, her judging mother and celebrity voices like radio host Delilah. She is in top form on the album and was so once again at UP. "I'm concerned about Paula Deen because her recipes now read like suicide notes," she said as she broke out her best impression of Deen whipping up a recipe of death using the fattiest ingredients possible. "Everybody says it's easier to cook, but it's not any easier than not cooking," she lamented before wondering aloud if she could ever get her hands on recipes to her favorite gas-station foods. When a woman in the audience said she based her own diet on anxiety, Bamford high-fived her.
An unskilled perfomer this fixated on her own interior world might inspire groans, but Bamford is never not funny or unrelatable. Her humor always touches wounded and tender parts—both hers and ours. She wants contentment and inner peace, but without all the hocus pocus. "I'm trying to become more spiritual; I mean self-righetous," she admitted. According to her mother, whatever you think about is what you believe in. This led Bamford to ramble name the things she "believes" in including obese pets, diet coke and People magazine.
Bamford can also deliver one-liners like it's nobody's business. "I moved to L.A. and lost ten pounds," she said, "because they take away your food before you're done." But mostly, it was Bamford's inner demons that dominated the set. Her response to a Cleveland DJ who called her schizophrenic was, "schizophrenia is hearing voices, not doing voices." Also, "I'm bi-polar II, it's the new Gladiator shoe." In the end, Bamford ended on a hopeful note and also a very funny one. "So what if you've done something terrible?" she said. "So has somebody else, and now they're on a book tour."