Maria Bamford The Special Special Special
Published May 04, 2016Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.
Most comedians perform their comedy specials in historic theatres that are architecturally impressive, or perform for huge audiences as they take over massive arenas. Maria Bamford is not like most comedians. She takes the often-celebrated intimacy of the comedy club, the coffee shop, or the corner bar and thinks "could be closer quarters, could be more intimate." And thus, The Special Special Special was filmed in Eagle Rock, CA in Bamford's living room for an audience of two: her parents, Joel and Marilyn Bamford.
While it may be that Bamford is just a quirky person who dances to the beat of her own drum, her choice to perform in her home can be read as something of a feminist statement. For a woman to perform comedy within this private sphere, rather than the public sphere of the comedy club, demonstrates that women can perform standup comedy in the public sphere without sacrificing their ability to be feminine or their familial relationships, even though that means burning the occasional batch of cookies.
But wait, there's more. Beyond the feminist reading of setting Bamford's special at home, the mass media construct of "the home" draws into question whether the private and public spheres can even be viewed as separate, given our constant connectivity through technology. Basically, Bamford is so interesting that she'll make you think all kinds of thoughts before she even starts her set.
Her talent for impressions is incomparable. It is a wonder to witness the speed with which she moves from one character to the next, never breaking and always polished. She conjures up images from one joke to the next that can range from the mouth of a room-sized, reptilian, undulating God to plucking a one-string banjo on the streets of Manila.
Despite the light-hearted way in which she performs her impressions, she also delves into the deeper issues of being single, aging, anxiety, and suicide. Applying the stigmas of mental health to other diseases is a particularly interesting moment in the set. She is able to share her own stories and be vulnerable without compromising her timing or flow.
Although this special probably won't make you laugh out loud more than a few times, that fact may have more to do with the speed with which she executes her material – –it makes you want to listen to what she has to say and you don't really get the chance to let certain things sink in enough to laugh. Despite the decreased laughter, it's worth becoming familiar with The Special Special Special because it is genuinely interesting and makes it clear that Maria Bamford has all the makings of a great standup comedian. And that's pretty special.