Maria Bamford Ask Me About My New God

Maria Bamford Ask Me About My New God
If your impression of Maria Bamford has her filed in with other blonde, perky women with childlike voices, Ask Me About My New God will blow the doors off that false impression. She breaks out a variety of character voices in addition to modulating her own delivery significantly for comic effect, but it's her ideas and unpacking of social norms that makes her new album a comic masterpiece of hilarious observation and deeply personal exploration.

She eases into the hard stuff riffing on pop culture: how Paula Deen recipes read, in retrospect, like a suicide note; challenging her sister the life coach to spin her negativity into a motivational message; the affirming feelings of a familiar corporate logo and worshipping at the altar of People magazine. Many of these topics are available on the pull-down menu of most contemporary comedians, but Bamford instinctive connection is with the outsider, the fringe dweller and the dispossessed.

Bamford has suffered through periods of mental illness, and mines that history for laughs, especially in the album's second half. Whether it's breaking down social barriers with developmentally disable people because they haven't learned the isolation of loneliness, examining the treatment of soldiers returning from tours oversees, or contemplating suicide, Bamford takes personal risks to land laughs backed with the weight of challenging experiences.

Dating, family and professional concerns probably describe 90 percent of comedy material; Bamford, by delving into her own skewed viewpoint but with a ton of empathy for the dispossessed and the outsider, makes Ask Me About My New God a truly classic comedy effort. (Comedy Central)