Maria Bamford JFL42, Toronto ON, September 27
Published Sep 28, 2018Full of energy, but acknowledging at least some frailty these days, Maria Bamford remains a visual and sonic wonder, and her latest hour was hilarious but poignantly personal.
Bamford's dear friend Jackie Kashian opened the evening with close to a half hour of amazingly outspoken material. It was notably long for a warm-up set, but never felt like it, as Kashian, a scene-stealer, lamented what older white people (she's an ambivalent member of this group) have done to ruin America and the world.
Kashian spoke freely of how dumb people can be with their poor choices and impulsive decisions, borne of dull instincts and obliviousness to civility and even basic cartography. She also lampooned romance and sexuality, using herself as a prime example of how relationships can and can't function. It was all very clever, with subtle calls to arms about a range of social and political issues (chin up millennials, you're fine) and Kashian certainly riled up the crowd for Bamford.
Bounding onto the stage to Cardi B and busting strange moves, arms and legs akimbo, Maria Bamford exuded warmth and charisma, greeting her perhaps even more grateful audience. She almost immediately offered her own take on the state of America under its current governing leadership, alluding to her very real attempt to file a restraining order against the president earlier this year, citing anxiety and depression that his threats of nuclear war had caused her. While it was viewed as a publicity stunt by some, Bamford told the story of her failed attempt to get this done in a Malibu courthouse and the onslaught of online criticism she faced as a result, in this golden age of political discourse.
Bamford's politics are artfully subtle enough in her standup that she's not really known for expressing such sentiments live but, as this show unfolded, these kinds of things felt foundational. Whether it was telling us she was so done with social pressures to overachieve, recounting a Biblical debate she had with her mother, and discussing her stint on a time-consuming, laborious reality cooking show, Bamford, with her vast array of performative voices, physical movements and command of personality types, put on an entertaining, purposeful show.
At one point, Bamford acknowledged that the various psychological medications she has been prescribed over the years have taken a physical toll on her. The mic often shook in her trembling hands, and she drew attention to this in a matter-of-fact and funny manner. The relationship she has established with her audience is a close one, so it's safe to presume some of us were at least a bit concerned to observe her struggling in any way, but it should also be said that Bamford, as resolute, strong, and genuine a comic working today, was not hampered.
When she closed this show with a dynamic new song about working on her relationship with her husband after she made a questionable decision about their home, she was a wondrous storm of ideas and energy, as the various free-association-style lyrics cohered to drive this tune about love home. There was a lot of love in the Winter Garden on this night, for and from Maria Bamford, who reminded us that for all our pain, there's an equal amount of joy to revel in.