Maria Bamford isn't quite a household name yet, but for a large segment of comedy fans, she's one of the best working comedians in the business today. The 47-year-old Los Angeles resident probably first came to the attention of a wider audience when she was featured on the original 2005 Comedians of Comedy tour – and the accompanying documentary – alongside Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn and Zach Galifianakis. But it's her 2012 special, The Special Special Special, that secured her place as a cult favorite. Shot in her own living room in front of an audience of two – her parents – the special combines Bamford's unique stage presence – often incorporating impressions of her family and others with a variety of voices and mannerisms – with surreal moments like pizza getting delivered in the middle of the show.
Bamford stops into the Plaza Live this week in the wake of two profile-raising projects for Netflix: Lady Dynamite, a surreal series loosely based on Bamford's real life, and Old Baby, a comedy special that once again plays with conventional structure as Bamford performs her jokes in front of audiences at a series of offbeat venues like a park bench or a bowling alley.
On stage, Bamford relies on her gift for voices and impersonations to heighten the air of surreality. Instead of celebrities, though, Bamford is often imitating her parents, sister, agent or other people from her day-to-day life. Her gift for impressionism and voices has led to a prolific résumé of voice work, including repeating roles on BoJack Horseman, Adventure Time and The Legend of Korra.
Bamford is also known for her openness about her struggles with bipolar and obsessive compulsive disorders – much of the first season of Lady Dynamite centers around the lead-up to and aftermath of a nervous breakdown that landed Bamford in an outpatient treatment program while living with her parents. That frankness has earned Bamford accolades for helping destigmatize mental illness, and she frequently participates in fundraising activities for groups like NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
And though she's not really known for infusing her politics into her comedy, Bamford recently made headlines when she attempted to file a restraining order against Donald Trump in the wake of escalating tensions with North Korea. The request was denied, but that didn't stop Trump supporters from attacking her on social media.
With Lady Dynamite ending after its critically acclaimed second season, the future is wide open for Bamford. For now, though, the best place to see her is on stage, doing what she does best.