Coming to Netflix today is Lady Dynamite, a comedy about Stephen Colbert’s favorite comedian, Maria Bamford. In addition to its star, the cast includes Ana Gasteyer, Bridget Everett, and Lennon Parham, as well as Ed Begley Jr. and Mary Kay Place as Bamford’s parents.
Jesse David Fox, Vulture, succinctly describes Lady Dynamite: “The occasionally surreal, often silly show knowingly winks at, subverts, and outright makes fun of the now-common semiautobiographical stand-up TV-show genre.”
Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times: “Created by Mitchell Hurwitz and Pam Brady, it is cheerful, dark, surreal, profane, aspirational, meta-fictional and packed with people playing versions of themselves or other people entirely (or playing versions of themselves playing other people entirely); it plays with visual and verbal puns, with moods and acting styles and moves around in time and dimension.”
James Poniewozik, New York Times: “…a journey to the center of Ms. Bamford’s mind that dives through fantasy after loopy fantasy and emerges with something real.”
The part of her life Bamford’s showcasing? The aftermath of a mental breakdown. Several years ago she was hospitalized a few times for psychiatric reasons—which is not news, as Bamford has been open about her struggles, which have included anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, binge eating, a form of OCD called “unwanted thoughts syndrome” (for which she named a comedy CD) and her more recent diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder.
Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly:
The tone is as manic as Bamford herself…Characters talk fast and walk fast…Like in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, tension radiates behind that relentlessly upbeat energy. She’s forcing you to get inside her brain. Flashbacks show her getting treatment as a child in Duluth, where her therapist encourages her to get angry. ‘Isn’t there anyone here who chaps your crapper?’ the therapist asks. When Bamford says no, the therapist frowns. ‘Donna,’ she says, pointing to a sad-looking patient, ‘is a straight-up B.’ Our heroine hangs her head in shame.
From Daniel Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter: “I think a Louie or a Curb tries to filter Louis C.K. or Larry David’s sensibility, but Lady Dynamite feels like it’s delivering Bamford’s wounded psyche in whole chunks, sometimes eager to please, sometimes awkwardly confrontational and generally compassionate.”
Phil Harrison, The Guardian: “This peculiar but queasily hilarious sitcom could well end up being the TV buzz show of the summer. It’s certainly hard to think of anything else quite like it.”
In real life, Bamford believes in and seeks therapy in various forms. Sara Corbett, New York Times, two years ago:
She is, if anything, a dutiful seeker of help. One night in 1990, when she was a sophomore at Bates College in Maine, experiencing a period of despair, she wolfed down a huge amount of food and then called a suicide help line. Ever since, she has maintained faith in support networks. She has participated in 12-step programs for eating disorders, money problems, sex and intimacy struggles and addiction, though substance abuse has not been an issue for her. She just appreciates the company, and also the honesty. ‘I think 12-step programs are genuinely cognitive behavioral programs,’ she told me. ‘You are out of isolation, and that helps you think differently about things.’ When traveling, Bamford looks for local support-group meetings to visit. Otherwise, she attends them by phone. She has found a sense of community in online chat rooms and is a vocal fan of Crazymeds.us, a website that gives advice about psychiatric medications.