Every day, it seems, we’re confronted by reminder after reminder that the world is a dumpster fire, so it’s a genuine relief to have a new season of “Lady Dynamite” premiere this weekend. Reality is dumb, but life inside Maria Bamford’s brain is a blessing.
The series, created by Mitch Hurwitz and Pam Brady, is based on Bamford’s life to a deeply felt degree, celebrating her quirks as it chronicles her misadventures as an actor and comedian with plenty of meta touches and occasional dashes of the profane. Inside Maria’s brain, the rules of time and space are constantly in flux, pugs can talk, and even the darkest truths feel bearable, especially when her issues with manic depression and bipolar disorder flare up. At times, “Lady Dynamite” goes down some dark paths. But because the show is so throughly grounded in Bamford’s innate goodness, it all proves bearable in the end.
In Season 1 of the Netflix comedy, Maria returned to Hollywood after receiving extended treatment for her condition, diving into the Los Angeles dating scene and pursuing a career in comedy. At the beginning of Season 2, she’s in a somewhat more stable place, enjoying her committed relationship with Scott (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson). But the pressures of life are always there, especially after her super-agent Karen Grisham (Ana Gasteyer) helps her get her own Netflix Muskvision original series.
This is hardly the only meta moment in the series, which gleefully attacks the fourth wall with a chainsaw. At one point in Season 2, Maria turns directly to the camera to reveal three major issues she had with Season 1 of “Lady Dynamite” — within the context of her filming her Muskvision show (which shifts and warps over the course of the series). “Lady Dynamite” has a great deal of fun reminding the audience that they’re watching a TV show, but rarely to the point of distraction.
Engaging with “Lady Dynamite” involves a certain level of embracing the absurd, buying into Bamford’s singular point of view. It’s the kind of show where every time the opening credits play, Bamford makes a different set of weird noises to accompany the peppy theme song — because why not? It speaks to the anarchic spirit of the show, anchored by Bamford’s performance: Playing yourself on screen seems like it could be a relatively simple task, but Bamford takes the role of “Maria” and gives it
Bamford may not be a household name, but within comedy circles she’s a legend, and her reputation in both the stand-up and alternative comedy communities opened the doors for some truly impressive supporting actors, including Andy Samberg, David Spade, Fred Armisen, Jason Mantzoukas, Judd Apatow, and Weird Al Yankovic.
And those are just the dudes. “Lady Dynamite” is especially notable for creating roles for women, showcasing so many unique characters who just happen to be ladies. We’re talking about a show that has featured Lennon Parham, Bridget Everett, Ana Gasteyer, Mo Collins, Judy Greer, Jenny Slate, June Diane Raphael, Missi Pyle, Mira Sorvino, Joanna Cassidy, Wendie Malick, Kerri Kenney, and Jill Soloway to varying degrees. While it’s a whiter cast than one might prefer, it’s still an amazing ensemble.
Mary Kay Place deserves a special shoutout as Maria’s mother Marilyn, who gets a great deal to do in Season 2 thanks to a renewed focus on their complicated bond, which avoids mother-daughter cliches while also standing out as recognizably relatable.
Bamford may go through some dark times, as “Lady Dynamite” does go to some dark places, but its emotions are so genuine that the end result is both cathartic and addictive. And when the world seems determined to remind us of all the ways women have been humiliated and undermined since…well, forever… Bamford’s unique point of view is exactly what we need right now. The show plunders the darkest parts of Bamford’s soul in search of hope and somehow manages to find it.
So, if you need a break from the awfulness of the world, “Lady Dynamite” is here. Raise your titties to the sky and get ready to binge.
“Lady Dynamite” Season 2 is streaming now on Netflix.