Netflix review: Lady Dynamite


Jacob Rozansky, Staff Writer

Shows about comedians has become it’s own subcategory of sitcom. Seinfeld, Chapelle, Louis, and many others have transcribed their lives into the medium of television. This often leads to similar plots, characters, and show structure, which gets boring. No problem for Maria Bamford! Her show, in which the 45 year old comedienne plays herself, follows an extremely  absurd and surreal portrayal of life in Hollywood, romance, and perception of mental illness.

Lady Dynamite consists of a complex, yet easily followed plot which separates into three clearly discernable timelines, each with significance to her mental illness. Bipolar II is defined as a bipolar spectrum disorder characterized by at least one episode of hypomania and at least one episode of major depression.The first, which takes place in the past, catalogues her rabid, manic success in hollywood as a screen and voice actress, as well as the face of international superstore “Checklist.” Her hypomania gives the gift of boundless energy and creativity, but the condition makes Maria unstable, prone to screaming into her shower sponge, and unable to maintain human relationships. The second timeline, in the recent past, follows Bamford back in her home town of Duluth, Minnesota, where she goes in and out of rehab, lives with her parents, and is forced to see old faces. This timeline is differentiated by it’s slight blue tint, and the depressive side of Maria’s bipolar disorder. In the present timeline, she attempts to balance her life, seeking to reconnect relationships, stay in control of her professional work, and maintain herself emotionally.  All of these story lines are interwoven for thematic effect in each episode, showing the viewer enough of the past to empathize with Maria’s thoughts and decisions for any given situation.

The humor in Lady Dynamite might be a deterrent. If pugs with German accents, Vespas with two sidecars, or the characters discussing how  to continue with the show, during the show sounds weird to you, that’s because it is. It is an extremely bizarre comedy and only could have been created in this golden age of television. Because Netflix encourages niche programming, Maria has been able to put her very unique show up for the public. If you are not sure whether Lady Dynamite is worth the time, check out Maria Bamford’s standup comedy. In one of her specials, “The Special Special Special,” rather than performing to a crowd of fans in an arena or even a comedy club, she tells jokes in her parents’ living room, to none other than her mother and father. Her comedy is focussed deeply on voices, as she is a voice actress, and her material consists of commentary about her family, Hollywood’s insanity, and mental health. The show was also created by Mitchell Hurwitz, known for Arrested Development, and Pam Brady, known for South Park. The show is brilliantly written, directed, and acted.

Maria Bamford had the opportunity to make her own brainchild in a Netflix show, and she took it. She used her own form of humor, her own writing style, and her own life as the template. It is refreshing and new and something which happens very rarely. I would say the closest historical example of a pivot in sitcom would be when It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia was released. It really changes what a comedy show can be in the most basic truths. Watch it on Netflix today.

However this show has mature subject matter and language, so consult your doctor before viewing.