Invisible sentries flank most comedians it seems, guarding them from revealing all of their personality to the audience. Watching Maria Bamford, on the other hand, is like witnessing a full-body scan: She bares her busy brain and every pore and insecurity in Plan B, the DVD, from Stand Up! Records, of her daffy, evocative and illuminating stage show at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis, Minn.
After a demoralizing show in Detroit, Bamford surrenders to a particularly cruel heckler and retreats home to Duluth., Minn., for some comforting and career convalescence and recharging. The perfect premise for a sitcom (every ambitious comic’s aspiration, every enterprising comic’s mission while battling buffoons and rejection on the front lines at comedy clubs nightly), Bamford thinks. The idea thrills her equally encouraging and discouraging talent agent, who through Bamford, an impersonation savant, hoarsely heralds: “This is fantastic! This is a breakthrough. We need to recast you!”
The fictional plan fails, but the real show succeeds because of its occasionally enigmatic and always charismatic star, a masterly mimic who with a change of pitch, one facial tic can magically recast herself in the lead roles. Without makeup or costume changes, she believably becomes her fingernail-gnawing, abrupt and blunt sister, Sarah, her grunting, snorting, wheezing dermatologist dad, Joel, and her dowdy and aggressively direct Midwestern mom, Marilyn, who supports her daughter while simultaneously yanking away her youngest child’s crutches: “Honey, we love you,” Maria/Marilyn declares, “but you’re not welcome at home.”
It’s not that Bamford’s life is a joke; it’s that the kooky comic’s life is the joke. We cringe and laugh convulsively because we see ourselves in her plight. Instead of a biopic, consider Plan B, bioshtick, an hour-long behind-the-mind glimpse at a sensational comedian, who molds pathos and gags into memorable and intimate comic art.
To purchase Plan B, click the image below.