NETFLIX IS LEADING a comedic revolution. We already talked about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and in terms of their original programming, they’re tackling issues around mental health with some of the most forward-thinking comedies around.
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is essentially dealing with the aftermath of Stockholm Syndrome, and BoJack Horseman looks at long-term depression. But perhaps the most revealing and least seen of the lot is Lady Dynamite.
In the show, Maria Bamford plays a fictionalised version of herself – a stand-up comedian/actress who wants to venture back into the world of entertainment, having just barely put herself back together after a nervous breakdown.
The powerful part is that Bamford actually does suffer from manic depression, and events within the show are much closer to home than many actors would allow themselves to get. Due to the insight she has, Bamford is able to put a unique spin on these events, allowing us to laugh with her – and sometimes at her, but it’s okay, she’s in on the joke – as she details her rise, and fall, and hoped-for rise again.
Bamford has some of the best minds in the business helping with the project. The series is co-produced with the creators of Arrested Development and South Park, which should give you some indication as to the tone of the show itself.
One minute she’s running through the streets, high on life, starring in a hair commercial only she can see, going on a romantic date with a bicycle and calling herself “a cheeky pterodactyl”. The next minute, we’re in the depths of her depression, bleached of colour, and Bamford is doing her best to put a smile on her face as the world around her tells her to just feel better, just get over it, why is she sad all the time.
The show itself switches up for technicolor, eye-piercingly bright colours when Maria is feeling on top of the world, and then drops to depressing blues and greys when she’s on her own emotional bottom rung.
If that all sounds a bit much for a Friday night in, then don’t worry. Bamford knows how to make all of this very, very funny. She’s constantly dealing with her bumbling agent (played by Fred Melamed) who only wants what’s best for her, even if he has no idea what that might be. Jenny Slate from Broad City appears as Maria’s life coach, but gives potentially the worst life advice you could give someone who is prone to bouts of severe depression. Then there’s the fact that she keeps running into her ex-fiancé, who happens to be played by Dean Cain. Yup, Maria used to date Superman.
There’s a whole host of famous funny faces who show up throughout the show’s (so far) only season, including Sarah Silverman, Patton Oswalt, Tig Notaro, Mira Sorvino, Brandon Routh (another Superman!), Seth Meyers and Judd Apatow. And Maria finds a way to make a fool of herself in front of all of them.
Perhaps never before has the presentation of a comedy fit so perfectly with the story that it is telling. Lady Dynamite jumps around from being a very intimate biography on a breakdown, to being a show about getting a show about having a breakdown being made, to intercutting some bizarre but absolute hilarious hallucinations that only Maria seems to be experiencing.
We guarantee if you take the risk, this will be the show you’ll still be talking about months later. If for no other reason that you’ll probably end up referring to yourself as a fancy pterodactyl.
So where can I watch it? Lady Dynamite is currently available on Netflix.