The oddball Maria Bamford leaves Vancouver in stitches at Northwest Comedy Fest preview
At FanClub on Thursday, October 24
The Northwest Comedy Fest played an exhibition game at FanClub on Thursday (October 24) and came away winners. Getting a four-month jump on its regular season, which runs from February 13 to 22 at venues across the Lower Mainland, the festival flew in the lovably odd Maria Bamford and teamed her up with Vancouver heavyweight Graham Clark and import player Dino Archie from Fresno.
The festival also teased us with three: alt-comedy king Patton Oswalt, MADtv’s Bobby Lee, and storytelling genius Kyle Kinane are confirmed performers for the upcoming bash. Comedy festivals are always a work in progress right up to opening night, so keep checking the new website, northwestcomedyfest.com/, for all the latest, including tickets for the aforementioned three, which are available now.
Clark, who recently opened all four of Dave Chappelle’s shows at the Queen E., slayed in his comfortably relaxed manner, talking about Halloween, hot-dog-encrusted pizza, and bible stores, while the eminently likable Archie had a great bit about obnoxious sports dads who follow their kids from little league baseball to school plays all the way to the bedroom, offering their aggressive encouragement.
But it was Bamford who everyone came to see and, except for a couple of moronic interruptions which blocked her flow, they were totally on-board for the entirety of her weird ride.
She’s not the funniest standup by a long stretch, but she’s definitely one of the most interesting and artistic. In fact, she’s not really a standup at all, despite standing alone at a microphone making people laugh—more like a one-person sketch performer. She stops on a dime and shifts into fully committed characters and act-outs to add colour to her brain droppings. Too often the voice is what gets the laugh rather than the words behind it, though, and the louder it is, the bigger the response. Any overly confident vocalization is shorthand for vacuous and self-absorbed, but they are funny coming from her modern-day Georgia Engel natural speaking voice.
One bit about not liking to put caps or lids back on any food product illustrates how absurdity reigns supreme in her world. Her boyfriend questions her about it and she replies, in psychotic voice, “Because I’m a raccoon.” Big laughs. Surely there’s more, though. And there is. When he suggests things maybe won’t dry out and would taste better if she recapped food, she says, yelling insanely this time, “I’m a raccoon!” Bigger laughs. And… Scene. We could dig deep to understand why we laugh at this nothing joke—she’s difficult and damaged with a poor self-image?—but it’s not really worth it for the payoff.
Another more successful bit about unrequested mentoring of children told us she might not disagree with the above assessment. The kid character cuts to the heart of her insecurities, asking her, “How can you be a comedian if you don’t have any jokes?” A whimpering version of herself responds, “Call my manager. He’ll explain everything.”
No need to. You either get her or you don’t. And she had the two-level Granville Street venue in stitches all night, making for a successful preseason start for the city’s newest arts event.