On DVD: Maria Bamford: Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome

Among the noteworthy cadre of Los Angeles-based stand-ups who have emerged over the last decade or so, Maria Bamford is a unique comedian. She presents audiences with a individual point of view, drawing inspiration from her own brain troubles (depression and OCD, or as she has put it, being "paralyzed by hope") and the bizarre but common personality types she has encountered. She compresses the mundane craze of them all into perfectly-crafted characters on the edge of sanity that she effortlessly inhabits, sometimes for mere moments at a time. Her comedy is less about blasting the audience with her own thoughts and opinions, than it is about capturing a set of specific personae in our society and lampooning them in their own words and behaviors. The personalities she satirizes comprise an askance view of dominant American cultural attitudes and predictable, middle-of-the-road values.

Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome is Maria Bamford's third solo comedy album, recorded live in August 2008 at L.A.'s Upright Citizen's Brigade Theater. It's presented as a two-disc CD & DVD set. The CD features her act at its most personal, refined, and hilarious. Incorporating some material that had its test-run on her web series The Maria Bamford Show (the entirety of which is included on the DVD), her routines include many references to family, friends, and acquaintances from her hometown of Duluth, Minnesota. Voicemail from the baby Jesus, an impersonation of God as an incoherent Quasimodo type, along with references to art therapy, the Velveteen Rabbit, and the power of vision boards form the basis of some of the best bits.
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