Maria Bamford – THE LATE LATE SHOW – March 11th 2022


Maria Bamford is well-known (well, among comedy nerds) as being a major figure of 90s alt-comedy, but also for being a comedian’s comedian. Part of it has to do with her command over her voice — if you’ve watched anything animated over the past fifteen or so years, you have heard her extremely versatile voice — but also over her command of tone. She knows how to balance serious material with absurdity through little more than a lilt or twitch.

She also had a semi-autobiographical two-season Netflix show — LADY DYNAMITE — which was a deep dive into her reckoning with mental illness. It was brilliant and laugh-out-loud funny and featured a lot of pugs.

In the before-times, I even managed to catch a performance of hers at Chicago’s Den Theatre and walked away dazed, half-drunk on laughs and self-reflection. After the show, I hung around the bar, reading a book in a cushy chair, listening to a fantastic DJ, and I watched as she spent time with everyone that approached her. She was at her merch table for well over an hour, listening to people, joking with them, making sure they felt seen and cared for.

She’s a goddamn comedic saint, and every one of her works deserve to be in the limelight. She filmed a stand-up special entitled THE SPECIAL SPECIAL SPECIAL where the only audience members were her very supportive mother and father, which I implore you to seek out. It’s an astoundingly awkward, but yet heartfelt work, partially because of Bamford’s mimicry regarding her parents — especially her mother.

Consequently, I was stunned to hear that her mother recently died of lung cancer, and that Bamford did a tight five of it on the March 11th, 2022 THE LATE LATE SHOW.

Here’s where I hand matters off to Vulture’s Jesse David Fox, who is both extremely empathic and brilliant at dissecting comedy. Read his post, watch the piece, and be prepared to laugh and cry:

CONAN (2010-June 24, 2021)

(TBS/YouTube) I’d love to say that I was a rabid viewer of LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O’BRIEN as a youth, but I don’t recall routinely tuning in for many late night shows back then.

However, I became more of an avid viewer as I grew older and Conan and his writers’ sensibilities have since informed an enormous part of my comedic taste. From Conan’s classic Simpsons’ ep MARGE VS. THE MONORAIL to Robert Smigel’s absurdity and filth to Andy Richter’s irreverent sidekick quips and on-his-feet reactions, not to mention Jon Glaser, Mike Sweeney, Jessie Gaskell*, Brian Stack, and so many more, penned and performed a treasure trove of smart and extraordinary dumb jokes.

That said, I’ve grown a bit worn out by him as of late. I still watch CONAN regularly, but the relatively recent change to thirty-minute eps excises many of the more surreal high-points of his shows. Worse, he’s been interviewing the same people over-and-over-and-over again for the past two years. I get it: he’s tired of a lot of the celebrity bullshit and he now only wants to talk to folks he has fun with, but the show has become rather routine.

However! Since opting to pull the plug on CONAN, this show has livened up a bit (even if he’s still primarily interviewing his favorite celebrities). A recent favorite moment was when Lisa Kudrow came by to promote the FRIENDS reunion special. Conan has been taping his show in the famous (well, to comedy nerds at least) Largo at the Coronet theater, and the two of them were able to take a walk down memory lane and visit the small stage where the two of met attending improv lessons. It’s surprisingly touching and sweet, and I hope the show leans into that sort of thing as it approaches the finish line.

  • Mike Sweeney and Jessie Gaskell hosted two seasons of the podcast INSIDE CONAN, which dove into the nitty-gritty of writing and producing the show, and it’s chockfull of delightful insight.

** If you haven’t watched CONAN O’BRIEN CAN’T STOP (2011, Prime/tubi/etc.), it’s a great character profile doc that was filmed around the time of his tour. It’s also a touch depressing.