I decided to listen to Maria Bamford’s Ask Me About My New God! while I was driving cross-country, locked in the car with my mother, on my way to Portland, Oregon. Obviously, I couldn’t have come up with a better place to listen to her thoughts on organized religion and her neurotic mother than while driving through God’s country with a woman who only days earlier had admitted to me that she doesn’t understand sarcasm. Thirty years knowing each other and we’ve finally discovered the root to our eternal miscommunication.
From what I’ve seen of Bamford’s fans, they are die-hard, but the fact that she won over my mother made me realize her ability to find the humor in seemingly obscure but truly universal struggles. “My Mom, My Sister And My Beliefs,” and “Over 40 And Dating,” nailed the nuances of relating to both an unconventional family and online dating while “Paula Deen’s Suicide Note,” or “What I Worship,” exemplified how pop culture references should be done. Bamford even made God jokes palatable saying, “I would like to believe in God because I hear it’s suppose to feel good,” right before comparing it to a glowing logo of an international conglomerate or, on “Right or Wrong,” saying she is trying to get more spiritual (“I mean more self-righteous”), and then allowing the audience, “If any of you are spiritual just rest in the glory that I am wrong.”
Some of her best moments are in “English Phrases,” “I’m not racist, but they’re lazy” and, in my personal favorite, “Confidence,” when Bamford, in regards to dating, refers to herself as a factory of GIANT RED FLAGS. Her level of socially aware, self-deprecating humor is unmatched and the only thing I found to be missing was her masterful facial-expressions or the physical way she engages her characters.
It’s hard to write a review of Bamford’s work that doesn’t include her effortless ability to create visual characters merely with voices and the brilliant ways in which she engages the stigma of mental illness, and “New God,” is no exception. Her hilariously on-point voices, even of the most mundane archetypes, seem to be organic extensions of herself while allowing us a front-row seat into her creative genius. Anyone else delivering the line “Suicide, Anyone?” would be faced with some gasps and groans, but Bamford owns the topic with such strength and knowledge and manages to tell people, “it’s ok” or “it gets better” with sarcastic, but genuine, sentiment.
My mom’s only complaint was that some of her voices were hard to hear over the sound of the car driving down I-80, but she did say Bamford reminded her of Phyllis Diller and that is probably the best review anyone could hope for.