The Best Comedy Specials of 2023

The Best Comedy Specials of 2023

  • 3 months ago

Any year with a new Maria Bamford special is a good year. Local Act combines material Bamford has been developing in conjunction with her recent book, Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult, with stories about her parents, who both died within the past few years. Bamford, as always, is radically transparent about experiences like hospice and the death of a loved one and approaches stories about them with both self-deprecation and a forthrightness about her need to stand on a stage and talk about them to a room full of strangers. There can be a dizzying disorientation to Bamford’s work at times, especially as she cycles through voices and characters she barely names, sometimes launching into stories with little prelude or explanatory hand-holding. It makes her an unusually engrossing comedian: Once you’ve adjusted to her rhythm and the worldview, everything else starts to look bland and desaturated by comparison. Local Act also ends with a beautiful form of inverse crowdwork in which she lets everyone in the audience do a minute of comedy onstage. It could be a bit of a tongue-in-cheek response to current comedic trends, but knowing Bamford, it’s probably more just a lovely little idea she wanted to bring to life.

 Apple TV+ (premiering December 12), 58 minutes

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