Netflix’s Lady Dynamite Tackles Mental Illness with a Laugh

Lady Dynamite is one of the latest shows now streaming live on Netflix and stars actor/comedian, Maria Bamford. It’s a fictionalized account of Bamford’s life before, during, and after her treatment for Bi-polar disorder. Executive produced by Bamford, Pam Brady, and Arrested Development’s Mitch Hurwitz, each episode boasts special guests including Patton Oswalt, Brandon Routh, Sarah Silverman, Jenny Slate, and more.

Lady Dynamite is a slow-burn show in that it takes a bit before you get in the groove. This is due in part to the 3 different timelines that make up the 30 minute episodes. There’s “The Past” in which we see Bamford’s descent, “Duluth” covering her treatment, and “The Present” where Maria has emerged to get her life back on track. Each episode weaves the three together to make up Maria Bamford’s tale of “a woman who loses- and then finds- her s**t”.

Maria Bamford stars in season 1 of Lady Dynamite premiering on Netflix on May 20, 2016. Photo: Saeed Adyani/Netflix

As we follow the trials and tribulations of Maria’s descent to rock bottom, treatment, and return, there are many hilarious bits and characters that will have you laughing out loud. Bamford’s assistant , Larissa (Lennon Parham), and her manager, Karen Grisham (played by Ana Gasteyer from SNL, Suburgatory and Mean Girls), are two stand out supporting characters. Instead of helping Maria manage her return to acting and stand-up, Larissa manages to mess up every task and appointment, often setting up the premise for that episode. Gasteyer’s Karen Grisham is her arrogant, potty-mouthed agent with more than a few scene-stealing moments herself.

Some of the greatest parts of the show happen during the “Present” segments. In one episode Maria affects a sultry voice and creates the character of “Diane.” It’s one of her best attempts to get out of the hole she finds herself but as fate would have it, the people around her prefer she use the Diane-voice to her real one. Other great moments come at the backend of the season when we see Bamford audition for the role of Cookie’s brother in the blockbuster show, Empire, and then when t-shirts with her face on them make their way to child soldiers in Africa. It’s these moments combined with the flashbacks of Maria in her role as spokesperson for a major discount store chain that lead to plenty of laughs throughout. 


The first episode of Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite is a little slow. This is due in part to the way in which the show is set up but the weaving plot also lends itself to helping the audience experience the life of a woman suffering from mental illness. There are plenty of really funny moments but also life lessons to be learned along the way. With lines like “I’m not a guy! I can show you my south mouth if you come out” uttered with all seriousness, there is some really great stuff to be found here. Plus, as the frenetic and often weird storyline comes to a head in the final episode, we see her final breakdown… And the most sensational fight scene ever filmed for a Netflix show!

If you like these then Lady Dynamite might be for you:


Arrested Development

Garfunkel and Oates

Written by Kevin Joseph

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