Performing stand-up comedy in front of an audience of two exclusively made up of your parents while cookies bake and pugs run loose sounds like the fever dream of a an eccentric homeless man coming down with influenza. I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed a homeless person’s thoughts, though, so such a scenario must actually have something to do with real comedy and not the nightmares of a sick hobo. These are the circumstances of Maria Bamford’s new special, the special special special! (not the homeless guy thing, but the other stuff).

Bamford’s comedy is already quite surreal in its own right. She delivers deep, dark, personal issues through a variety of inane voices and rambling dialogue that are difficult to follow at times yet incredibly engaging for anyone willing to pursue her strange and hilarious line of thought. That almost sounds like a description of a mental illness, which is fitting given how big of a theme that is for Bamford in the special special special! She’s never really shied away from the topic in her previous albums, but the experiences and feelings presented in this special are particularly darker and sadder than her past bits. Bamford even makes it a point to openly talk about mental illness despite how it’s stigmatized by our culture, making her jokes on the subject that much more depressing, sincere, and ultimately very funny.

The material itself is dark and hilarious, and had it been presented through a standard comedy show recording at a theater or club, it would have been just as great as it is now. However, the unique setting and audience Bamford has assembled for the special special special! makes the performance one of the most interesting comedy productions I’ve seen in a while. You can feel the tension and awkwardness as Bamford does an impression of her father to her father. It’s ballsy, too. I mean, would you write a five-minute bit about some of the ridiculous things your mom says, invite her to your house, and perform that bit right in front of her as you film it and feed her cookies and pizza? It’s sort of like how painters stare at their subjects for an extended period time, the human muses knowing they’re the direct inspiration of for the art being created right in front of them. It’s like that but with more sadness and shame and laughs.

the special special special! is weird. Really weird. But it’s also funny. Really funny. The dark subject matter coupled with Bamford’s unique style of comedy makes this $5 gem worth every penny you’ll pay for it. Not only does it end up being a hilarious piece of comedy, but it also shows the creative possibilities of producing a comedy special.

Final Rating: 15 possibly sick pugs out of the number of times you’ve willingly shared your deepest and darkest thoughts with your parents (that number is 0 for me).  

You can buy Maria Bamford’s the special special special! at chill.com for $5. Also, you can listen to an interview Maria Bamford recently did for The Nerdist podcast where she discusses the various life experiences that influenced the material on the special special special!

Watch the video trailer if you need more convincing convincing convincing!

You can follow the author of this article, Matthew Fugere, on Twitter (@matthewfugere) or check out his dumb personal blog here.