Standup comedy is a weird science almost akin to alchemy. For comedian Maria Bamford, the excitement is in the experiment. "I'm trying to do a therapy session for people onstage, because I've seen Dr. Phil four times, so I think I can do it," Bamford says of her latest foray into the giddy absurd. "One lady was worried about finding a job, so I hid in the curtains and she had to try and find me. I was a job." Bamford's fans revere her not just for her clever gags, which she doles out with the best of them, but also for her inventive, playful approach. She slips in and out of different characters, her voice modulating from airy innocence to seductive whisper, interspersing more conventional jokes with everything from audience-participation games to a puppet routine. The Duluth native first broke onto the Minneapolis comedy scene sporting a violin and a shaved head. ("I was just really tired of dealing with the man and the man's requirement that I have hair," she quips.) After relocating to L.A. she grew out her locks, ditched the fiddle, and went on to the next phase of the experiment: fusing Minnesota Nice with whimsical punk rebelliousness, imitations, performance art, and surreal observations. The result is an act that partnered her with the Comedians of Comedy, netted her a development deal with Fox, and led to her own show on superdeluxe.com. More importantly, it made her a must-see live performer. Tim Harmston opens. 18+.
Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 10:30 p.m. Starts: March 24. Continues through March 28, 2009