They dressed Maria’s small living room with familiar tropes of the stand-up-special genre: a red curtain, her name in lights, dramatic theatrical lighting. Back in 1987, ex-comic Robert Townsend directed Eddie Murphy’s Raw (still the largest grossing stand-up film in history). from its director, Jordan Brady, himself a former comedian,, about a month before the shoot. came from a new company called Chill. That’s why I was there as well as Maria’s longtime friend and fellow comedian Jackie Kashian, who warmed up the “crowd.” Of course, a working stage microphone and amplifier were essential to add authenticity and help emphasize Maria’s often whisper-quiet vocalizations. As the sole audience members? It’s nerve-wracking enough to sit in the back of the audience and observe your child performing, but quite another thing to be the integral theatrical element of the show. To many, myself included, Maria is a peerless force in stand-up. They built a website that presented a full slate of original stand-up specials, each downloadable for just $4.99. Photo: Netflix

I was thrilled just to be involved. I try not to use the word brave to characterize artistic endeavors, but creating a stand-up comedy special, in front of just your parents, was certainly audacious. There had been nothing like it before. Since then, many comedians, including Mike Binder, Bo Burnham, Neal Brennan, Chris Rock, Tig Notaro, and Jerrod Carmichael, have creatively helmed stand-up specials. The accent was slightly elevated, but both the intonation and the attitude were spot-on. She is just built differently. Her writing, performance skills, and joke construction are wildly original. The show was shot, on location, at Maria’s home. Jordan wanted a “live” set, which meant the camera operators, sound guy, and myself were allowed to react. Today’s Specials

All jokes aside, stand-up is getting artful onscreen. landed at various streaming platforms such as Hulu, Netflix, and Tubi. In fact, it risks sounding like the comedian is bombing. It’s a collaborative art form between performer and audience. But the small crowd was not a problem for Maria. He told me briefly about the concept, and right away I thought that it was a highly risky endeavor. They wanted the look and feel of a mini-nightclub as an ironic counterpoint to the home setting. I think it remains a source of inspiration for three reasons: the sky-high creative risk, the seamless execution, and Maria’s masterful performance. Luckily, I got to speak with both parents beforehand. Looking back, I see a few parallels to the work, and life, of another comedian: Jonathan Winters. Bamford’s parents at the taping. Although Maria might disagree. Wayne playing piano during the taping. Comics understand what it feels like to be onstage searching for laughs. Eventually Chill went bankrupt, and Maria’s Special Special Special! Photo: Bruce Smith

The basic idea of shooting a comedy special is to make the performer as comfortable as possible and hope to capture the palpable give-and-take that lies at the heart of stand-up. Photo: Amazon Studios

On October 27, 2012, in Eagle Rock, California, the evolution of the stand-up-comedy special added another dimension when Maria Bamford filmed her Special Special Special! Jordan and Maria then collaborated on multiple interstitial bits: baking cookies, eye drops for her pug, Bert, a circuit-breaker reset, pizza delivery, pre-show prep in the bathroom, and a postshow interview with the audience. Maria’s instinct to hire a comedian to direct her special, although not unprecedented, is becoming a much more common practice. Meanwhile, the web address chill.com is currently utilized by a CBD-distribution outfit. With a crowd of just two, there is little opportunity to gain any exciting comedic momentum. But face-to-face? She referred to Joel and Marilyn as a “loving couple,” and I noticed they began holding hands. The first was Maria’s intro theme, and the other was lively background music to be played during the breaks. But with the Special Special Special!, Maria flips this expectation on its head. More From This Series

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Tags: My job was simple: Compose and play two pieces of music. They often provide an extra gear to the process. The financing of the Special Special Special! I recall one night at a bookstore in the San Fernando Valley where we learned there is a thin line between performing comedy and interrupting people trying to shop. I first got to know Maria back in the 1990s while doing free alt-comedy shows in Los Angeles. I was not surprised to learn that, in recent years, she has been developing new material performing for just one person at a time. Jesus. I understand that, in a metaphorical sense, all comedians are performing for their parents. It was wild to see Maria do her mom impression to her mom. There were only two audience members: Maria’s parents, Joel and Marilyn Bamford. Both Bamford and Winters were raised in the Midwest, inhabit multiple original characters, are uncommonly creative, and spent time recovering in mental hospitals. Right from the start, she established a nice rhythm. They were delightful but seemed apprehensive about being on-camera. That moment was sweet, lovely, and entirely unlike my parents’ dynamic. And I had a front-row seat — as the show’s piano player. Maria really captured her. All the interstitials were shot before the stand-up, and I think we even shot a master take of the set before we brought in her parents for the show. The idea of filming at her home, with her parents on the couch, was all Maria; she also cooked up the title. I first heard of the Special Special Special! Their business model was triggered by the huge success of Louis C.K.’s 2011 downloadable self-produced and -directed special Live at the Beacon. At the time of the shoot, I had no idea that this little anti-special experiment would have cultural legs. Federman with Bamford on The Special Special Special! I was also very curious to see how accurate Maria’s impressions were — especially of her mother, Marilyn. She always claimed that she just wanted to shoot her special as close to her bedroom as possible. Maria is one of the few stand-ups who knows how to survive without laughter waves and applause breaks.