As Louis Virtel once noted on this very site, Ana Gasteyer was one of a trio of women performers who made Saturday Night Live awesome again in the 1990s (the other two being, of course, Molly Shannon and Cheri Oteri). And while the massively-undervalued star has flown a bit under the radar since departing the late-night series in 2002, I'm happy to report that Netflix's new Maria Bamford series Lady Dynamite is perhaps the first time since SNL that Gasteyer's prickly talents have been given full, hysterical reign.
Leave it to Arrested Development creator Mitchell Hurwitz to provide Gasteyer with a suitable platform for her off-kilter, often-outsized instincts: Lady Dynamite is a bizarre kaleidoscope, fractured through the sincere pain of Bamford's real-life struggles with mental illness and the twisted, cutthroat misogyny of the industry she's been navigating for two decades now (in case you were wondering, Bamford also happens to be excellent). As super agent Karen Grisham, Gasteyer unnervingly amps up every stereotype you have about behind-the-scenes Hollywood power players, offering a deranged, uproarious portrait of Tinseltown excess and disingenuousness: Karen is an executive-suite mastermind whose killer career instincts have warped into blatant psychosis. Trust me on this: Gasteyer is a scream. There's a moment in Episode 1 involving a Vespa and a sidecar that earned arguably the biggest laugh at last night's Bamford-attended screening, and much of it hinged on Gasteyer's demented energy.
Luckily, the first official clip released by Netflix is heavy on the Karen, who — after delivering a profanity-laced tongue lashing to Bamford's terminally-insecure manager Bruce Ben-Bacharach (a hilarious Fred Melamed) — leads he and Bamford in an off-the-cuff rendition of, yes, “Cradle the Balls and Work the Shaft.”
Lady Dynamite premieres May 20 on Netflix.