Comedian Colleen Ballingers parody of an attention-seeking YouTuber is set to rack up even more views in an awkwardly funny new series
The funniest thing about Miranda Sings, the YouTube personality created by comedian and singer Colleen Ballinger, is that by skewering the tone-deaf masses trying to get famous singing cover songs in their bedrooms and posting them on YouTube, she eventually racked up seven million subscribers all on her own. But could a shtick so dependent upon and steeped in the world of the video-sharing platform survive when taken off of it? Based on Haters Back Off, Netflixs eight-episode Miranda Sings series, it not only survives, but it also thrives.
With her unique pronunciation, enormous red lipstick that looks like a baboons backside, and a preternatural belief in herself, Miranda has always been a unique and awkward character. When reading over her YouTube comments on camera she regularly misinterprets compliments as attacks and attacks as the praise she sees as her God-given right to have lavished upon her. What Haters Back Off does is allow us to see not just Miranda and how she behaves while vlogging but the unique circumstances that created her and abet her totally misplaced entitlement.
Miranda is homeschooled by her blindly supportive but timid mother Bethany (Angela Kinsey), a grocery store clerk who wears a wrist brace for her undiagnosed fibromyalgia, in Tacoma, Washington. Her Uncle Jim (Steve Little) is not only her manager but also her No 1 fan, giving her a five-point path to stardom that doesnt end with an EGOT as her pinnacle but working as a magician. The only normal one in the family is Emily (Francesca Reale), who pays the electric bill, tells her self-absorbed family how to behave in public, and has the mercy to inform her sister how little talent she actually has.
The comedy comes not only from Mirandas delightfully awful performances (a slapstick rendition of All That Jazz at a Seattle gay bar karaoke contest is a series standout) but how Miranda treats each indignity as a triumph and each tiny triumph like winning that karaoke contest as an insult.
Sometimes her witlessness can be grating, creating situations that arent necessarily funny but just appalling, like when she takes over the church choir to get close to the comely guitar player who literally cant remember her name. However, its the same formula that is successful for Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm, Ricky Gervais in The Office, and now Zach Galifianakis in Baskets. Maybe were just not that used to a woman especially one who reads as a teenager striking it rich in the same comedy goldmine.
Thats what reminded me so much of The Comeback, Lisa Kudrow and Michael Patrick Kings dearly departed and under-appreciated HBO comedy about a fading sitcom actress trying to restart her career with a reality television show. Not only do they both have self-centered, well-meaning, and often misunderstood women at the center of them but at their best, they are both an indictment of our societys quest for fame and the ways that can warp all the people hunting for it.
Miranda, though sometimes ill behaved especially toward her neighbor Patrick (Erik Stocklin) who harbors a crush on her is not a bad person. Sure she might try to use a mans funeral as a career launchpad, but deep down shes a misfit who is looking for validation through the adoration she feel she deserves. Is that so unrelatable? All right, maybe it is, but it sure is funny.
Sometimes the awkwardness might wrestle control away from the comedy but through equal measures of slapstick and goofiness there is at least one reason to laugh out loud in each episode, like when the choir director asks if shes an alto or soprano and Miranda replies, Im an American.
While the origin of Miranda Sings might be rooted in the misguided people who seek fame through YouTube and the conventions of the genre (her makeup tutorials are a thing of absurdist genius), by moving the scope of her comedy and worldview, Ballinger gets at something that is not only a cultural critique but often hits on the fragility of egos and everyones need for acceptance. Miranda Sings is no longer just a personality, shes a real, full-fledged human being.
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