With a knack for voice impressions, acting chops and remarkable character inventions, comedian Maria Bamford easily could fill her time with television and film work. Instead, she keeps herself locked into the vicious, less lucrative world of stand-up comedy. It has its own rewards, however.
Its immediate gratification, Bamford said. It only involves me showing up, so there isnt that frustration of getting people together and getting peoples approval.
The California-born Bamford opts for a comedy style few others dare attempt. Its sharp, self-deprecating, shies away from standard punch lines and is some of the most original, daring and funny material out today. Her unique voice was formed from profound, personal issues; she battled near-crippling obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression throughout adolescence and much of her adult life. Only recently did she begin to conquer the problems, but they and any number of neuroses remain a common topic. Its a form of therapy Bamford feels more in control with, and those benefits can work both ways.
It attaches me to the audience, she said. The reason Im saying stuff is because it relieves me of that feeling of isolation. If people laugh, that means people understand what you are talking about on some level. Before the struggle became a strength, it could have stopped her from pursuing her passion on any number of occasions. Raised on a steady diet of Saturday Night Live, a young Bamford formed a fondness for the art of comedy, but her introverted nature made it hard to act on it.
I was shy. I didnt want to be around people a lot of the time, she said. I didnt really think it through, but (stand-up) felt good. I could always put on a good show.
Refining her act for more than 20 years now, shes only gotten more popular as time has gone by. Recent years have found her appearing on talk shows and Comedy Central. She also found her way onto the The Comedians of Comedy tour and documentary with fellow alt-comics Zach Galifianakis and Patton Oswalt, and graced Targets Christmas-season commercials the past two years.
With three comedy albums to her credit, Bamford hopes to record a new record and/or Comedy Central special in the coming months.
I have been working on a suicide chunk, she said, laughing. Then I have one about kids. Im kind of terribly frightened of kids.
If those topics feel alienating, thats OK with Bamford.
I remember hearing that 33 percent of the world will always hate you, 33 percent wont care, and 33 percent will love you no matter what, she said. I can only do what I think is funny and good. Its fine if 66 percent of the world isnt on board.