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I ♥ DULUTH, The Story of the Maria Bamford Show
January 26, 2013 4:41 PM   Subscribe

About a year after her participation in the groundbreaking Comedy Central documentary series the Comedians of Comedy, Maria Bamford was on stage at the Friars Club in LA when a heckler began shouting at her. What happened after that isn’t entirely clear, other than Bamford had a breakdown, walked off stage, and disappeared. She was found three months later selling clock radios on the sidewalks of Detroit. A fellow homeless person, who was also a Comedy Central fan, recognized Bamford and eventually her parents were contacted. They brought her back home to Deluth, Minnesota and began to get her help. Maria decided to document her recovery in a series of short videos called The Maria Bamford Show, which were first posted to the TBS networks' now abandoned Super Deluxe Web site.

The Maria Bamford Show: 01 Dropout
The Maria Bamford Show: 02 Maria Gets A Job
The Maria Bamford Show: 03 Kicked Out
The Maria Bamford Show: 04 Search for Meaning
The Maria Bamford Show: 05 Ready for Love
The Maria Bamford Show: 06 Mother's Day
The Maria Bamford Show: 07 Showtime
The Maria Bamford Show: 08 Crevasse
The Maria Bamford Show: 09 Bread
The Maria Bamford Show: 10 Dark
The Maria Bamford Show: 11 Will
The Maria Bamford Show: 12 Faith
The Maria Bamford Show: 13 Oh - CD
The Maria Bamford Show: 14 Death and Happiness
The Maria Bamford Show: 15 Boredom
The Maria Bamford Show: 16 Acting Out
The Maria Bamford Show: 17 Horror
The Maria Bamford Show: 18 Moving
The Maria Bamford Show: 19 Replacement
The Maria Bamford Show: 20 Exit

Her latest effort solo effort is Maria Bamford: The Special Special Special which she recorded in her living room, for an audience of two—her parents. The Onion’s AV Club called it, “[O]ne of the most fearless and bracingly dark explorations of mental illness in recent memory. But since the special is the product of Bamford’s beautifully tormented mind, it has the benefit of being consistently hilarious.”

Slate: Stand-up Comedy and Mental Illness: A Conversation with Maria Bamford.

She is currently doing the voice of the Hot Dog Princess on Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time, and has apparently signed on to the Netflix re-boot of Arrested Development.

Bonus Material:
Maria on Jesse Thorn's The Sound of Young America, 2007.

Maria joins Marc Maron during the live filming of What the Fuck at UCB Theatre in Los Angeles, 2009.

Maria on Marc Maron's What the Fuck in 2011 (segment c).

Maria Explains Global Conflict.

Maria recounts her visit to a Morning Zoo radio show.

Maria on and in Minnesota.

The Maria Bamford Activity Guide.

2004 interview with Scene Missing magazine.

previously 1 & 2
posted by Toekneesan (100 comments total) 271 users marked this as a favorite

 
I heard her on the Nerdist podcast recently, and it was great. Been meaning to check out her stuff. Thanks for this post.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:49 PM on January 26, 2013


Maria Bamford is amazing. I hope her career sustains her forever because we can't do without her gifts. I would eat glass if I could have her character-creating abilities.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 4:49 PM on January 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


Why didn't you tell me there'd be an 11 year-old pug named Blossom?
posted by docgonzo at 4:51 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know it's probably nowhere near what she is hoping for but I just want to hold her and snuggle her and tell her that everything will be all right.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:53 PM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


A few weeks ago I watched the special with her parents. At the end her mom and dad talk for a bit and I just kept laughing at how well Maria can sound just like her mom! It's not like I doubted her impression, it was just really fun to hear the accuracy!
posted by Swisstine at 4:56 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


What an excellent post.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:57 PM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Interesting. Is there a written account of the story anywhere here?
posted by bongo_x at 4:57 PM on January 26, 2013


Oh god, just from the "theme music" of the first episode I'm already sold.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:01 PM on January 26, 2013


Okay, glad she's getting help and all but that clock radio she sold me sucked.
posted by hal9k at 5:02 PM on January 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


This is really great, thank you. I was totally unaware of her.
posted by neuromodulator at 5:04 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just recently listened to these for a second time through. She's the coolest.
posted by Glinn at 5:07 PM on January 26, 2013


I had no that had happened to her. I can't wait to see these, thanks so much for posting them.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 5:12 PM on January 26, 2013


Great post. I love Maria Bamford—and I don't mean the kind of love I have for, say, curly fries. An oldie-but-goodie: Maria Bamford's Standard Comedy Act.
posted by Lorin at 5:16 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had no that had happened to her

I... I don't think it actually happened. You know, like Joaquin Phoenix didn't actually stop acting and become some weird haired up rapper?
posted by Justinian at 5:17 PM on January 26, 2013 [17 favorites]


Right. Bamford has had mental health problems, but this particular chain of events is just a story.
posted by juniper at 5:22 PM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I saw her in the new Dinosaur Jnr video this past week, and wondered where the hell she had been! Great post.
posted by crossoverman at 5:23 PM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Really? I've been seeing it presented as fact - do you have some reason to think it didn't happen?
posted by jacalata at 5:32 PM on January 26, 2013


Oh man, I knew about this show but I had no idea she'd really had a breakdown. Poor, amazingly hilarious thing.
posted by DU at 5:33 PM on January 26, 2013


I don't know about clock radios specifically, but she does seem like she might be a little...fragile.
posted by DU at 5:34 PM on January 26, 2013


SPOILERS:
She says in one of the final episodes that none of it was real.
posted by bleep at 5:36 PM on January 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


I had no that had happened to her

I... I don't think it actually happened. You know, like Joaquin Phoenix didn't actually stop acting and become some weird haired up rapper?

Ah well, I...I guess I interpreted the post as presenting it as fact. Apparently it didn't!
posted by DrGirlfriend at 5:40 PM on January 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


No, this did not happen. It's still a brilliant web series though. The really dark one in the middle is spectacular. She is doing one of the hardest things in comedy, which is touching on real and serious issues, and still being funny.

I like this one from Special Special Special, talking about dating failures:

"Sure there's always the possibility of dying alone, but that's OK -- I'm fun to be with!"
posted by msalt at 5:42 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


And not to ruin a good tragic artist story, but she's a very successful voice-over and animation actor in LA, in addition to her great comedy career, and starred in a very successful and lucrative series of Christmas ads for Target as the Crazy Black Friday Target lady."
posted by msalt at 5:50 PM on January 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


There are two "Comedians of Comedy" on Netflix, I recommend "Live at the El Rey" where she comes on first after the intro.
posted by Brian B. at 5:50 PM on January 26, 2013


Maria Bamford found selling clock radios on the streets of Detroit, and then taken to Duluth for treatment of mental illness? How Firesign Theatre of her!
"...SOUND: Music on the FM.

BABE: Hey, Ralph! That's great fidelity on that FM! Nice tone!

RALPH: You haven't heard nothing yet. I've got right here in this car, for your trans-Atlantic driving pleasure, this fully hallicrafted Sea-Master short-wave radio in this non-returnable, non-disposable zinc-lined carrying case!

BABE: Can I get Duluth on it?

RALPH: Duluth, bucko! You can get Tierra Del Fuego!

SOUND: Short-wave radio turned on.

LATIN ANNOUNCER: !Hola, amigos Latinos! Aqui a Ralph's Used Motors, tres-cientos Nort' Hoover, a la esquina de 42nd Place, tenemos milliones de automoviles. . . [fading under]

RALPH: Yeah, yeah ..."
posted by paulsc at 5:51 PM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Amazing post, I love Maria Bamford. Thanks, I can't wait to dive into this one.
posted by catwash at 5:54 PM on January 26, 2013


Maria Bamford is the best!
posted by Bwithh at 5:55 PM on January 26, 2013


[fixed the typo, geez people.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:57 PM on January 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


Maria Bamford is EVERYTHING except for the parts of everything that are Tig Notaro.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:00 PM on January 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


I saw her in one of the Comedians of Comedy shows in Boston a few thousand years ago, and I'll tell you this: she does one hell of a pterodactyl impression.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 6:03 PM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think Maria is just one of the all-time greats. I assumed the breakdown story was real, too, because she comes off as quite vulnerable and I'm pretty sure she recently had some level of breakdown. Not homeless in Detroit, but still.
posted by akaJudge at 6:05 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, I loved that show! To the extent that I considered making a post on it back when it was on Super Deluxe. (There's dozens of things I consider making posts about, whether one actually gets made depends on a chance combination of obsession, whimsy, free time, energy and passing high-energy alpha particles.) I didn't know she had been homeless, and that there was such a sad story behind the show. Glad she's doing better now!

I particularly remember the credits being tied to her pug's collar. It was all impossibly adorable.
posted by JHarris at 6:12 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hopefully ColdChef will come along and tell the story about how he gave Maria Bamford a ride back to her cabin after one of the days at MaxFunCon (and how I tagged along because I did not want to go to the "country estate" dress up party) and how she was wonderful just like you'd think she'd be.
posted by jessamyn at 6:13 PM on January 26, 2013 [23 favorites]


Her appearance on The Mental Illness Happy Hour should probably be noted as well. That's a non-fictional account of her battles with mental disorder.
posted by painquale at 6:15 PM on January 26, 2013 [13 favorites]


Ah, cool. Thanks, painquale, I was about to post the same link :)
posted by akaJudge at 6:17 PM on January 26, 2013


Oh god oh god oh god the accents. I am not from Minnesota but it's still so, so much closer than the city-Texan I live around now that I'm getting high school flashbacks.

Maria Bamford is great. I saw her at MaxFunCon last year (not the same one) and she was awesome on stage and totally seemed like a cool person everywhere else.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:29 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nerdist Podcast mentioned above.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:36 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


...she's a very successful voice-over and animation actor...

Once you know her style, you can hear her in quite a few things. WordGirl and Adventure Time come to mind.
posted by DU at 6:57 PM on January 26, 2013


She's great, I see her around, but the breakdown is fiction. She says so in just about everyinterview.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:06 PM on January 26, 2013


OK, wait; is this not explicitly being presented in the post as being real? This seems sort of shitty.
posted by bongo_x at 7:07 PM on January 26, 2013 [23 favorites]


OK, wait; is this not explicitly being presented in the post as being real? This seems sort of shitty.


Agreed.
posted by sweetkid at 7:20 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I got to see her about a month ago (along with Jackie Kashian, who is also awesome). She's the best and my favorite comedian, probably ever. Thanks for this.
posted by Errant at 7:26 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Between the Maria Bamford Show, Tim & Eric Nite Live, Brad Neely's stuff, and all the rest Super Deluxe was fantastic for its too-short life.
posted by edeezy at 7:26 PM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


True, not true, show or no show..... all I know is that I had to come in here to say that I heart Duluth, too.
posted by Foam Pants at 7:32 PM on January 26, 2013


I thought that not being 100% sure it wasn't real was part of the charm.
posted by bleep at 7:36 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


This seems sort of shitty

Well, I tried to present it as she did. I wasn't sure if it was real. It seemed real, but I wasn't sure that was the point. It certainly seemed that there was evidence that she ended up back in Duluth more than once, and had even been institutionalized more than once. I guess I got suckered in, kind of like Mike Daisey. Still, it seems pretty authentic, even if it isn't entirely factual. And I find it an incredible body of work anyway.

Sorry about that. I didn't find anything that said otherwise. But I'll admit that I didn't actively search to debunk it.
posted by Toekneesan at 7:38 PM on January 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


bongo_x: "OK, wait; is this not explicitly being presented in the post as being real? This seems sort of shitty."

Agreed, with the caveat that she did have some very serious psychological problems that she's been dealing with (I also heard the Nerdist podcast she recently appeared on where she discussed this in detail). She checked herself into a place and got herself the help she needed.
posted by empyrean at 7:39 PM on January 26, 2013


I'm a huge fan of Ms. Bamford, especially because I'm a fellow sufferer of bi-polar disorder. I enjoyed the most recent special, but didn't find it as dark and probing as everybody else (for example the A.V. Club review mentioned above) seemed to. I'm sure it's because I have spent a lot of time thinking about suicide and dealing with my depressions and nervous breakdowns (and talking about it in my own, comparatively shitty, stand-up) that it feels to me like the "dark" subject matter Maria broaches barely reveals even the tip of the iceberg.

It's not Bamford's fault, of course, and I'm truly glad that there's a popular performer talking about this stuff. I just get sad that it can't affect me the way it does a "normal" person.

tl;dr - My mental illness is limiting my enjoyment of somebody else's discussions of their mental illness. Sucks to be crazy.
posted by aedison at 7:40 PM on January 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


In the last show she actually says that the breakdown didn't happen and that the premise of the show is largely her own fears being projected outward onto people around her.
posted by Grimgrin at 7:41 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


When you leave people wondering if your performance is genuine or not, don't be surprised when they turn against you. Good luck, Ms Bamford.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 8:06 PM on January 26, 2013


I still like you, Maria Bamford. I don't necessarily feel like I've been played by the whole Maria-went-off-the-rails thing. Are we not entertained? Besides, the public persona of almost every famous person these days is a confection if not a total croc.
posted by newdaddy at 8:14 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't miss her on a fairly recent appearance on The Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast.
posted by old_growler at 8:18 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


When you leave people wondering if your performance is genuine or not, don't be surprised when they turn against you. Good luck, Ms Bamford.

Well, I didn’t want to watch a bunch of videos, but thought the story sounded interesting. I started to watch the first one and quickly realized this is just not a person I want to watch. I didn’t want to minimize her story though just because I found her annoying and it seemed like a manipulative and callously media grabbing move, but you know, give her a break she’s had real problems. Then it’s revealed that it’s a put-on. I should learn to trust my feelings.

Besides, the public persona of almost every famous person these days is a confection if not a total croc.

I’m totally into that, I love that shit. But not "I was molested as a child. Not really, but what if I was, wouldn’t that be a great story?"
posted by bongo_x at 8:25 PM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, come on. I don't understand why people would feel put-upon if this isn't 100% true. It's her own story, she's an artist, she gets to tell it any way she wants. It's not a piece of journalism and she's really not hurting anyone by being creative with how she tells or dramatizes her story.

Also, I've been meaning to check out "this Maria Bamford person I've been hearing so much about" for, like 4 years, so thanks for this post!
posted by lunasol at 8:35 PM on January 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


On the Nerdist podcast she spoke about her breakdown in very real terms, no joking about it. She was in and out of a facility (I think in LA) and wasn't allowed to drive with the meds she was on, so the staff would come pick her up in a van. She would call her friends that lived on the route so they could wave to the van as it drove by. I'm not sure about the intersection between her work in the videos and real life, but her breakdown bit isn't a fiction.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:37 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, come on. I don't understand why people would feel put-upon if this isn't 100% true. It's her own story, she's an artist, she gets to tell it any way she wants.

I don't feel put upon in any way, but she isn't "dramatizing her story" in a "not 100% true" way. This is completely fictitious. Which is fine, but we're not talking about changing a bit her or there, it's just a made up story.
posted by Justinian at 8:38 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


(I'm referring to the bit about selling radios in Duluth, obviously, not the mental health thing).
posted by Justinian at 8:39 PM on January 26, 2013


You can listen to the podcast I'm referencing here.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:39 PM on January 26, 2013


I think it's a made-up premise, but most of the story comes from truth.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:47 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


A Related Metafilter Post.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:57 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


is it just me for is Minnesota spending some money on good, solid arts promotion? I keep finding great videos and stuff coming from official-looking sources.
posted by The Whelk at 8:58 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


is it just me for is Minnesota spending some money on good, solid arts promotion? I keep finding great videos and stuff coming from official-looking sources.

Minnesota is pretty great about the arts in general. I remember hearing once that Minneapolis had the most theater seats per capita of any city in the US, and I believe it.
posted by lunasol at 9:04 PM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, I didn’t want to watch a bunch of videos, but thought the story sounded interesting. I started to watch the first one and quickly realized this is just not a person I want to watch. I didn’t want to minimize her story though just because I found her annoying and it seemed like a manipulative and callously media grabbing move, but you know, give her a break she’s had real problems. Then it’s revealed that it’s a put-on. I should learn to trust my feelings.

I think the framing of the metafilter post is leading you astray, here. The web series was originally hosted on a short-lived site hosting original web series, alongside other comedy skits and explicitly fictional content. It was framed as "real" in the same was that the characters on The Office are supposedly giving interviews to a documentary film crew.

I think a lot of people now first come across it on YouTube just by itself, and so there is an initial sense of confusion about how "real" it is. I certainly did. If you watch the whole series, though, it becomes quite clear that no, she isn't recording this all by herself in her bedroom, she's a performer and this is a professional, scripted production.

I really think it's a misunderstanding of the series and what she was trying to do to come away with the impression that she was trying to "put on over," on anybody. She's not trying to fake people into thinking she was sick in order to garner sympathy, she's just using "confessional video" as a format that's well suited to exploring the ideas she wants explore and well suited to her particular talents.

All that said, you're certainly free to just not dig her stuff; she's distinctive enough that I bet a lot of people don't.
posted by Diablevert at 9:12 PM on January 26, 2013 [19 favorites]


I think the thing that's riling some people is a problem with the intersection of persona and character in stand-up comedy and narrative work.

Maria Bamford the comedian uses a bunch of characters in her stand-up but who mostly tells jokes based on her persona - an exaggerated version of herself. This is what allows her -and most every comedian- to tell lies on stage, why we don't have a problem with a road comic perpetually telling a story as if it happened to them "a couple of weeks ago".

Maria Bamford the writer clearly wanted to create a show she could do all by herself, so decided to center it around her persona and create a compelling backstory to flesh out the on-stage-Maria-Bamford persona into the living-with-her-folks-in-Duluth-Maria-Bamford character. But because she has such a practiced (and earned) authenticity when presenting herself as the Bamford persona, the character work seems too real, and viewers can be fooled into thinking the backstory is real, that it's not a character at all.

I hope I explained that the way it is in my head.
posted by aedison at 9:13 PM on January 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


(I'm referring to the bit about selling radios in Duluth, obviously, not the mental health thing).
posted by Justinian at 8:39 PM on January 26

I dunno, but maybe you're missing her point/some of her schtick/yada. After all, she was selling clock radios on the streets of Detroit, not Duluth, to customers who presumably might have been interested in whether they could get programs from stations in far off places, like, uh, Duluth, or even Tierra Del Fuego, at particular times. She presumably went to Duluth to be cured of the condition that caused her to find herself in such a situation.

The woman is a largely unappreciated comedy genius, I tells you. Then again, I could be wrong, and I should sit here quietly until the men who can come to help me arrive...
posted by paulsc at 9:19 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I felt like once I watched the first video I knew the whole thing was a joke (clock radio bit I mean) and I don't blame Banford for it - it can totally be part of her schtick if she wants. I am annoyed by the framing of the post, though.
posted by sweetkid at 9:22 PM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have a difficult time with this because I'm not in love with Bamford's style of comedy (though I do love her mom impression), but I'm a Duluth native and I want to have pride in my city, I guess? Or maybe not, maybe I'm just a wayward Robert Zimmerman on my way out.

But I just watched the Crevasse episode and maybe I like this more than I thought I did. She really expresses that feeling of total abandonment by the entire structure of what one might call their social safety net, out of a weird display of... misguided, selfish advice and hypocrisy. Things your perception is heightened to while depressed. aaaand it was also funny.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:28 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Minnesota is pretty great about the arts in general. I remember hearing once that Minneapolis had the most theater seats per capita of any city in the US, and I believe it.

Love love love Mary Tyler Moore!!!!!
posted by discopolo at 9:44 PM on January 26, 2013


"I have a difficult time with this because I'm not in love with Bamford's style of comedy (though I do love her mom impression), but I'm a Duluth native and I want to have pride in my city, I guess? ..."
posted by stoneandstar at 12:28 AM on January 27 [+] [!]

I really get your heartfelt sense of civic pride, as expressed here, stoneandstar, and, as probably the only living once-upon-a-time resident of both Duluth, MN and Duluth, GA (with 40 and 20+ year old mailed envelopes to prove it), I'm with you, 100%. And, for what it's worth, Duluth, GA is ever, in my mind, the lesser of the chapters of my existence in my estimation, for reasons only real estate developers, biz dev hustlers, and heartless big haired Georgia broads might ever recall.

If ever I went bonkers, I know I could do much worse than to do so in Duluth, MN.
posted by paulsc at 10:12 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


> This seems sort of shitty

I'm happy it was presented this way. I got the joke, and that the joke was on me, as I was watching the videos and it made the experience better. I assume this is how you were supposed to experience them if you were watching them as they were first run. So the post did a good job of re-creating that for people not already in the know.

Also, those weren't really eyeballs in the Hallowe'en haunted house, they were peeled grapes. Don't be too angry.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:44 PM on January 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


LOVE Bamford!

Maria’s theme song, by Maria:
(from Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome)

Blossom and Burt and Maria
working it out together, they’re working it,
they’re working it out.

Burt is six, Blossom is ten, Maria’s 38
And all together, this makes…
…54!

Pugs sometimes like to run around,
ladies like to live alone,
but sometimes they get together
and become oooooone!
posted by Auden at 11:24 PM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Kaufman was a genius, she's a manipulative, lying, attention seeker. Got it.
posted by Iteki at 1:46 AM on January 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


That slate interview is great.

This sounds like something Vonnegut would have said:

Bamford: Yeah, yeah. Because that’s a disadvantage of doing comedy: You’re by yourself all the time and you have no insurance. Which is actually all of America: We’re all by ourselves too much and have no insurance.
posted by Auden at 2:48 AM on January 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kaufman was a genius, she's a manipulative, lying, attention seeker. Got it.

...okay. It's a comedy construct.
posted by jaduncan at 2:56 AM on January 27, 2013


Her appearance on Risk! was pretty great.
posted by stevil at 4:45 AM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, I tried to present it as she did. I wasn't sure if it was real. It seemed real, but I wasn't sure that was the point.

The medium is the message, heh. I expect posts on Metafilter to be factually true unless it's explicitly stated that it isn't., So your word for word text copying of the first lines from her show come off as "hey, videos about this true story!"

However, within 30 seconds of actually watching the video, it's clear to me that Bamford is intentially treading the line between reality and fiction for humor and that's totally ok in that context. It's when the story is presented as definitive reality by a third party, that misunderstandings occur. Not a big deal, but interesting to see the disconnect happening for some people, myself included.

All that said, the videos are great and do a good job of showcasing how talented she is. I didn't know her name for the longest time, would just stumble across her comedy specials on cable and just stop and watch. She's hilarious.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:40 AM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Please go ahead and take further meta discussion of the post framing to Metatalk if it needs to be discussed. Thanks.]
posted by taz at 5:58 AM on January 27, 2013


I didn't like her character on Louie this season at all, but I just heard her 2009 appearance on the WTF (live show linked above) podcast this week (I recently started to listen to all of the episodes during my commute), and I was super-impressed and amused. I was already interested in learning more about her, so thanks for this!
posted by armacy at 6:07 AM on January 27, 2013


is it just me for is Minnesota spending some money on good, solid arts promotion? I keep finding great videos and stuff coming from official-looking sources.
We actually wrote it into the state constitution.
posted by kavasa at 6:53 AM on January 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


All this and she's definitely one of the best standups I have ever seen live. Cold blooded professional laugh-getter. Shes not like a comedic Cat Power or something.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:33 AM on January 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


If I may... I feel really bad about this. I didn't intend to mislead anyone. I can't agree with Ideefix that Bamford mentions it's a construct in just about every interview. I missed that link, but I did listen to or read five other interviews linked above, literally hours of interviews, and she doesn't mention that in any of those, or in any of those I listened to or read and didn't think were interesting enough to include. I spent the good part of a week putting this together and not once did I come across anything that said she made it up. Truth be told though, I wasn't trying to build a chronology of events. I was much more interested in the intersection between her art and her mental illness. Those were the kinds of things I was looking for. I didn't find this in the context of Super Deluxe. I found this on the Internet and it knocked me out.

Yes, I guess I'm pretty gullible. Even in the end where, not Maria, but her characters say none of this ever happened, it's hard to not wonder about which narrator is less than reliable. Should you believe the voice in your head that tells you you're not crazy? Should I? What I took away from the last episode wasn't that it was all a big fiction, I thought it was about her getting better, so she could return to LA and get on with her life. I guess I missed it as a big reveal. So one more time, sorry.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:04 AM on January 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Laughspin interview.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:25 AM on January 27, 2013


I don't think anyone is guilty of anything here, but I think that the blue is often taken as a sort of record, and a careless reader might think all these things really happened to her. Artists lie, as Picasso said, and she's certainly an artist, using her fears and experiences to make art. However, I think that she does admit to the breakdown/Detroit/clock radios being a work of fiction, and for good reason--if that had really happened to her, I'd bet that her VO work would have suffered.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:41 AM on January 27, 2013


If I may... I feel really bad about this. I didn't intend to mislead anyone.

No lives were lost, we’ll all be OK. Just some confusion. I really think it should be amended in the original post to say that it’s fictional though.
posted by bongo_x at 9:25 AM on January 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


If I may... I feel really bad about this. I didn't intend to mislead anyone.

Don't sweat it, you weren't misleading anyone, it's just that people process information differently. It's pretty interesting really and I bet Bamford would probably turn the confusion into a skit.


No lives were lost...

Hey, let's not make legally definitive statements!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:41 AM on January 27, 2013


If only Andy Kaufman were still around. What a fucking field day he'd have with the current lines that can't be drawn between reality and everything else.
posted by about_time at 10:02 AM on January 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kaufman got significantly more grief than this and is a great example of the whole "What is real and what is not real and does it matter?" thing with performers. I recommend, for people really interested in Kaufman, listening to the Bob Zmuda WTF podcast (it's a premium ep., sort of worth it) where he talks about some (but not all) of the weirdness involved with working with someone who was hellbent on not letting people know what was real and what was not real about the personas they'd created. Some people are really not into that sort of thing and that's just par for the course when you decide to do anything transgressive: you'll lost at least part of your audience. However it also creates an in group/out group sort of thing where the people who truly "get" it (and Zmuda was one of the most inside people there was with Kaufman and even he wasn't always sure what was going on, or it's his job to perpetuate some of the still-existing mysteries about Tony Clifton and that sort of thing) feel even more of a kinship with one another than they might anyhow. See also: GG Allin and Daniel Johnston fans.

One of the things that I think people who like Bamford really like about her is how she does seem so real and open and approachable and honest, so getting presented with her material in a way that makes you feel that there is guile or deception associated with it seems somehow unBamfordlike.
posted by jessamyn at 10:09 AM on January 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


So I'm all of 4 minutes into the "Dropout" episode, and I'm cracking up. Thanks for the post!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:14 PM on January 27, 2013


I had assumed that the episodes of the Maria Bamford show were fictional until the phrasing of the FPP said otherwise. I'm happy that the events depicted in the show are exaggerated and didn't actually happen; I'm less happy that the FPP was misleading.
posted by JHarris at 1:22 PM on January 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


WordGirl and Adventure Time come to mind.

I'm usually pretty good on picking out voices on WordGirl, but never noticed hers.
posted by drezdn at 3:34 PM on January 27, 2013


I watched this a few years ago and it made my weekend oh so incredible. I should rewartch it. Highly recommended.
posted by Theta States at 8:01 AM on January 28, 2013


Egads, reading through this, I am reminded of the aliens in Galaxy Quest who thought they were watching "historical records" of Earth history when they were really watching our old TV shows being broadcast into space.

Stripped of the original context on YouTube, I can see how it is possible to think that this was some sort of Joaquinian stunt. However, in the original context, it was crystal clear that this was no more intended as reality than, say, The Dick Van Dyke show or The Mary Tyler Moore show.

Also, I know Maria from years and years ago and she was (and likely still is) the sweetest person in the world. Guile is not her style. But you'd likely need to know her to know that. Context, man, it can kill ya.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:04 PM on January 28, 2013


If the web series is the first thing of her you saw, as it was for me, what you don't really get is that 'Maria' there is also her doing a character. If you watch a clip of her standup like this, it's almost disorienting how much she obviously has her shit together.
So if you split the difference, I guess, you get someone w/ the balls to film the Special Special Special! (which everyone should download, $5 cheap!) in front of her parents, and just kill it with the suicide jokes and whatnot...
*sigh* whatta gal!
So jealous of Joey Michaels.
posted by hap_hazard at 8:24 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seconding what Jessamyn said. I got the chance to drive her around a bit at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival last year, where I was a volunteer. She was very genuine and sweet, if a bit nervy and in her head, and she gave me great advice on helping my daughter (who also has OCD). Big heart. And very brave in her comedy.

The impression I've always had from her (on stage as well) is that her comedy and voice over talent is born from a lifetime of learning how to act normal to fit in, as self-preservation. She can pop into the Meredith Baxter Burney WINNING voice and look like a million bucks, but it's always an act. Even a bit more than for the rest of us. Which, IMHO, is a brilliant and original starting point for social satire.
posted by msalt at 10:15 PM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. I'm on episode 12, and already realizing I don't want to get to episode 20 cause then there won't be any more episodes after that.
posted by not_on_display at 11:30 PM on January 29, 2013


Just last night! Maria Bamford on the Craig Ferguson show!!
posted by msalt at 6:40 PM on January 30, 2013


OK that is about the most delightful thing that can possibly be on Youtube.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:50 PM on January 30, 2013


Indeed it is.
posted by msalt at 7:17 PM on January 30, 2013


This is an excellent overview of Bamford's work, but the writer -- SPOILER ALERT -- has apparently confused the fictional conceit of her Web series as reality. She didn't actually crack up and return home, but portrayed what it would be like to do so in a comically exaggerated way in filming done primarily in L.A. with a professional director.
posted by ArtL7 at 11:56 PM on February 8, 2013


To clarify the confusion among those leaving comments -- I believe the web series about the ficitonal Duluth crack-up was filmed about 2009. It's based on both some of her stand-up routines and a one-woman show that she performed periodically over the years, and was captured in a rather low-budget but charming DVD, Plan B, released in 2010 that ended up in several critics' best comedy video lists.
Then sometime in the summer through fall 2011, according to some podcast interviews she has given, she had what amounted to a mounting psychiatric crisis. Although she previously had grappled with depression and a form of OCD known as unwanted thoughts syndrome (also title of her last CD), and was in treatment, she developed bipolar II disorder following a particularly tragic event in her life, the death of her beloved dog Blossom due in part to some absent-mindedness on her part. That incident apparently sparked a downward spiral leading her to seek brief hospitalizations a few times over the next year or so, including adjusting her medications. She's shown great courage and artistic grit in returning to steady touring last year, and turning these horrific experiences into brilliant and touching comedy.

Here's an overview article I did last May, 2012 when she appeared at a forum on mental illness and the arts, including linking to a "true-life" version of her recent problems told at a story-telling show and other online resources. You can compare her "true-life" version and her frank podcast interviews with the comedically enhanced version of these incidents offered in her brilliant new video special at http://chill.com/mariabamfoo/the-special-special-special

Here's the Salon blog post overview on her

And here's the full audio from that forum, with material she was developing that was later used in part in her special; the program is undermined a bit by some pompous and wordy questions and comments from her fellow panel members afterwards:


If any of you are zealous Bamford fans living in the United States, search out a reliable VPN/IP masking software so you can see her improvise completely new material over offbeat premises given her on stage, in real time, by the producers of a unique TV series called Set List, now airing on ABC2 Television in Australia, viewable on a website called Iview -- if you live in Australia.
Enjoy!
posted by ArtL7 at 12:41 AM on February 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


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