It’s been 15 years since Maria Bamford’s first comedy album dropped, and to say that’s it’s been a straight line from there to the success she enjoys today would be a misstatement. If you’re fan, you know much of her comedy stems from her struggle with Bipolar II disorder, which led to a few hospitalizations in 2011 and 2012. She’s found an amazing way to present material that makes her audiences root for her almost automatically — she’s self-deprecating without being too melancholy, and there’s a sweetness underlying everything she talks about. Here, she tells us about dealing with this nutty political climate, how comedy’s changing for women, and what’s she hopes will happen when she plays the most famous haunted hotel in Colorado.
French Davis: It’s been a wild couple years for this country, and you’ve appear to feel as impacted as any of us. How are do you manage the angst this political climate keeps instigating?
Maria Bamford: I don’t know. All I can do is vote and hope and act in my own backyard. I’m not the greatest at that even — so whatever calls I can bank, donations to causes fighting for justice — is all I’ve come up with. I don’t think we live in a country of democracy any- more (and many would argue we never did), but there’s still free speech and so I try to be grateful for what we still have and use what power I have for good.
FD: Adam Cayton-Holland, our latest home- grown comedy hero, just released a book on the suicide of his sister called “Tragedy Plus Time.” I love the title of that because it’s the three words that really cut to the quick of some of the best comedy. Your act is beautifully drenched in notes of struggle and pain, and I feel like that makes the audience really invested in you personally. From where we sit, it seems cathartic for you — but does it ever feel like it’s overwhelming? Like, “I’m done bleeding on the page for a while?” What’s it like to walk along that edge?
MB: Like most artists, I create from what’s going on now — so if that’s personal (and have been feeling pretty good the past several years on new meds for bipolar) or political (light hopeful hopelessness) — I just use whatever I have. I don’t think it’s necessary at all to suffer to be creative and I’d much rather be writing jokes about babies and dogs and yoga than writing about our deteriorating human rights as citizens of the U.S.
FD: The double-edged sword of dealing with depression and also using it to fuel comedy… do you ever feel like you’d be willing to give one up if it meant giving both up? What’s your advice to other artists who share in this kind of emotional creative dissonance?
MB: Again, if I can talk about something more cheerful- I’m down for that, but I just use what- ever I have and it’s usually a mix of ingredients!
FD: You’re playing the Stanley Hotel — You’re no doubt familiar with its haunted history and its role in the lm The Shining? What are your thoughts on playing there?
MB: I am excited to be cornered by the lady twins and washed away in a tidal wave of blood.
FD: What is the thing you love most about your profession?
MB: I love comedians. They are funny of course, but also a very sensitive and thoughtful and kind group of people and I’m proud to be a part of such a community.
FD: It seems we’ve hit a bit of a new era in comedy where more women are taking the stage and just killing it. You’ve been doing this long enough do have witnessed this evolution — what are your thoughts on how things are evolving for women comedians?
MB: I’m so glad there are more opportunities, but there’s a long way to go with parity. Look at your local comedy club lineup and I can guarantee there is one woman for every 25 men (for headlining gigs). Here in L.A., it is insane how lineups at the major clubs are all male — especially when there’s a HUGE female population qualified for these jobs.
FD: Any plans after this tour? Any other projects we should know about?
MB:My plan for the CO show is to do my new hour! I’m really happy with it and then, showcasing my friend Jackie Kashian! She’s great — and a headliner in her own right.