Photo of Maria Bamford by Robyn van Swank
08.08.19 8:00PM, 08.09-10.19 7:30PM and 10:00PM | Helium Comedy Club, 1151 St. Louis Galleria St. | 18+ | $25-38
I have an obsession with storytellers. Comedians who bring normal life onto a stage. Even the bloody parts. Even the parts that might be uncomfortable. These storytellers, like Eddie Izzard and Billy Connolly, have a way of helping us feel as if our problems are shared. We feel that the weirdness in us is mirrored by this amazing person on the stage, so we must be okay, too. This shared weight of the human experience is lightened by laughter, and it works as medicine for our souls.
One of the most talented storytellers working today is Maria Bamford. She’s been perfecting her craft for over twenty years. You will have seen her in Comedy Central specials, Comedy Death-Ray, and some hilarious Target commercials. Her Netflix series, Lady Dynamite, was met with critical acclaim and Stephen Colbert has called her his favorite comedian on planet earth.
Maria Bamford often speaks about her struggles with mental health and family issues. Her work is relatable and, unlike other comedians, it’s not self-deprecating. It’s honest. She mentioned in a recent article that she’s reached the point in life where her retirement was funded for her and her new husband (fine artist Scott Marvel Cassidy) and that the house was paid for. During a recent conversation, I asked if this changed her approach to her work.
The Arts STL: Did it allow for more freedom?
Maria Bamford: You know what’s weird is that the brain just thinks of new things to worry about. There are so many things to worry about in the world. I actually talk about this in the new show. Most religions give 10% of their income away, so we’re giving 11%. We might not believe in heaven, but if it exists, we’re going. We want to give more, but there are endless needs out there. I wish I could say that it’s all good. I do have peace of mind for healthcare, groceries, a roof over our heads and a car. It is life changing, and it’s like winning the lottery. But having studied people who win the lottery, you don’t stop being a human being with sadness. It’s not attractive to talk about that, though.
I think it’s really human though. If your fortunes change, that doesn’t change you. If your worries go away, a whole new flood of things come in to fill that space. Worrying isn’t going to change because you have the same size Worry Bucket—but what changes is what’s in the bucket.
Yeah—that’s a generous way to put it. I get frustrated because of thinking about myself because it’s ridiculous at this point. I’m definitely A-OK.
I think that what we can try to do is remember that there is no “Worse Bad”. That my bad days are not invalid because someone else has a different kind of bad days. I’m still going through the human experience with the same tools that I’ve collected when I was broke, and the only difference is the amount of money in the bank.
Life keeps happening. I always had an idea when I felt like I was the underdog that there would be a massive shift in consciousness when I became The Man. You know? Now that I am The Man with the car and the house and stuff and I’m still anxious. I remember I used to really resent people with cars.
“Look at you driving around with your fuckin’ car, Mister Fancy.”
Exactly. It changes your identity and but the anxieties still exist.
…and you can be flawed.
Yes. In the culture what I see a lot of is that you have to be on top of your game and you have to be the best.
That sounds exhausting.
I don’t know if it’s a California thing?
I think fame has a lot to do with it—there are more folks paying attention to you and having opinions about your shit.
I had this guy reach out to me and say that my Instagram was awful and it was so boring. I looked at other comedian’s Instagrams and thought that other comedians are more extroverted and have more to say.
I think that your work is very authentic and honest to who you are, and that if you came out with a shiny, blingy Instagram, it would cause concern. “Did she hire someone?”
“Clearly something has happened.” I mean, I just started replying to some Facebook messages from 2017. I’m saying, “Hi. Know that this is me.” It’s very authentic, for sure.
It’s really self-preservation to just be yourself, right? That way it doesn’t get weird later on.
I had a few tv spots and I wore the same outfit for all four of them. My publicist was asking, “Jesus Christ, Maria. Can you just get one more shirt? Just one more shirt?” No. I can’t. This is the one. This is my TV spot shirt.
The idea of followers and social media—it’s very strange. I know that Janeane Garofalo has no social media and I am very jealous.
And everyone still knows that she’s Janeane Fucking Garofalo, right?
Yeah—and I’m sure she’s much happier for it. Although, we should talk to her and see if she is happy. Now that we’ve had this upfront discussion about her happiness.
“Just wanted to touch base and see if your social media free existence has helped you achieve happiness. Also, we love you.”
Exactly. “We just assumed, Janeane.” I have enjoyed taking breaks from social media—that works for me. There is something fun about getting messages from folks with the .gif’s and nice conversation.
I read that you found your person and stated in a few interviews that this is your first long-term relationship. Has that affected your relationship with your work?
Yeah, but it might just be getting older, too. I’ve found that it’s part of that security thing. When I finish an accomplishment that’s a big deal to me, I know that there’s going to be a new thing, so I can just calm down and talk to him about it. I don’t know if it’s a result of having a relationship, but it’s great having a partner. He’s half of my new hour of material, so it’s hard to say. I also don’t want to say that it’s required. My life was good before, and it’s good now. But it is different.
A different kind of good.
Absolutely. It makes it meaningful to have someone to plan life with and have fun with and parties and stuff. It’s good. He’s super inspiring because he’s a painter. I see how dedicated he is with his work. He reminds me that you just show up to the job every day and do it. I don’t do that every day, but when I DO show up, I find that I do better. I’m having fun and I can make myself laugh. He’s actually waiting for us to finish talking so we can go get coffee—beloved, scrumptious coffee.
Thanks so much for your time—it’s been great to talk with you. Actually, it’s been really cool to see others find you. It’s been amazing to watch you grow, and stay yourself regardless of what yourself is going through. We’re all really proud of you, I think is what I’m saying.
Thank you so much! I’m excited to come to St. Louis. Are you guys doing ok there? Any tornados?
We did have a tornado, and some flooding, but mostly just thunderstorms lately, so I think you’re in good shape.
I’m willing to come whatever is going on.
Thank you! We can’t wait to see you.
Maria Bamford will be at the Helium Comedy Club from Thursday August 8 – August 10th. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here. | Melissa Cynova
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June 22 The Orange Peel Asheville, NC
June 28 The Music Hall Portsmouth, NH
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August 8-10 Helium St. Louis, MO
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September 8 Spokane Comedy Club Spokane, WA
September 13 Cloud Top Comedy Festival Santa Fe, NM
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October 5 Red Clay Comedy Festival East Atlanta, GA
October 18-19 The Bell House Brooklyn, NY
November 17 Ordway St. Paul, MN
November 23 The Wilbur Boston, MA