“Go Where the Love Is” | A conversation with Maria Bamford and Jackie Kashian

Maria Bamford w/ Jackie Kashian | 02.03-05.22 | Helium Comedy Club | 1151 St. Louis Galleria Street | 18+ | $25-$40

I just wrote about needing a laugh when writing about Tom Papa and Paula Poundstone coming to town, and this weekend, the comedy gods are once again blessing our fair city (well, Clayton) with two other outstanding voices in comedy.

Jackie Kashian has been performing comedy since the 1980s, and also has two fantastic podcasts. The first, The Dork Forest, is where she shares her joy in what other people find joyful. I personally love this, because I also love nerding out about what makes other people so happy. Her other podcast, The Jackie and Laurie Show, is with Laurie Kilmartin and is an interesting look at the life of a stand-up comic, including some inside views into what a home life is like when you spend half the year on the road. She also made my friend Becca laugh so hard the last time we saw her, I thought we were going to have to leave the room. And Becca’s a Lutheran from Wisconsin. They don’t laugh that hard.

Maria Bamford has also been mastering her craft since the ‘80s. Along with her stand-up success and acting, she is a prolific voice actor as well as the creator and star of the critically acclaimed comedy series Lady Dynamite. Her comedy is so well-crafted it feels casual, you feel as if you’re sitting across the table from her at a four-hour lunch filled with inside jokes that you get to share.

Both of these comedians have really set the bar high for their counterparts. They’re both masterful with timing and using silence and dropped beats at just the right moment to make the laughter even louder. They are both kind and avoid condescension, pandering, and making anyone feel small.

Jackie Kashian and Maria Bamford will be at the Helium Comedy Club in the St. Louis Galleria this weekend. I was delighted to interview both of them, having spoken to Maria before her last visit to our town. Since I’ve been interviewing a lot of folks lately, I wanted to ask them about imposter syndrome, that self-limiting gremlin that often lives in the back of creative brains.

The Arts STL: When did your imposter syndrome go away?

Maria Bamford: Jackie, do you want to cover that? I don’t think that mine has ever gone away.

Jackie Kashian: I never had imposter syndrome. I was raised to be an imposter. [laughs]

With the fedora and everything…

JK: Yeah. There’s the “never enough” thing that you fight when you do stand-up, but you also fight it when you breathe your first breath. It doesn’t matter how supportive your family is or anything, because everybody believes that everyone else knows what they’re doing, and they don’t. Everyone believes that everyone else has all the tools to live their lives, and you weren’t given them.

I mean we should get like an OXO set when you’re 13 or 14 and someone can go, “These are the tools that you’re going to need for living.” It would make everyone feel better.

MB: That sounds great – when that set of tools comes out, I really want to get one.

I’m raising two teenager’s mid-pandemic, and the confidence these Zoomer kids have is just outstanding.

MB: That is great to see that, especially with gender identity and sexuality in progressive pockets, kids have so much more self-confidence and support than we [did].

Do you hear feedback about your impact from your activism with Black Lives Matter and mental health awareness? Does it get eaten by the red hats?

JK: No one usually says stuff to me about mental health. I’ve witnessed Maria’s effect on people in that area. Most people in the last five years have just said, “You really cheered me up”. 

Well, that is a huge impact on mental health, though.

JK: Right, specifically it’s part of it. I am happy to be of use to someone.

You also say, though, that as a middle-aged white woman, it’s your job to get in the middle of bad behavior. That has really planted seeds among my friends and I, who, as middle-aged white women from the Midwest are less likely to enter conflict, especially not to a white male.

MB: Jackie inspires me every single day, because she’s an artisan of comedy. She’s someone who cares about people and you can hear it. I love comedy in all forms, I can even see the craft in hate speech, but I love it when someone tries to say something that’s loving, meaningful, AND funny. I don’t know if I’m always doing that myself, but I love that.

I’m so grateful that anyone relates to anything I do on stage because that means that if I break down—and I might—at least half the crowd is going to say, “Do you need something?”

“Ice water? Cold cloth for your face?”

MB: “Xanax?”

I always have .5 mg of Valium on me, so when you’re in St. Louis, I got you. What are the things that bring you joy in what you do?

MB: I try to go where the love, is for sure.

JK: Lots of love.

MB: I try to create joy.  I did a show on Saturday here in Los Angeles and I didn’t do as well as I had hoped.  There was some light heckling from a young lady two rows back. She was a lovely gal who probably didn’t realize that not all comedians love crowd work.

That’s the kindest definition of heckling that I’ve ever heard.

MB: I felt bad after that, but what I did enjoy afterwards was calling another comedian—Jackie, I think it was you. I usually call Jackie when it goes poorly.  And then you blather on.  As well as stopping at the 7-Elevn and getting yourself a treat, like an M&M cookie sandwich.

JK: You remind yourself that if it doesn’t go well… You know, at this point, if you or I say it doesn’t go well, that means that they have not carried us offstage with elephants and bells and whistles. It still hurts, so you call someone and it’s nice. My self-talk is, “Well it’s over now. The only thing to do is the next show.” And then you call someone who loves and likes you, and they’ll talk to you about their lives, which gets you out of your own head.

What I like to do on the road is find different Targets because my husband collects Hot Wheels and they have different Hot Wheels in different cities.

There’s a Target in the city that has an escalator. Highly recommended. We’re pretty fancy here.

MB: I was going to go to the book store—Left Bank Books.

JK: Privately owned bookstore, right? Indie?

Yes – it’s fantastic.

JK: I like coffee shops. I learned from Maria that if you Yelp [or] Google “Pour over coffee” and you will find your people, even in the smallest town. It’s amazing.

MB: I like to travel with Jackie Kashian. That’s my main comfort. She’s like a teething blanket and I just chew on her little feet.

JK: Like a support animal!

Sounds like you balance each other really well.

My last question is when do you know that you have an audience? I was talking with John Waters [shameless name drop noted by all] and he said that he’s always had that confidence and whether the audience was with him or not didn’t really matter to him. So, it seems that you’re either born with it, or it’s earned. Which have you found to be your experience, individually?

MB: I think it’s a moment-to-moment basis, especially in clubs. There’s someone eating a deep-fried pickle. You’re not going to be a headliner that night when there’s a deep-fried pickle in the room.

So you’ve been to St. Louis.

JK: It usually takes a minute and a half or two minutes, and I like it when I don’t care if I don’t connect, because either way I’m going to do it. So, I know what that moment is. Sometimes I care more than others.

Is there anything else I can tell you about St Louis?

MB: Is there anything good around the Galleria where our show is?

Yes – We have that Van Gogh immersion. It was so great. [Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, running through March 30th. More info here.]

JK: I saw that. I enjoyed it, but I did not feel completely immersed. There wasn’t anything on the ceiling.

That’s legit. You were immersed but not submerged.

MB: I was worried I would feel like I was in a museum tote bag. | Melissa Cynova

For show details or to purchase tickets, visit https://st-louis.heliumcomedy.com/events/51288.

One comment

  1. Jackie did the middle-aged white women as meat shields bit, and that really stuck with me. Brava, ladies! Funny and brave and kind.

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