MAY 8, 2012 8:05PM

Comedy: Maria Bamford Comes to NYC Forum on Mental Illness

Rate: 0 Flag
The comic's comic Maria Bafmord is appearing tomorrow night at the Arts in Mind series at the New School about the interplay between art and real life regarding her struggles with mental illness, in her case serious bipolar and OCD. (She was briefly hospitalized again last year, an experience she discusses in an apparent true story series for a live Risk! podcast, about 53 minutes in here.)
She's made mental illness part, but not all, of her act, as described in the most thoughtful publication now covering comedy,
Here's the official description of the event:
On May 9, Arts in Mind returns for a program on the real lives of stand-up comics, featuring a performance by Maria Bamford, with commentary from journalist Adrian Nicole LeBlanc and psychiatrist Donald Rosen, medical director/CEO of the Austen Riggs Center.

 Maria Bamford is a celebrated comic whose credits include appearances on The Tonight Show, Conan!, and Jimmy Kimmel Live, Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn, among many others. A subject of several Comedy Central specials, she is also the creator of The Maria Bamford Show, a web series that explores the many worlds and characters in her life and in her head in the wake of a classic crack-up. Maria’s albums include Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome and The Burning Bridges Tour. She also starred in the Comedy Central series, The Comedians of Comedy and Netflix’s Comedians of Comedy: The Movie.

The Rise of the Bammer

Bamford, now about 40, broke out on the Web and in comedy and indie clubs with her edgy,multiple-voice and character-driven but vulnerable comedy. She became best known through the 2005 Comedians of Comedy alt.comedy tour and TV series with Patton Oswald and Zach Galifanikis. But there are three DVDs of that tour -- one documentary, drawn from the comedy central behind-the-scenes documentary series, and two performance DVDs.

 What's striking is that Bamford keeps growing as an artist and becoming franker, more daring -- and funnier -- as she discusses her battles with OCD mental illness as part of her act but adding new levels of absurdity and imagination. She has a new one-person show on DVD called Plan B, named best of the year by Punchline Magazine, about her supposed crack up and return home to Duluth, before returning to LA, (you'll have to research online whether it's a real incident or fabricated for comedic reasons), and also has done two half hour comedy central specials downloadable from ITunes or Amazon. She's the only women comic to have done two Comedy Central specials, apparently.

I consider myself a bit of a comedy maven, so I think Maria Bamford is worth checking out. As an earlier generation of comics broke taboos about neurosis,anxiety, politics and obscene language,  so Bamford is bringing forward as part of a richly textured act a look into the hidden world of mental illness.

But her act covers far wider ground, including tart observations on our consumer culture and the ways in which families can hurt each other -- but all done with warm amusement (even if some of it's based on rage), eclectic voices and an absurdist touch that make her truly unique.  But even with  a  persona  that mixes vulnerability and sweetness with sardonic observations, she writes material that's in a few cases is as transgressive as anything Sam Kinison ever did, especially in her bits on the Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome featured in her latest CD of the same title. The hard copy of the CD also is packaged with her web series, "The Maria Bamford Show." She offers her audience in some routines an inside look at her tumultuous mind, and also shows by doing so that they're not alone in the craziness and problems they may be facing.

        She even created a Web video, using many of  her characters, called "Dont Be Afraid of the Dark" that could be used in a mental health care public service ad.   

  Her natural voice is high-pitched and cutesy, which makes her mock Middle American saleswomen, California New Agers, entertainment industry pros and broadcaster voices even funnier. Yet it's her versions of her loving but befuddled mother, high-achieving sister and somewhat dotty M.D. father that have allowed her to people her world with vivid but surreal characters.

         And there's also a one-person show derived from the Web series , the Maria Bamford Show of a faux-return home to Duluth after a -- fictional or not?-- crack-up in which she plays all the characters in her family and hometown (see below) 

Yet one of her best recent bits is parodying a typical , generic conventional "female comic"....Here's a short excerpt of that routine, drawn from the John Oliver New York Stand UP show last year [with the requisite vulgarity of such a comedienne-- Bamford's real act barely includes any vulgarities or curse words at all.] 

See for yourself the range of her work, to cut to the video chase:

here's links to best of videos broadcast on bamford on comedy central:
And after you've seen Bamford's performances before an audience,  here's a link to her doing her material from her couch, a Christmas present to fans a few years ago. It's done  in the same relatively low-keyed style she might use in previewing her bits with a TV producer before going on a show. It's livelier than a talk-through of her routines for a TV producer but doesn't necessarily have the same energy of a live concert appearance. But it allows you to enjoy the quality of the writing and the free play of her comedic imagination. 
      If you  get in line early enough, you can probably see her for free Wednesday night at the New School for Social Research.


 Later in this post are some useful online comedy resources if you're looking to discover new comics, follow the comedy scene, or enjoy some laughs by finding some of your favorites online. Plus allows you to play through without clicking an auto-playlists of videos of your favorite performers -- you just start typing in the name of the performer you want to see in a box that appears when you start typing. 

A Maria Bamford Backgrounder: 
 Some basic bio material here:
The rising regard in which she's held can be seen by all the cutting-edge comedians who cite her in their own interviews at punchline magazine:
You can hear her talk frankly about her emotions, troubled relationships and views of performing in a striking interview in a car with fellow comedian Marc Maron, who does a weekly podcast (but those older shows are behind a paywall for the $9 a year unlimited access to all archives ):
Here's the 50 most recent shows of the Marc Maron podcast, penetrating and revealing interviews with comedians, available for streaming for free online:
And here are even more links on Bamford and online comedy resources:
here's links to best of videos broadcast on bamford on comedy central:
her semi-professional video of her one-woman show , Plan B, was punchline's top video of the year-- at bottom:
here's an interview with her on her recent CD named after her actual mental illness she's managing: Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome: If you buy the physical CD at Amazon, as noted above, it comes packaged with the complete video online series, the Maria Bamford Show.

 Here's her links to her seemingly home-made web video series that seemed to be done on the cheap with a friend handling editing and filming (go online to learn more about how the series was done)....;they do quick cuts as she changes into costume for each character...It probably plays better on the stage in polished routines done as monologues rather than home-made-style videos but you can still catch the quality of her off-beat humor and mimicry:

 This unofficial tribute site to Bamford has put together many of the known YouTube videos of her TV and broadcast appearances, plus podcast interviews:


here's links to web pages of women comics:

 here's lnks to lots of info/videos/comedian pages, news:

 here's main page with recent broadcast itnerviews or performances of various comics: scroll down to "older posts" for previous listings.

 or type in any comic's name at jumbo dump, an excellent website for broadcast appearances of comedians and links to all of the Web's best comedy resources:

Then you can catch some video and radio interviews here:
Hip, rising stars can be found at the comic's comic:
This website, derived from Punchline magazine, is an authoritative look at the current scene, with interviews, videos, reviews:

 Also at type in any comic's name and probably some bits will pop up...


Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below: