Comedian Maria Bamford performs stand-up for an audience of her parents in the Netflix comedy special Maria Bamford: The Special Special Special.EXPAND
Comedian Maria Bamford performs stand-up for an audience of her parents in the Netflix comedy special Maria Bamford: The Special Special Special.
Jordan Brady

Comedian Maria Bamford's Goal Is to Keep Being Funny. So Far, So Good.

Comedian Maria Bamford may be brilliant at playing with comedic concepts and characters and finding new ways to elevate her art, but she says she doesn't have goals beyond doing comedy.

"The goal is to just keep doing it," she says. "I don't have any higher aspirations except to make things that are meaningful to me."

The original member of the alt-stand-up collective The Comedians of Comedy and star of the Netflix series Lady Dynamite will perform a one-night show Wednesday at the Addison Improv with longtime friend and Nerdist podcast host Jackie Kashian as her opening act.

"I'm very introverted," Bamford says. "I'm shy. The part I like about stand-up, which may be different for every person, is that you are alone and get to be heard. You're the only one speaking. I really like that clarity of who gets to talk. That is the reason I think I've found it so comfortable is that dynamic, but then when you do see what's possible, it is delightful."

The Minnesota native possesses one of the most unusual voices in modern comedy. She can jump in and out of characters with her vocal mimicry, and she talks openly about her experiences with anxiety and depression using ridiculous and surreal imagery. Both served as the inspiration for her popular web series, The Maria Bamford Show, which scored a screening at the Museum of Art and Design in New York City, and her critically acclaimed Netflix series created by South Park writer Pam Brady and Arrested Development creator Mitchell Hurwitz.

"It seems like for me, the only time I become comfortable about something is after I got help for it," Bamford says. "Like suddenly when I kind of have some outside support, then I've been able to ... kind of understand it more and not feel so isolated with it. I seem to be able to talk about it more."

There are some areas and concepts she still doesn't feel comfortable treading although she's a seasoned performer who makes talking in front of crowds look easy.

"I think it's just like any job," Bamford says. "You bring strengths to some things, and you bring weakness to other things. I'm not the greatest at doing crowd work. That's something I get sort of obsessed about. Oh, I'd love to talk with the people and interconnect their stories with my stories.

"Like I love Paula Poundstone. She'll take 15 different people in the audience over the course of a show and weave them together. It's really fun as an audience member to be a part of it, and I think, 'Oh God, why can't I do that?' I could definitely try it, but it hasn't been my natural inclination, so I haven't done it. I've just enjoyed it from afar."

These days, Bamford is focused on writing some new material and giving her fans a glimpse at the process. She started a blog called One Hour that chronicles her process of creating a new hour of stand-up.

"After you do four albums and you're halfway through your career — or who knows if this is it because it could end tomorrow — it's a new way for me to get excited about the process because that's more meaningful to me," Bamford says. "One thing I really appreciate is when I get to talk to other comedians and see their process and their way and how they wrote this and it became this.

"That's what I'm trying to do in the blog. I don't know if I've succeeded at all. I'm trying. And just to share the feelings that go along with it and the embarrassment and the victories, the epic victories. I thought that would be fun for me as a comedian if I read another doing that."

Bamford also says she's developing an animated comedy series that's "still in the meeting-in-a-coffee-house stage," which she hopes to produce with crowdfunding help.

"Merchandising is a massive part of most cartoons, so we're hoping that all the merch proceeds from this animated series will go to causes that benefit the people who will watch the series," Bamford says. "So it's going to be a series about mental health, vaguely about mental health and hopefully more entertaining than that."

Bamford says she's also happy with and proud of Lady Dynamite — even though Netflix canceled it in January. The streaming TV series in which Bamford played a fictionalized and almost surreal version of herself appeared on many TV critics' best-of lists. She says she's not sure why it was canceled, "but I feel like it's complete as a series. It ends with a wedding, so how could it not be done?"

Bamford says most of the credit should go to "the work of hundreds of other people."

"I very much was a braindead megaphone at the top," she says. "I cashed my check, and really, I just tried to show up and be the best I could. All the beautiful writing and imagination came from the writers and the art director, and all the people just did a beautiful job on that show. I was just grateful to be a part of it."

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