Duluth-born comedian Maria Bamford's quirky impressions and imaginary dialogue have made her a hit with festival audiences and critics. Now she returns to her home state with a successful online sitcom to her credit as well as a book and TV series in the works.
CP: How does your family react to being such a major part of your comedy?
MB: My mom loves it. My dad felt a little bad at first. He's going to open for me in Duluth at the Very Boring Motorcycle Rally in August. He's now writing jokes about me. He told me one, and I was like, "Dad, that never happened," and he said, "Yeah. Payback." My sister does not like it. I go, "But it's funny!" Another part of me goes, "I was the victim all these years, and now I get to speak." I feel scared because my sister thinks that I make fun of people and it hurts people. I've been thinking that I was empowering myself; feeling like the underdog. But if I'm the one who has a microphone, am I the victimizer? I don't know. My stuff isn't true, so am I the James Frey of my family? I don't know. I feel scared and confused.
CP: How does making an online sitcom in which you are the star and on camera differ from voicing a character on TV?
MB: It's like temping, where you have one skill, but it can be used in a variety of offices. When I do the show, it's just me and this guy in his house. We make up stories and write them down. It's kind of quiet. So then you start looking through the guy's cupboards, and he's on the NutriSystem thing, so you start eating those weird potato chips that aren't like potato chips. So, that's different from Sit Down, Shut Up. There's a lot more baby asparagus at Sit Down, Shut Up. They have piles of baby asparagus at studios. There are giant baskets of muffins, and fresh hot eggs, and some guy making breakfast tomatoes. So, you go from NutriSystem meals and a 20-ounce Diet Coke you brought yourself, to an unlimited fountain of Diet Coke.
CP: Do you like coming home to perform, or is it stressful performing in front of a home crowd?
MB: I think I get a little nervous. The last time I was on a radio show in Minneapolis it was at some rock station and people started calling in. The intern looked at me and said, "'There's a woman on the phone who is saying, 'Get that woman off the air! She's not funny!'" And I thought, yep, this feels like home. There's that here in L.A., too, but in the familiar home accent, it's powerful. I stopped by Super America to get a 37-ounce Diet Coke, and the woman there said, "Oh! Watch your cap there! It looks like your cap's going to fall off and it'll spill all over you!" And I didn't fix the cap because I was busy, and she says, "Watch the cap! It's going to spill all over you! You better fix the cap!" That never happens in L.A. People don't stop and tell you how you might ruin your life.