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Sarah recalls how, on a recent trip to Minneapolis, the Bamford family had breakfast together. Maria was exhausted.
"She was letting it all hang out," Sarah says.
But then a transformation happened.
"That night, I was at her show at 10 o'clock, and when she took the stage, it was almost like someone else had stepped into her body," Sarah remembers. "I was just riveted by her power."
Back at the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus, for her show at the end of September, Bamford performed a similar feat. Before her set, she was effusive and friendly, chatting with the student about to open for her and jotting some autographs. But she also seemed frayed from travel, hopping between conversations and sliding her voice through registers.
When she got on stage, though, that nervous energy dissipated. As the lights dimmed, Bamford and her many voices filled the auditorium. For the next hour, she wove from Botox to "the Baby Jesus" to health care, digging darkly comedic nuggets out of the weighty material. One student sitting in a middle row whispered to a friend that she felt like Bamford could make her laugh on command.
Over the next few months, as her two new releases make her an even bigger name, this comfort in front of an audience will come in handy. Because by 2013, Bamford may have a harder time convincing people she's anything but a comedian.
Catch Maria Bamford at 8 p.m. Friday, November 30, at the Fitzgerald Theater. The show is sold out but will be streamed live at mpr.org/wits.