Maria Bamford gives U of M theater arts grad $5,000 to pay down student loans

Note: That is NOT Maria Bamford on the right. At least we don't think so.

Note: That is NOT Maria Bamford on the right. At least we don't think so.

Alyse Moné probably figured her weekend peaked on Friday.

As Moné tweeted, she bumped into indie rap wunderkind Chance the Rapper, who was in town to play the Xcel Energy Center.

But first, he played rock-paper-scissors with a fan; according to Moné, she won.

Most of us would take this as an un-toppable brush-with-fame moment, and call it a year. For Alyse Moné, it was just getting started.

On Sunday, Moné graduated form the University of Minnesota's College of Liberal Arts. A native of Detroit, Moné came to the U of M for its theater arts program, and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. 

Sunday's commencement speaker was standup comic and actress Maria Bamford, a Minnesotan who graduated from the U with a degree in creative writing. As Moné tells it, she was just sitting in the crowd, enjoying Bamford's "hilarious" speech, when things took a turn for the surreal.

First, Bamford started joking about how much the school offered to pay her for her speech. Then she asked if anyone in the audience had student loans. Hands went up throughout Mariucci Arena. 

Bamford narrowed it down. Was anyone a theater arts major? 

Instinctually, Moné put her hand up. Next thing she knew, Bamford was pointing at her, telling her to come down near the stage.

"I was just like, 'What’s about to happen?'" Moné says. "I was already overwhelmed with the excitement of graduation."

What happened was Bamford telling Moné she was giving away her $5,000 speaking fee, right there on the spot, and putting it toward Moné's student loans. Bamford's check was already made out to Sallie Mae; as Bamford later tweeted, her unexpected present for Moné is a "tax free gift." 

Moné says she took out loans for all four of her years at the U, and is leaving school with "a fair amount" of student debt. 

"I'm just so very grateful to be able to pay off even one [loan], coming right out of college," Moné says. "It's just a huge blessing for that to even happen."

Moné knows a fine arts degree doesn't exactly translate into easy money to pay down the rest of her debt, either. She's happy about the experiences she got at the university -- including a recent turn as Olga in the Anton Chekhov play Three Sisters on campus, and in a production of The American Clock at the Guthrie Theater -- and is plotting her next move. 

Moné spent Monday morning driving back to Michigan, where her "very supportive" family awaits her return. After that, she's planning to head to either New York City or Atlanta, where she hopes to break into the TV and film industry. The U's theater program recently invited agents and casting directors to campus for "showcase" meetings with graduating seniors, and Moné says she made a few connections through that. 

Though she'll have a "side job," of course, Moné wants to give acting her best shot and see what happens.

"I'm still pretty young, only 21," she says. "I'm kind of living off a dream. But I feel like I can make it. It's all about determination and sticking with it until you’re consistent at your work."

It's a lesson she could learn from her speaker on Sunday: Bamford worked the standup circuit for a decade before her breakthrough appearances on Conan O'Brien's late-night show. Now she's starring on her own Netflix series, Lady Dynamite, and Old Baby, her second Netflix-only comedy special, just hit the small screen.

"I would say I'm a fan [of Bamford's]," Moné says, laughing, and adding she just recently came across Bamford's work on Netflix. "You know, you see these people on TV, but then it's something else to meet them in person, and see what kind of people they really are."