Comedy at 10am or 10pm? (with Maria Bamford)
When comedian Maria Bamford recently did some shows in LA and New York, she decided to perform her set early in the morning. Despite some “goofballs” who fell asleep, the time change from a traditional late night start was a solid choice for her. Sam asks Maria how her family feels about being such a big part of her comedy, why it’s important for her to talk openly about money, and her new memoir, “Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult.”
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Samantha Bee, Maria Bamford
Samantha Bee 00:00
Doesn’t feel like there’s a filter for literally everything these days, there are so many ways to hide our true selves, you can filter all your photos, you can auto tune your voice, you can hide behind an array of avatars, or this is weird, you could choose to be authentic. Okay? It can be very intimidating to choose to be yourself when we’re constantly bombarded with products that are meant to change us products to lose weight products to make our skin look more shiny or less shiny, tighter, bouncy, or you know more full, so many ways to change how we look how we dress, what we eat, it’s, it’s actually pretty easy to forget that sometimes who we are deep down inside, actually is the best version. Sorry to say it, it shouldn’t have to feel so brave to be yourself. But it is. I think a lot about who gets to be their full self. I think it would be hard not to after all the time I’ve spent in the makeup chair literally like spackling my face like painting someone else’s face on top of my face, which is a necessity for women on TV. Hmm, go figure. How freeing to not be worried what other people think of you to get to be authentic.
Samantha Bee 01:43
This is Choice Words. I’m Samantha Bee. My guest today is Maria Bamford, and I have been a huge fan of hers for a very long time. I am incredibly inspired by her openness, and her honesty and the way in which she speaks her truth. She is always beautifully woven in her mental health and our medication choices into our work with no thought to keep it private. Seemingly, she will do her Comedy Action for literally one person at a time. She is so true to herself. And so true to her material in it is so refreshing. But also, she’s incredibly funny. I loved talking to her about this and her choice to marry her husband Scott, who’s an amazing painter, her new book. Sure I’ll join your cult is the Lebanon of book club choice for September and it is a delight. So take a listen and make good choices. Oh my god, Maria Bamford, I am so excited to be talking to you right now. I really am.
Maria Bamford 02:59
You are a magnificent beast of comedy. And I appreciate I am honored and delighted to be on your program.
Samantha Bee 03:07
It is, it is I who is honored because like I can’t believe that we’ve never met before, based on the fact that I am such a huge and real fan of yours. And like I don’t want to, I don’t want to make it awkward by telling you too many of the ways in which I’m a giant fan of yours, but I have filled that I have to just to provide context for everyone.
Maria Bamford 03:37
Whatever you need to do.
Samantha Bee 03:38
Okay, thank you. I appreciate that. First of all, I read your book, or I listened to your book. It’s fucking fantastic. Okay. The book is called sure all during your call, we’re gonna talk about the book, but also, I’m a really deep lady dynamite fan.
Maria Bamford 03:57
Yeah, I was grateful to be a part of it. TV shows, as you well know, take a lot of effort from so many people. And I was so delighted that people would put their efforts towards my show.
Samantha Bee 04:14
With great results. Okay, and you talk all about the lady dynamite experience in your book, as well as so many other things. Okay, first of all, before we get into it, this show like, ostensibly is about the choices that we make in our lives that reverberate through our lives. So that for me is a starting point. I wonder like what kind of a What kind of a decision maker Are you? I would imagine that’s changed through the years but how do you make decisions now in your life?
Maria Bamford 04:50
Yes, I am fully medicated. And so I think I used to make decisions based on being led Hmm, I would have called it a higher power at that point. But I think there was some mania involved. So that I think is less likely to happen, though I, you know, I feel feel a whoosh of joy when putting things in a cart on on the internet. Yeah. So now, I must slightly slower on the uptake. But I like an impulsive, sudden decision when I think compared to my husband, I make decisions slightly on a dime. But in terms of knowing that it doesn’t matter, on some level, what your decision is that there will be negatives and positives. So let’s go all in. Especially if it’s going to be something very small, like a, a restaurant choice.
Samantha Bee 05:52
A restaurant or the bigger life decisions are a little bigger.
Maria Bamford 05:57
Yeah. But sometimes it’s very important to people trying to think what am I my biggest choice has been, I think being getting married, that’s a big choice. That part of taking a huge risk. with anybody in this, I think any relationship friendship, I think is the ongoing risk taking of saying, you matter to me, I care enough about you to, you know, being vulnerable, saying, I’d like to, it would be really nice to meet you for a meal once a week, or just chit chat on the phone. And sometimes that doesn’t have much friendships, oh, my God. And then you got to talk about it or not or not, you can also not talk about it and just go, it’s fine. But like, yeah, it’s it’s I think relationships of all kinds are very, are terrifying.
Samantha Bee 07:01
They are and you know what, like, they always are in the in a good I mean this in a good way. But they are work like you have to you have to exercise them. You have to like, choose them and work on friendships. Yeah, I definitely feel like that’s a presence in your in your book, because you talk about people who showed up for you in like, in a meaningful way. You know, when you weren’t doing well, people who were just like, come and sit by your side.
Maria Bamford 07:33
And how valuable that is. That’s at least what I didn’t realize, because I think when I’ve had people who, when they’ve been ill, I haven’t always stepped up and just been there for the person and been there in the same room with them. Or those are the most powerful memories I have are friends coming to visit me every single day when I was in a psych facility. And just sitting sitting next to me because I was talking I wasn’t really having anything. Yeah, just sitting with me and paging through the most recent O magazine.
Samantha Bee 08:13
Or an O magazine from three years prior, that was still sending.
Maria Bamford 08:19
I’m sure someone meant well by it, but they have a pile of old New Yorkers. No one can read in the site. No one’s doing any reading. I’m making bird noises. And I see a lot of things that other people aren’t seeing, I guess. Let’s get into it. Let’s hear what David Remnick had to say in 2004.
Samantha Bee 08:51
I like that you talk about Scott so much. Because he’s such a price, a presence in your work. That feels like it in a way. It’s like a little jewel box to me, like, like that. He’s a character in lady dynamite. He’s very present in your book. Does he? Does he like that? See, he’s must be okay with it by now.
Maria Bamford 09:16
I think it’s kind of mixed, you know, because it’s like, he’s a private person. And, but he he he knows like, He’s a painter. So he knows like, you know, your life is your art, you know, so, um, but I think that has been, it’s vulnerable for I can’t imagine that it’s not vulnerable for him. And I think I’ve heard that from him saying he, you know, I can’t even remember this specific job, but it was something where I it felt too much for him. And I was like, Oh, that oh my gosh, yes, of course. But then other people might, like my sister has come claim about it several times about me using her work. And I just refuse to stop. Because she keeps talking to me. And there needs to be a harsher, blowback.
Samantha Bee 10:13
She just she’s not withholding enough. She’s keeps. She just keeps feeding the beast. We’ll be right back with Maria Bamford after this. As a true fan, I just feel like I’ve been the recipient of the gift of your impressions of your family, that they maybe were not that excited about.
Maria Bamford 10:56
Oh, yes. Nobody likes. Have you ever had somebody do an impersonation of you to your face?
Samantha Bee 11:00
Oh, not to my face. But it’s horrible. Even when it’s not to your face. And you see it, it’s the most awful
Maria Bamford 11:07
It feels so shameful. From what I’ve heard through several impersonations that I’ve seen, online and in person, I mumble and stumble over my words a lot. And the okay. Yeah, I do so, but also like, it’s hard to say, Oh, well, the reason I do that is because I love you so much like the person knows you. Or you become, you’re so well known that you become sort of a character in somebody’s life. So that there is some complement in that. It’s just stuff. And I think I felt very disempowered as a person when I first started doing stand up, like I did not feel like anybody was going to hear this or listen to, you know, it’s just me kind of talking into the void. So when then when it flips around, where my poor sister is at a grocery store in Duluth, and someone comes and goes.,
Maria Bamford 12:28
I don’t know how it happened. But I’m sure it that’s off. You know, that’s just that’s it can’t be fun. It’s definitely So Scott Scott. I think experiences so he shot it’s so people will spot him sometimes, like when we’re together. And this is a guy I’m not super famous, but just want to talk to him because he’s a lovable embrace. Yeah, so anyways, I understand. Also, Fein can be really irritating if you are like, I’ve been the person with somebody who’s been famous. And then everyone’s like, you know, walking up to him on the street and saying, I love you. And can you take a picture? And it can be hard if you’re just trying to have a nice time with your friend or your beloved? Or or you’re interrupted with your beloved by, you know, another lovely person, but also a stranger who comes up and then somehow I take the stranger over what my lesbo has been saying, I go, Oh, okay, do the thing. And then he’s like, kind of left hanging but like, so. I, I think those are issues definitely that have from what I see. You’d have to ask God Himself, though.
Samantha Bee 13:53
Right. I will rush up to him at a party. And I’ll just commandeer him.
Maria Bamford 13:59
If you could. Yeah, hugging. That also does the trick effect. i Yeah, I’m really good about physical touch, too. I don’t know if they’ve had this for you. Smith have a word where they assign you a PA who is supposed to follow you around.
Samantha Bee 14:16
Yep, I have definitely had that. And I never have anything for them to do.
Maria Bamford 14:20
And somehow it becomes like they’re my, like a Wrangler. Like I have to go back there. Like they’re getting back me back into my hog confinement system. They’re kind of pushing me by the small of my back. Don’t touch me there, Tom.
Samantha Bee 14:37
No, it’s okay. I can get from A to B. By myself. It’s I feel like it’s always very well intentioned, but in a way that like, the system is built for, like a celebrity who needs a little doctor’s kit of cocaine. Do you know what I mean? And like diet Pepsi’s to get them on Stage and get them to croon out. 10 Christmas songs?
Maria Bamford 15:04
Well, yeah, cuz the one thing they won’t. Fair enough. But, I mean, we’ve all seen all the movies and read all the biographies where it’s like, yeah, they would just like you to do the job.
Samantha Bee 15:18
Yes, it’s a very awkward, it’s tricky. But like I do feel when you get out it as a comedian, in a, in a cold space where you’re just trying to like, look at a picture on a wall. It can be very, it’s a shock. So it’s just a real cold water. Like, it’s just a real Bucket Challenge, where you’re like, what are jokes? I don’t even know. I quit.
Maria Bamford 15:43
Do you work on a stand up hour? Or do is that anything you’re interested in? No, no, I
Samantha Bee 15:49
don’t. I don’t. Well, I think that, you know, and in a lot of ways, when I hear you talk about your career, I, I really do understand. I feel like there’s a lot of I understand where you’re when you you know when you say because you say in the book that you’re like, I do comedy for people who like me, I don’t want to go into a just like, past the point of like, let me win you over with my works.
Maria Bamford 16:17
Somebody loves that feeling of winning someone over well, then that’s, that’s awesome. That’s a part of your what makes it fun for you. That’s great. But yeah, I just like the pure victory of having one.
Samantha Bee 16:33
I love the talk about the pure victory. Just like getting a one person giving, delivering to one person the thing that they’ve really learned.
Maria Bamford 16:44
Oh, my Christ, let’s let’s yeah, let’s, let’s get together. Just you and me. Yeah, why do I have to go to the comedy cellar at midnight? To find out? No one was interested.
Samantha Bee 16:58
That’s punishing. Yeah. So I don’t, I don’t I never really I never. I love stand up. I actually really like as an art form. I think it’s great. Their stand ups that I love watching. i For me, I always thought, oh, this lifestyle is just incompatible with how I live, I can’t stay up late. Like, fundamentally, that’s just true.
Maria Bamford 17:26
I’m trying to move shows. And I don’t know if this is going to catch on. But I have now done shows at 8am to about five shows at 8am in Los Angeles. And then Brooklyn, I tried to look at them do it at 8am. But they said 10. So what I’ve done 10am shows and you know, the small space saw space. Okay, so, but 30 people showed up.
Samantha Bee 17:54
This is such a good idea.
Maria Bamford 17:58
Anything that because we went to go see some music last night, but the band went on an hour and a half late. And not that that’s not a great idea. But like, Man, I would, I would pay extra to see what we saw at 9:30 at 10am.
Samantha Bee 18:19
A lot a lot of this show. So I do I’m doing I am doing our show. But it’s not a Stand Up Show. It’s more like a it’s more of a multimedia it’s more in the vein of what Full Frontal was I’m just touring it a bit. And I love it when I tried to set all the times for seven o’clock. And I come on on time. And I do it at seven o’clock for one hour and 10 minutes. And then everybody goes home and digests just go home.
Maria Bamford 18:45
Me and that really inspires me to create a boundary about because sometimes I’ll just say, my Booker will just say oh, these are the colors the contract offered. And then I never I don’t think I’ve ever asked for anything changed off a contract ever.
Samantha Bee 19:04
You’re teaching me something because like comedy at 10am. There’s people would want that.
Maria Bamford 19:15
Everybody’s underemployed. Everyone’s got time. Yes. And everyone’s at their best. I have to say, there were still some goofballs who brought friends and those friends fell asleep. Which you know you cannot avoid goofballs. No matter when you put a show an IED out that felt a little sad when a few young people fell asleep. But also that happens during regular shows late at night so yeah.
Samantha Bee 19:53
I’ve fallen asleep at many, many shows not stand up shows because the standup will look into your eyes. But at a lot of Broadway shows.
Maria Bamford 20:02
It’s yeah, you’re in the dark.
Samantha Bee 20:04
Hold that thought more with Maria Bamford after one more break. I read somewhere about someone having a breakfast wedding. And I was like, that’s the best idea I’ve ever heard of. Brunch and breakfast wedding. Change the World.
Maria Bamford 20:40
Anxious all day? Because that’s what happened to me is I don’t know if you still get nervous for shells? Oh, of course. Of course. Is anything help? Could you tell me a message of hope?
Samantha Bee 20:53
No, I’m sorry. I don’t have a message of how I tried to like, you know, I think I tried to reframe pre show nerves a little bit. I tried to tell myself that if I wasn’t nervous, then I wasn’t doing anything worth doing. Is that resonate with you at all?
Maria Bamford 21:16
Yeah, that’s lovely. That’s my turn around in my brain. Well, number one, I’m a something from nature and nature wants to live. So I love to keep going. Just because it’s, that’s that’s what’s happening, despite entropy. And then the other thing, and I’ve had this from the beginning, as I also I can provide low standards, so that other people might go, Oh, she’s doing it. Like I if it’s if I do really terribly, and I you know, who knows what that would mean, subjectively, but I’m giving someone else the confidence, and maybe the hutzpah, the kick in the pants to say give her a shot.
Samantha Bee 22:10
I can do that. I could try that, they’re just letting anybody do it.
Maria Bamford 22:17
They are, that’s the most beautiful thing. They are. I don’t know what your favorite thing about all the colleagues who have committed sex offenses. But my favorite thing is when somebody who has you know been appointed, apparently canceled who is selling out stadiums? Yeah. says What else can I do? You know? I’ve been common for 30 years, you know, what else am I going to do? Almost anything, almost anything. If you can leave, you can clean. There are jobs out there.
Samantha Bee 22:52
That is also a such a good part of your book, because I’m like, I get that. I mean, I’m Canadian. I’ll do any job. I’ve done every fucking job and I’ll do it again. You’ve done every job.
Maria Bamford 23:09
Yeah, it’s okay. And and I’d be willing to I mean, if I needed the money today, you know, when I definitely do, like, do cameos? I do. I like cash coming in. Now, weirdly. Due to generational wealth and privilege, and two shows on a two series shows on glade dynamite. That means my husband and I are multimillionaires, which means take that and that’s weird. That is so there’s actually no story there. Like I don’t, I don’t on some level. I don’t need money. But I like getting it still. I like getting it. It feels like you’re valued. If you’re paid. Have you ever been asked to unpaid work by a fellow professional?
Samantha Bee 24:00
Yeah, yeah, it’s really weird. There’s a lot that I’ve, in my experience. There’s a lot of people who are like, I’m putting a book together. Do you want to contribute an essay to and it’s just like, free and you’re like, No, why? I cover it. What do you mean, I know you’re getting paid? What’s going on?
Maria Bamford 24:20
Yeah, I have this whole weird thing where it’s like, somebody is texting me who I thought in my mind, I think must be multimodal, multimodal. And they didn’t. It was for this job they wanted me to do and didn’t mention money at all. And I had to bring it up and I and it was so like emotional. It was so funny because I asked my manager I was like a Bruce for you. I said, Bruce, can you talk to this guy? And Bruce? Oh, no, no, no, he’s, he’s a great guy. If you don’t just keep talking. I’m like, wait, the only reason I have a manager So, but I think that’s part of owning a small business is going oh, no, I am the boss. You are correct, Bruce, I can talk to him. And so I, I’ve had negotiate with this person. About money. Yeah. And that that’s been surprising to me that as you go forward like that, sometimes that is still a thing.
Samantha Bee 25:21
A thing, especially in comedy, especially in comedy and performance, because everyone will try to teach, they’ll try to, like, indicate that it’s worth the exposure for you. And you’re like, no, I’m a business like, I’m a, I’m a business person. like why?
Maria Bamford 25:38
I am totally for benefits, but I’m trying to get into harm reduction, because I’m never the good act for a benefit. I have bombed at so many, you know, it’s just I’m not good. So, my husband and I, we give 11% of our money to charity. Is that virtue signaling. Yes.
Samantha Bee 25:57
Of course, very virtual. I do love. I love that you talk about money. And I feel like especially in the book you’re so specific about and I think it’s really helpful for people to hear that you. It’s just about like, setting boundaries for yourself. You’re like, I do remember being in theater school and having a friend who was allowed to get a little bit older, and he kind of worked a lot. And I looked up to him so much, because I was like, you can get paid for this. Are you kidding me? And at one point, he said, I no longer work for free now. I will work for very little money, but I no longer will work for no money. And that is across the board. There is nobody who’s not going to pay me something because I’m a professional. And that’s the boundary. That’s my decision for myself.
Maria Bamford 26:47
And that means that yeah, that I need to pay other people like other things. They’ll say, Oh, we’re friends, or it’s going to be a great time. And I go, Yeah, you pay your friends, you know, especially if you have a house. If you own property in Los Angeles, New York, pay your fucking friends. And somebody gets 100 bucks. Like, that is ridiculous. Like, I I get so Yeah, cuz I get. Yeah, I’m mad about that, especially when the gap is just getting wider. And I try to tell all my openers, what I’m getting, if they’re interested, some people are like, I don’t care. I don’t want to hear what’s your QuickBooks app. But yet show what I’m making as opposed to what they’re making so that they either can negotiate more if they feel it’s unfair. Or also to know that a lot of openers will think oh, yeah, I’m It’s lucky. I’m getting this. Wrong. The reason someone’s chosen you to open for them is because you’re special. You’ll have something you’re good. You are fresh, new, whatever. They want to have you. So yeah, put a price on that. Like you’re and sometimes I think people just aren’t even aware like comics don’t even ask. Oh, what’s the club Pam? Because price is for openers and Mills has not gone ups for 30 years. Still 150 bucks or whatever it is.
Samantha Bee 28:33
I think like the transparency with which like first of all your I think your book is hilarious. I actually listened to the audiobook because we want to hear your voice like you’re such a plugin, your the gifted performer just like absolutely loved it. And the transparency with which you talk about yourself and you talk about money. I feel like it just you’re just one of my favorite all time. Oh my god, I’m gonna cry. I really, really really like you soft. What is going on? How did I I don’t cry on my podcast. Is this not Oprah’s soul Sunday’s never do maybe. Anyways, I’m just consistently so impressed by you. And I appreciate you. I’m not come to one of your breakfast. Breakfast comedy escapades.
Maria Bamford 29:34
I can’t wait until there’s like breakfast tours of the country. And then the rest of the day is just sightseeing.
Samantha Bee 29:43
Sightseeing. You just have a coffee and a pop over to comedy feel nourished for the day and then you get on a duck boat and go to the harbor. Like a normal person. Like what we should all be doing. Oh my god, this was great. Everybody buy this book. I think it’s fantastic. And thank you so much for your time today.
Maria Bamford 30:09
Thank you for having me, Samantha. Delighted. Thank you.
Samantha Bee 30:20
That was Maria Bamford, and I had no choice but to Google one thing. Is there anywhere to see live comedy at 10am in New York. Well, unfortunately, no, not that I can find. And that is a shame. Because this girl a has to be in bed by 9pm. But I could get on board with early morning comedy to drink minimum, no problem. Take a first squeezed orange juice and a coffee. I think your son is hilarious. So if anyone can find me one of those shows, let me know maybe it’ll be a date. And good news. There’s more Choice Words with Lemonada Premium. Subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like a special outtake from my recent interview with Kerry Washington. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts.
Thank you for listening to Choice Words which was created by and is hosted by me. We’re a production of Lemonada Media, Kathyrn Barnes, […] and Kryssy Pease produce our show. Our mix is by James Barber. Steve Nelson is the vice president of weekly content. Jessica Cordova Kramer, Stephanie Wittles Wachs and I are executive producers. Our theme was composed by […] with help from Johnny Vince Evans . Special thanks to Kristen Everman, Claire Jones, Ivan Kuraev and Rachel Neil. You can find me at @Iamsambee on Twitter and at @realsambee on Instagram. Follow Choice Words wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.