“The Maria Bamford Show”

14 Feb

In 2006, stand-up comedian Maria Bamford had a nervous breakdown in the middle of a set and dropped off the comedy scene to stay with her parents in Duluth MN while she got her head together. During her convalescence, she created “The Maria Bamford Show,” a series of video shorts chronicling her interactions with her parents, sister, and friends as she tries to find stability.

Maria plays every character in her show, showcasing her wonderful gift for dead-on impressions and disappearing inside her characters, PARTICULARLY her mother, who obviously loves her to death but can’t stop nonchalantly saying things that trigger her anxiety and depression (“So sweetie, what is it you’re anxious about? Is it that you’re worried about your father and I and us getting older? ‘Cause we are falling apart and I could go at any second. You know, there is a history of stroke in my family”).

She also zeroes in on the judgment and alienation those of us struggling to manage our mental malfunctions tend to inspire in the people around us: her sister repeatedly accuses her of being self-absorbed and having pity parties while an old high school acquaintance witheringly declares, “You’re not funny, you’re just weird.” She gets turned down for a job as a mentor because of her laundry list of issues and apparent anxiousness.

One of the best things about “The Maria Bamford Show” is her candor in discussing her myriad of mental health problems: social anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and intrusive thought syndrome, and a history of eating disorders. The scenes where she’s freaking out her shrink are priceless.  She sings about the worries and fears that she attempts to alleviate through her OCD rituals (“As long as I clench my fists at odd intervals, then the darkness that’s within me won’t force me to do things that are inappropriately violent or sexual at dinner parties”). It’s very frank and very funny.

Maria’s given several interviews about combating stigma through comedy and she denies that her art has any real ability to make a difference (“Comedy’s never changed anything; the Berlin Cabaret was hilarious and insightful, but that didn’t stop the rise of Hitler”), but if nothing else, “The Maria Bamford Show” is a great example of coming to terms with a painful truth through humor. If our only choices are laugh or cry, laughter is usually the healthier, more productive option.

There are 20 of them altogether; just let the playlist keep going after the first video if you’d like to watch them all.

 

 

 

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