Asking Maria Bamford about “Ask My Mom,” improv comedy and not arresting her development

Maria Bamford is portraying her mother in a webseries again, but this time it’s not so much to help herself as much as it is to help you understand Bamford or anything else you might have on your mind.

“Ask My Mom” debuted last week on My Damn Channel. The questions come from you, the viewer, and the answers come from the Bammer herself as her mother. New episodes appear on Thursdays. Here is today’s episode. What? Yes. What? Roll it. We’ll talk to Bamford about it after you watch the clip.

Maria, you just performed at MaxFunCon over the weekend. What can you tell me about it?

“It’s really fun,” Bamford told The Comic’s Comic. She said she has attended the annual festival, hosted by “Bullseye” radio host Jesse Thorn, multiple times in the mountains of Lake Arrowhead, Calif. “There are classes in the morning, classes in the afternoon. I took a class in improv, and that was great, and then there’s another speaker in the afternoon you can go see. You don’t have to go to anything.” Bamford went on to describe the shows, meals and activities.

Wait. Tell me more about the improv comedy class, please?
“I’m taking improv class at UCB right now. Improv 101. So that supplemented my summer education. It’s really helpful, because I get so stuck in the same brain patterns, hopefully.”

What’s that like, since you’ve been a headlining stand-up comedian for years, to be in an improv class with kids who might just be learning about comedy for the first time?
“I’m scared and as self-conscious as ever. I don’t really notice that big a difference. ‘Oh, I’ve aged. Everything is different now.’ No. The main thing I think is I am older. I think when I was younger and taking improv I was, ‘I’m going to make it! I’m going to make it in this world!’ I think my energy has changed to, ‘I’ve made it. I’m done.’ I think I’m enjoying it a lot more than I did before.”

What was your previous improv comedy experience like?
“I was in The Wizards of Odd, that was Minneapolis. I did a TheatreSports group where we went to Edinburgh. I did a full year there (at TheatreSports). I went to most of The Groundlings program, but I cried after every class, so I dropped out. It was great training at the time, but I was very hypersensitive. I may not have been on the right medications.”

Bamford long has been open about living with and through mental illness. In her SuperDeluxe webseries, “The Maria Bamford Show,” the premise found Bamford returning home to Minnesota following a breakdown and playing all of the members of her family. She’s playing all of the parts in “Ask My Mom,” too, but the episodes are shorter and the tone is much lighter.

“I think that one (‘The Maria Bamford Show’) was so much more personal, that was just me…that was based on a one-person show I did. Super personal. And that was great. I don’t, after doing 20 of those, I didn’t have an interest in doing more. That was enough! This is more fun. It’s also with a bunch of other people. It’s a bigger crew. There’s just something different for me. Costumes. Interacting with people writing in questions.”

The episodes are shorter here, as well. Only a minute or so. Is that by design, or a function of our attention spans now?
“It could be both. I guess when we first made them, I hadn’t been feeling well, the past year. ‘Let’s just try some.’ I was just getting back to functioning. I had some brain problems. I wasn’t at 100 percent. I think the idea of going, are there any other storylines? Just film me. I can do my mom! It was a matter of necessity. It’s just sort of silly.”

“The other one was more, I’ve had a mental breakdown and living in my parents house and wanted to make my my own show. It had a deeper story to it.”

After doing MaxFunCon last weekend and doing Bonnaroo next, I see you’re doing a run of shows in July at Montreal’s Just For Laughs?

“Yeah, I’m just doing an hour of stand-up, which I haven’t done there before.”

You also played a role in the new season of Arrested Development on Netflix. 
“Yeah, yeah. It’s a beautiful show. It was a wonderful experience. I’m just blown way that I got to be a part of it. It was so nice. That was really awesome.”

Have you had a chance to see how it turned out yet?

“Yes. I feel like i did a good job.  It did make some sort of sense, knowing everybody was connected. But yeah, it was funny, how nobody knew what was happening. Even Mitch (Hurwitz) didn’t know. ‘Let’s let the cameras roll, see what happens. It was just really wonderful. It was nice to see how it all pieced together and was interwoven.”


I saw a photo Morgan Murphy took of you performing at MaxFunCon in a comedy show in the woods. Is there a better or worse place to perform stand-up comedy? How much does the setting matter?
“I don’t think it matters at all. What matters is the people who are there to see it. You can speak into a paper cup and, I’m just saying this as an example. Were you to pretend the paper cup was microphone and perform in a room for a couple of friends…those are the best laughs. I think anything is possible.”

Then again, you proved just that when you performed “the special special special!”
“It does depend upon the attitude of everybody involved. You can have a comedy club with all of the great accoutrements and the show goes terribly wrong for many reasons. What’s bombing? But just another form of live performance. We went to see something we really didn’t enjoy for an hour. And that makes us feel alive. Is that a bad show? I don’t think so.”

I know from my own experiences that some of my biggest laughs on and offstage have come from bombing or watching another comedian bomb, just as much as from experiencing a really funny, well-executed joke.
“Yeah. It’s real.”

For “Ask Your Mom,” though, the audience isn’t in the room but does get to be a part of the show by providing the questions. What’s that been like so far?
“I’m excited to see what comes in. I’m not in charge of the computer part. I don’t know what’s going to be the best method (of soliciting questions). Even if there’s just troll questions. We can take troll questions for days. ‘Why does your daughter suck so bad!?’ Well, clearly she doesn’t put in the effort of Whitney Cummings and Sarah Silverman. Those women clearly had a vision and a work ethic. There are some women who have it. Maria has something. But it’s not…ugghhhh! We could take question after question of ‘What the fuck is this???’ And I will have my mom take a look at the questions. Because why write when I have the source to be my font for material?”

Brush up on the first three episodes of “Ask My Mom” now.

Episode #1: Sad Sack

Episode #2: Sex

Episode #3: Raising Kids

Maria Bamford in “Ask My Mom” on My Damn Channel.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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One thought on “Asking Maria Bamford about “Ask My Mom,” improv comedy and not arresting her development

  1. Maria Bamford, You are so brilliant. And the Minnesota element is perfectly in tune. Minnesota is a state of mind all its own, a forgiving, comforting one often. I wish you the best.

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