You can take Maria Bamford out of Minnesota, but you can’t take Minnesota out of Maria Bamford.
The comedian and Duluth native has lived in Los Angeles for 24 years and has no plans on leaving. On the day of our interview, she is heading to the bank to close on the house she’s buying with her husband, artist Scott Marvel Cassidy.
Professionally, things couldn’t be better — in addition to a busy stand-up career that brings her to the Barrymore Theatre on Friday, she has her own show on Netflix, “Lady Dynamite,” which premieres its second season in November. She also has a new Netflix standup special, “Old Baby.”
But when it comes to dealing with people, she’s still a Minnesotan at heart.
“In that I’m passive aggressive, yes,” Bamford said. “I don’t totally say what I mean all the time and I try to show it through characters. I’m a Minnesota girl. My husband’s from Philadelphia and he gets so much more done talking to people face to face.”
Bamford still gets back to Duluth at times, both when she’s performing and to visit her family, saying it’s a wonderfully creative place. The last time she was home, she arranged an impromptu lunch with members of the band Low.
“We just Facebooked them when were in town and were like, ‘Hey, do you want to meet for lunch?’ In L.A. it takes so long to ever make anything happen. I really appreciate that about Duluth. ‘Yeah, we’re around. You wanna come over?’”
While it seems like Bamford has had a very busy 2017, she said that’s largely an illusion based on when things like the Netflix special happen to be released.
“I do have the four-hour workweek on some level,” she quips.
She works constantly on her standup act, which has been lauded by both critics and fellow comedians for its confessional, stream-of-consciousness humor, which draws heavily from her own life and her mental health struggles. (She said she's been feeling healthy and stable since 2012 thanks to medication.)
In preparing for upcoming shows like the one in Madison, Bamford keeps a schedule that might seem welcoming to early-to-bed, early-to-rise Midwesterners. She likes to do 4 p.m. comedy shows at a Los Feliz club called The Clubhouse to test out new material before an audience.
“I’m getting older so I don’t like to stay out so late,” Bamford said. “There are so many self-employed people out there. Even if I only get two people to show up for that show, that’s sometimes larger than I get at an 8 p.m. show in Los Angeles.
“I love to practice it. It helps with writing and rewriting things. It’s also nice to get out and see the world and other creative people who are out to see a show at 4 p.m. Sometimes we can chit-chat. I’ve gone for dinner afterwards with people.”
She said she likes playing both comedy clubs and theaters like the Barrymore, but there’s something about the theater experience that is particularly special for comedy.
“Theaters are so lovely because it’s kind of a safe place for the audience as well as the performers,” she said. “Everyone can have their own personal experience. At comedy clubs, everyone’s facing each other and people are being forced to order things. It sets up for violence.”
Bamford said she’s excited about the second season of “Lady Dynamite,” which, like her standup, draws heavily from her own life. “This season my husband and my parents are in it. It has a science fiction element. It’s really fun.”
Bamford has never been a political comedian, but in the wake of recent events is starting to feel the need to speak out on stage. She quotes her friend, comedian Jackie Kashian, a UW-Madison grad who will open for her at the Barrymore show: “I’m not normally a political comedian. But it turns out now I have to be.”
"I’m feeling more like that, wanting to talk,” she said. “If, as an atheist, I am living in a country of Christian values? I’ve taken a skim of the Bible, and it turns out we are the bad guy in every single parable.”