Maria Bamford

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Maria Bamford
Bamford in 2008
Birth nameMaria Elizabeth Sheldon Bamford
Born (1970-09-03) September 3, 1970 (age 49)
Port Hueneme, California, U.S.
MediumStand-up, television, film
EducationBates College
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (BA)
Years active1989–present
GenresObservational comedy, character comedy, surreal humor, alternative comedy, dark comedy
Subject(s)Pop culture, personal life, mental health
Scott Marvel Cassidy (m. 2015)

Maria Elizabeth Sheldon Bamford (born September 3, 1970)[1] is an American stand-up comedian, actress, and voice actress. She is best known for her portrayal of her dysfunctional family and self-deprecating comedy involving jokes about depression and anxiety.

Her first comedy album and tour was The Burning Bridges Tour (2003), followed by her second album, How to WIN! (2007), and her third, Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome (2009). She appeared in her first feature film, Lucky Numbers (2000), before lending her voice to characters on many different animated shows, including Shriek on CatDog, and many more characters on American Dad!, Ugly Americans, Adventure Time, and BoJack Horseman. Bamford's film work includes Stuart Little 2 (2002), Charlotte's Web 2: Wilbur's Great Adventure (2003), Barnyard (2006), Heckler (2007), and her most recent film, Hell & Back (2015). She voices Talking Ginger and Talking Becca in the Talking Tom and Friends web series. She transitioned into television by starring in Louie (2012), Arrested Development (2012), and WordGirl (2014). In 2014, she won the American Comedy Award for Best Club Comic.[2]

Her life story is the subject of the 2016 Netflix original series Lady Dynamite, in which she plays the lead role. Her work has drawn critical acclaim as well as controversy as her subjects span from lighter to darker topics such as suicide and psychiatric conditions.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Maria Bamford was born on September 3, 1970 at the Port Hueneme Naval Base in Port Hueneme, California.[1] At the time, her father, Joel Bamford, was serving as a Navy doctor. She grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, where she attended Chester Park Elementary and Duluth Marshall School. Bamford has stated that when she was younger she was often troubled with her anxiety, depression, and bouts of what she has called "Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome", a subset of obsessive–compulsive disorder.[3]

Upon graduating high school, she attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, but in 1992, Bamford transferred to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland at the start of her junior year. While at the university she became the first female member of the college's improvised comedy group, The Improverts. After a year in Scotland, she transferred back to her home state and enrolled at the University of Minnesota, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing. She started doing stand-up in Minneapolis, Minnesota at age 19, at Stevie Ray's Comedy Cabaret.[1]


Early comedy beginnings: 1998–2008[edit]

Bamford has been in a number of movies and television shows, including voice appearances in cartoons. She was the voice of Shriek in CatDog, a huge selection of secondary characters in Cartoon Network's Adventure Time, and Mrs. Botsford, Violet, and Leslie on the long running PBS educational series WordGirl. She does various impersonations (including her mother and her agent). Her stand-up comedy often takes the form of vignettes rather than the standard setup/punchline format.[4]

Bamford was featured in the documentary series The Comedians of Comedy on Comedy Central and Showtime, and appears in short skits titled The Maria Bamford Show, broadcast on the website Super Deluxe. She appears on the comedy compilation CD Comedy Death-Ray.[4]

Rise to prominence: 2008–2014[edit]

Her album Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome, produced by Comedy Central Records, was released in April 2009 and includes a DVD containing The Maria Bamford Show episodes. During the Christmas 2009-2010 shopping seasons, Bamford was featured in a series of Target commercials, portraying an overachieving shopper determined to be first in line.[5] For Christmas 2009, she released a free stand-up special online as a gift to her fans.[6]

While working in voice-over shows and advertisements in Los Angeles, she was hospitalized three times over the course of 18 months for nervous breakdowns. She commented on the hospital visits by saying "it was the responsible thing to do" after she felt "suicidal" and "dispirited". At the time she was seeing a therapist weekly and a psychiatrist every three months.[3]

In 2012 she released The Special Special Special for download through The special was recorded at her own home in Los Angeles with only Bamford's parents present as the audience and is now available on Netflix.[7][3]

In 2013, Bamford created and starred in a web series called Ask My Mom. Maria plays both herself and her mother, who answers questions sent in by fans.[8] Also in 2013, Bamford appeared as herself in one episode of the interview web series All Growz Up with Melinda Hill.[9] She provides the voice of Pema in Nickelodeon cartoon The Legend of Korra.[4]

In 2013, she appeared in season four of Arrested Development as DeBrie Bardeaux, Tobias Fünke's love interest.[10] The series creator noted Bamford as a comical "genius" and said that "real artists [like Maria] talk about things that nobody else talks about, and talk about them candidly.”[3] She remained on the series until it concluded in 2019.[11]

Lady Dynamite and critical acclaim: 2014–present[edit]

She appeared in Season 3 of Louis CK's Louie.[12] In 2014, she co-created, wrote, and starred in The Program with Melinda Hill, produced by Funny or Die.[13][14] In 2014, she won the American Comedy Award for Best Club Comic.[2] In January 2016, she was a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where host Stephen Colbert called her his "favorite comedian on planet Earth".[15]

In early 2016, Netflix announced the creation of an original series based on Bamford's life.[16] The series, called Lady Dynamite, has Bamford in the lead role.[17][18] In May 2016, the series went live on the Netflix streaming service. Bamford was asked to be involved in the writing process. She did not write any episodes herself, but was often in the writers' room, discussing ideas and "hanging out" with the writers. The writers had freedom to modify her experiences for creative purposes.[19]

In May 2017, Bamford was the commencement speaker for the University of Minnesota's College of Liberal Arts.[20]

Comedy and mannerisms[edit]

[Maria Bamford is] the most unique, bizarre, imaginative comedian out there right now.

Judd Apatow, [3]

Bamford's unique comedic style has drawn praise and criticism. She is best known for her portrayal of her dysfunctional family and self-deprecating comedy involving jokes about depression and anxiety. Her comedy style is surreal and incorporates voice impressions of various character types. Zach Freeman of the Chicago Tribune has noted her content and comedic style as "comically erratic" with "seemingly unrelated tangents and constantly varying vocal inflections".[21] David Sims of The Atlantic noted her roles and voice work as having themes of "serial passivity" stemming from her "polite upbringing and own internal anxieties".[22] Film producer Judd Apatow has described her comedic style as "complex" and "bizarre", later calling her "the funniest woman in the world".[3][23] Variety described Bamford's comedic performance in her show, Lady Dynamite, saying that "the actress and comedian, whose presence has rarely been used as well as it is here, manages the neat trick of being both believably guileless and winningly sharp."[24] A 2014 New York Times profile of Bamford noted her comedic style by saying:

Much of Bamford’s work examines the relationship between “people” — generally well-intentioned friends and family — and those who grapple with depression or anxiety or any other challenge to the psyche. Her act is a series of monologues and mini-skits performed rapid fire and often without regard for transition. Deploying a range of deadpan voices, she mimics the faux-enlightened who hover around the afflicted, offering toothless platitudes, bootstrapping pep talks or concern warped by self-interest. The humor of any given moment relies not so much on punch lines as it does on the impeccably timed swerves of her tone, the interplay between Bamford’s persona and those of all the people who don’t get her.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Bamford stated in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune that she has been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder,[25] "the new gladiator sandal," as she puts it in her comic performances,[3] as well as obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD).[22]

On December 11, 2014, during her show at the Neptune Theater in Seattle, Bamford announced that she was engaged to artist Scott Marvel Cassidy.[26] They were married at a private ceremony in 2015. Bamford has one sister, Sarah Seidelmann, who is a life coach and shaman. She has a private residence in Los Angeles, California[3] as well as a home in Altadena, California. She is also a fan of pugs, and had two, Blossom and Bert, the former who died in 2011 after an incident for which Bamford blamed herself.[27]


Bamford has appeared in at least six movies as of 2016. She has served as writer for seven movies and television shows and produced three films and shows all as an executive producer.[4]




Web series[edit]



  1. ^ a b c "Maria Bamford". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-09-17.
  2. ^ a b Steiner, Amanda Michelle (May 8, 2014). "American Comedy Awards Winners List: Bill Hader, Amy Poehler & More". Hollywood Life. Los Angeles, California: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved June 13, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Corbett, Sara (July 17, 2014). "The Weird, Scary and Ingenious Brain of Maria Bamford". The New York Times. New York City: New York Times Company. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d "Maria Bamford". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  5. ^ Keller, Joel (November 24, 2009). "Maria Bamford plays a demented shopper in new Target ads". TVSquad. AOL Television. Retrieved March 5, 2010.
  6. ^ Maria Bamford's One-Hour Homemade Christmas Special! on Vimeo
  7. ^ "Maria Bamford: the special special special!". Chill. November 29, 2012. Archived from the original on January 19, 2013. Retrieved July 20, 2013.
  8. ^ Haglund, David (June 6, 2013). "Maria Bamford on Arrested Development and Her New Web Series, Ask My Mom!". San Francisco, California: The Slate Group. Retrieved June 10, 2013.
  9. ^ Balthazar, Brian (September 25, 2013). ""All Growz Up" Talks To Maria Bamford In A Back Alley". Retrieved October 15, 2013.
  10. ^ Onion, Rebecca. "Tobias gets served". Slate. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
  11. ^ "Maria Bamford". IMDb. Retrieved 2019-09-05.
  12. ^ Bamford, Maria (July 20, 2012). "What it's like to work with Louis C. K." San Francisco, California: The Slate Group. Retrieved January 21, 2014.
  13. ^ "Maria Bamford, Melinda Hill's Funny Or Die series The Program features Jerry Minor, Oscar Nunez and more as Debtors Anonymous members (Videos)". LAUGHSPIN. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  14. ^ "The Program Part 1: Visions". Funny or Die. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  15. ^ McCarthy, Sean L. (16 January 2016). "Maria Bamford on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert". The Comics Comic. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  16. ^ "Lady Dynamite". May 20, 2016. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  17. ^ "Maria Bamford's Lady Dynamite comedy series is heading to Netflix". Entertainment Weekly. Meredith Corporation. June 19, 2015. Retrieved June 22, 2015.
  18. ^ "Maria Bamford Announces 'Lady Dynamite' Premiere Date – With A Little Help". Deadline Hollywood. Los Angeles, California: Penske Media Corporation. February 23, 2016. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  19. ^ Fox, Jesse David (May 20, 2016). "Maria Bamford Walks You Through Lady Dynamite". New York City: New York Media. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  20. ^ Jacoby Zoldan, Rachel (May 19, 2017). "This Graduation Speaker Made Her Entire Commencement Speech About Her Fee". Teen Vogue. Condé Nast. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
  21. ^ Freeeman, Zach (August 20, 2016). "Maria Bamford on edge and on point at the Athenaeum Theatre". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois: Tronc. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  22. ^ a b Sims, David (May 20, 2016). "Maria Bamford's 'Lady Dynamite' Is a Weird, Sweet Comedy". Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  23. ^ Hill, Libby (February 24, 2016). "'Who is Maria Bamford?' Judd Apatow and others try to explain". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  24. ^ Ryan, Maureen (May 17, 2016). "TV Review: 'Lady Dynamite'". Variety. Los Angeles, California: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved August 6, 2016.
  25. ^ Burger, David (June 22, 2011). "Comic Maria Bamford will cross personal boundaries at Utah show". The Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Laker City, Utah: Huntsman Family Investments, LLC. I was re-diagnosed (after a three-day stay at the hospital) as Bipolar II
  26. ^ Burch, Cathalena (September 4, 2014). "Comic takes on politics, understanding conservatives and suicide". Arizona Daily Star. Tucson, Arizona: Lee Enterprises. Retrieved December 31, 2014.
  27. ^ Burchby, Casey (November 9, 2012). "Comedian Maria Bamford Still Blames Herself for Her Dog's Accident". Dogster. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  28. ^

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