Maria Bamford

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Maria Bamford
Bamford performing at a comedy club in 2008
Born (1970-09-03) September 3, 1970 (age 46)
Port Hueneme, California, U.S.
Medium Stand-up, television, film
Nationality American
Alma mater Bates College
University of Edinburgh
University of Minnesota
Years active 1989–present
Genres Observational comedy, character comedy, surreal humor, alternative comedy
Subject(s) Pop culture, personal life, mental health
Spouse 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. A native of California, Bamford grew up in Minnesota before gaining admission to Bates College in Maine where she studied abroad and eventually transferred to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Her comedy aspirations formalized at Edinburgh as she joined the university's improvised comedy group, The Improverts. After a year in Scotland, she transferred to the University of Minnesota, where she began doing stand up at Stevie Ray's Comedy Cabaret.

After her stint at the Comedy Club, she went on to release her first comedy album prompting her first comedy tour, The Burning Bridges Tour (2003) followed by her second album, How to WIN!, and her third, Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome (2009). She starred in her first feature film, Lucky Numbers (2000) before lending her voice to characters on CatDog, 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 transitioned into television early on in her career 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 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 Elizabeth Sheldon Bamford was born on September 3, 1970 at the Port Hueneme Naval Base in Port Hueneme, California.[1] At the time her father Joel was serving as a Navy doctor. She grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, where she attended Chester Park Elementary and The Marshall School. When Bamford was younger she has stated that 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, she attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. In a 2014 interview with The New York Times, Bamford elaborated on her experience as a college student. She recalled as a sophomore at Bates in 1990 she felt "isolated" and in "a period of despair", when she called the college's suicide hotline after she ate a large amount of food in order to self harm.[4]

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 Bachelor of Arts in creative writing. She started doing stand-up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at age 19, at Stevie Ray's Comedy Cabaret.[1]


Early comedic 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.[5]

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.[5]

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.[6] For Christmas 2009, she released a free stand-up special online as a gift to her fans.[7]

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.[8][9]

In 2013, Bamford created and stars in a web series called Ask My Mom. Maria plays both herself and her mom, who answers questions sent in by fans.[10] Also in 2013, Bamford appeared as herself in one episode of the interview web series All Growz Up with Melinda Hill.[11] She provides the voice of Pema in Nickelodeon cartoon The Legend of Korra.[5]

In 2013, she appeared in season four of Arrested Development as DeBrie Bardeaux, Tobias Fünke's love interest.[12] 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]

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

Further information: Lady Dynamite

She appeared in Season 3 of Louis CK's Louie.[13] In 2014, she co-created, wrote, and starred in The Program with Melinda Hill, produced by Funny or Die.[14][15] 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 he called her his "favorite comedian on planet Earth."[16]

In early 2016, Netflix announced the creation of an original series based on Bamford's life.[17] The series, called Lady Dynamite, has Bamford in the lead role.[18][19] 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 episode herself, but was in the writers' room often, discussing ideas and "hanging out" with the writers. The writers had freedom to modify her experiences for creative purposes.[20]

Comedy and mannerisms[edit]

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

Judd Apatow

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 "bizzare", 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] as well as obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD),[22] "the new gladiator sandal," as she puts it in her comic performances.[9]

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. She has a private residence in Los Angeles, California.[4]


Bamford has starred in 76 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.[5]




Web series[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Maria Bamford". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  2. ^ a b Steiner, Amanda Michelle. "American Comedy Awards Winners List: Bill Hader, Amy Poehler & More". Hollywood Life. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 13 June 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Corbett, Sara (2014-07-17). "The Weird, Scary and Ingenious Brain of Maria Bamford". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-09-18. 
  4. ^ a b Corbett, Sara (2014-07-17). "The Weird, Scary and Ingenious Brain of Maria Bamford". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Maria Bamford". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-09-18. 
  6. ^ Keller, Joel (November 24, 2009). "Maria Bamford plays a demented shopper in new Target ads". TVSquad. AOL Television. Retrieved March 5, 2010. 
  7. ^ Maria Bamford's One-Hour Homemade Christmas Special! on Vimeo
  8. ^ "Maria Bamford: the special special special!". Chill. 2012-11-29. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  9. ^ a b Sara Corbett (July 17, 2014). "The Weird, Scary and Ingenious Brain of Maria Bamford". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ David, Haglund. "Maria Bamford on Arrested Development and Her New Web Series, Ask My Mom!". Slate. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  11. ^ Balthazar, Brian. ""All Growz Up" Talks To Maria Bamford In A Back Alley". Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  12. ^ Onion, Rebecca. "Tobias gets served.". Slate. Retrieved May 30, 2013. 
  13. ^ Maria Bamford (2012-07-20). "What it's like to work with Louis C. K.". Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  14. ^ "Maria Bamford, Melinda Hill's Funny Or Die series The Program features Jerry Minor, Oscar Nunez and more as Debtors Anonymous members (Videos)". LAUGHSPIN. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  15. ^ "The Program Part 1: Visions". Funny or Die. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  16. ^ McCarthy, Sean L. (16 January 2016). "Maria Bamford on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert". The Comics Comic. Retrieved 19 January 2016. 
  17. ^ Lady Dynamite, 2016-05-20, retrieved 2016-09-18 
  18. ^ "Maria Bamford's Lady Dynamite comedy series is heading to Netflix". Entertainment Weekly. June 19, 2015. Retrieved June 22, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Maria Bamford Announces 'Lady Dynamite' Premiere Date – With A Little Help". Deadline. February 23, 2016. Retrieved February 23, 2016. 
  20. ^ Fox, Jesse David (May 20, 2016). "Maria Bamford Walks You Through Lady Dynamite". 
  21. ^ Tribune, Chicago. "Maria Bamford on edge and on point at the Athenaeum Theatre". Retrieved 2016-09-18. 
  22. ^ a b Sims, David. "Maria Bamford's 'Lady Dynamite' Is a Weird, Sweet Comedy". Retrieved 2016-09-18. 
  23. ^ Times, Los Angeles. "'Who is Maria Bamford?' Judd Apatow and others try to explain". Retrieved 2016-09-18. 
  24. ^ Ryan, Maureen (May 17, 2016). "TV Review: 'Lady Dynamite'". Variety. Retrieved August 6, 2016. 
  25. ^ David Burger (June 22, 2011). "Comic Maria Bamford will cross personal boundaries at Utah show". The Salt Lake Tribune. I was re-diagnosed (after a three-day stay at the hospital) as Bipolar II 
  26. ^ Burch, Cathalena (4 September 2014). "Comic takes on politics, understanding conservatives and suicide". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved 31 December 2014. 

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