A short interview with comedian, Maria Bamford
conducted by Kyle Dowling
THE BELIEVER: You’re very open about the difficult times in your own past. Depression, mental illness, insecurity.
MARIA BAMFORD: Yeah. A mental health issue for me is that my whole life I’ve been bipolar. Sometimes I didn’t realize it. I’ve been hospitalized for that and wow—at least for me—it’s really embarrassing. There’s a lot of shame in that and generally I have to keep telling myself it’s just a health issue. It’s not like I made it happen. And like any other health condition I need to go to the doctor. I need to regulate my meds. I need to pay more attention to diet and exercise and getting support around the illness. I think those issues are like any other but I know in telling certain friends about it some wouldn’t want to visit me at the psychiatric hospital. It’s so different than somebody getting a hip replacement where it’s, ‘We’re getting you balloons and a teddy bear!’ And, you know, I had some friends that react that way. ‘We’re going to get you balloons! But we’re going to take the ribbons off the balloons because… you know!’
BLVR: But with everything that you just mentioned, somehow it manifested itself in comedy. It didn’t go down the road of “poor me.” You decided to make light of it. How did you make that decision?
MB: I don’t think it was a conscious thing. I think in the moment it’s a little hard to talk about it. For me, it takes at least a minute to have a sense of humor about things, at least 60 seconds.
BLVR: Is there a certain topic you’d like to cover in your act but you just can’t seem to figure out how?
MB: Yeah. My beloved dog Blossom who I had for 12 years. I killed her by accident. I removed a ramp that goes from my house to the backyard. It was purely out of laziness. I just didn’t want my other dog to get inside and trip over the garbage can. It was thoughtlessness and being high on caffeine and just not thinking. I moved the ramp and she was an older dog. So she fell and died.
BLVR: Oh my god. I’m sorry to hear that.
MB: It’s a real bummer and there’s not really anything funny to say about it so far. But I’ve really judged people who have done those sorts of things. I’ve heard of people leaving an infant in the car, being distracted and the child dying. I would think, “You’re ridiculous!’ And this isn’t a child. I don’t want to say that a dog is a child, but it’s the same behavior - being out of it. I haven’t been able to talk about it without crying. Unless I do some motivation speaking and break into some Irish ballads I don’t think I’ll be talking about it soon. She was a big part of my act. She was in all these videos I did. So I don’t know if I’m going to do it. But one thing I did think of, had Blossom done the same thing—killed me by accident—I know she would’ve eaten me within 24 hours, once the tissue started breaking down. I heard this story, this one guy died in his apartment and his pugs ate him.
BLVR: The pugs ate his body?
MB: Yep, yep. That’s what pugs do. They love to eat. They just loved him so much. That’s awful. Sorry. But I do want to talk about it. I was horrified and still am. I Googled I killed my pet by accident.
BLVR: In a weird way it goes back to the ‘you’re not the only one’ thing. You’re not alone.
MB: Yeah! And I was relieved, thinking, ‘Okay, I’d forgive that person. That person really loves animals and is still living their life.’ I’ve tried to change as a result of it. I’ve lowered the caffeine and I’m trying to eat better so I’m not running on doughnuts and maybe doing one thing at a time instead of seven. But clearly there’s nothing funny about it yet.
BLVR: Do you find it easy to slow down?
MB: No, no. I do not find that easy at all.