Maria Bamford Finds New Hobbies, Discusses Mental Illness and New Show 'Lady Dynamite'

Maria Bamford Finds New Hobbies, Discusses Mental Illness and New Show 'Lady Dynamite'
Photo by Doug Hyun
There is no one out there like Maria Bamford. Whether you watch her fearlessly alternative hour of standup, The Special Special Special, catch her on Arrested Development as Tobias Fünke's love interest DeBrie Bardeaux, or binge watch her new Netflix show Lady Dynamite, you will always find her distinctive voice unmistakably piercing through.
"Right now I'm working on a bit about hobbies. I didn't think I had any... then I looked at what I was always doing in my free time, and I was always doing something self-help related," Bamford tells Exclaim!, when asked about her favourite joke in her new hour of material. "So now I'm putting together a three-part piece on that idea: that my bettering myself is in fact just like a video game of emotional sudoku. It's just something I enjoy doing on the weekend, like woodworking or hiking."
For most people, managing depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder is hardly comparable to a literal walk in the park, but Bamford's optimism can take even the darkest of topics into playful territory. On the flip side though, she can also make even the most everyday things grimly funny.
"I don't have strong opinions about music — maybe partly because I played the violin for 16 years and have some PTSD." Bamford deadpans. "I enjoy dancing to anything... slow dancing especially."
In addition to her persistent hopefulness, there's a certain humility to Bamford that makes her endlessly engaging. When asked about how her critically adored series Lady Dynamite managed to capture her experiences with mental illness with so much depth, Bamford humbly gave all the credit to the show's writers. "[Creators] Pam [Brady] and Mitch [Hurwitz] did a wonderful job of it. I'm sure it's not everyone's experience, but for me, they really interpreted the stories I told them and added their own imagination. It was a total group endeavour."
Though it goes without saying that the Emmy Award-winning writers from South Park and Arrested Development made a massive impact on the show, I think Bamford undervalues herself by repeatedly attributing all of the show's strengths to the writers. After all, Bamford created the most rich fodder for a television show a writing team could possibly ask for. Not only did she have multiple albums of singular, autobiographical standup for them to draw from, she also offered them decades of anecdotes about grappling with mental health, relationships, and show business that were so vulnerably personal that the show couldn't help but be compelling.
Similarly, I can't help but feel Bamford underestimates her brilliance as she shares her enlightened view on the purpose of existence. "At this juncture, on this day, the meaning of life is to enjoy what there is to enjoy and do what I can to participate." Bamford said succinctly. "Everything that's happened recently in the States has been really sad and horrifying —  but I hope I hope I hope that all of the reporting about injustice, gun violence, and economic disparity will lead to change. It's awful that things have been like this for years and there just hasn't been the ability to document it with real time internet witnesses. I don't know. And I think I know less and less as time goes on."
Though Bamford may claim not to know much, fans know that she's far brighter and more gifted than she ever gives herself credit for.