Laugh­ing at ad­ver­sity

Maria Bam­ford’s strug­gles be­come a source of ma­te­rial for act

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - Showtime - Palm Beach - - SPOTLIGHT - By Phillip Valys

Maria Bam­ford’s go-to yoga po­si­tion is the re­clined pi­geon, in which the co­me­dian lies on her back, crosses both legs like she’s strik­ing an early-’90s break­dancer pose, and lets grav­ity do the rest. It’s light. It’s low-im­pact.

“That’s my fa­vorite thing, when there’s lit­tle- to- no ef­fort in­volved,” Bam­ford says with a laugh, de­scrib­ing her morn­ing yoga ses­sion at home in Los An­ge­les. “You put out enough en­ergy to make peo­ple think you still ex­ist, but not too much to draw at­ten­tion.”

The irony is that Bam­ford, who will per­form to­day at the Palm Beach Im­prov in West Palm Beach, is no slouch. Bam­ford’s am­bi­tious and crit­i­cally ac­claimed Net­flix se­ries, “Lady Dy­na­mite,” has drawn more at­ten­tion than the 47-year-old comic can han­dle. On the sit­com, Bam­ford plays a fic­tion­al­ized ver­sion of her­self as she strug­gles to restart a ca­reer af­ter a men­tal break­down, a typeII bipo­lar dis­or­der di­ag­no­sis and a stay in a psy­chi­atric ward, all of which also hap­pened in real life. “I want to be less am­bi­tious, or maybe not am­bi­tious, any­more,” Bam­ford ex­plains to her overzeal­ous tal­ent agent in the first episode.

Bam­ford says even her 2017 Net­flix spe­cial, “Old Baby,” has reaped more at­ten­tion than her 2012 spe­cial, “The Spe­cial Spe­cial Spe­cial,” in which she awk­wardly per­formed at home for an au­di­ence of two: her par­ents.

“I’m a com­plete bull---- artist,” Bam­ford says of her work ethic. “I’m def­i­nitely hus­tling, and I’m to­tally into work­ing as much as I can, but I can’t do19-hour days, on five hours of sleep, for months. I know I’m not Kathy Grif­fin. She’s a hus­tler. And she’s main­tain­ing a very low weight. I just want to earn a cer­tain amount a month. I’ve got to keep get­ting the pugs’ eye­ball med­i­ca­tion. But I don’t have that will­ing­ness to hus­tle a lot.

Bam­ford says a small work sched­ule now helps pre­serve her men­tal health, a topic she’s com­fort­able spin­ning into com­edy on “Lady Dy­na­mite,” which will pre- miere its sec­ond sea­son Nov. 10 on Net­flix. Mir­ror­ing the co­me­dian’s per­son­al­ity, Bam­ford’s char­ac­ter on “Lady Dy­na­mite” is an eas­ily ex­citable fire­cracker, bounc­ing back and forth between manic highs and slug­gish lows. She says she’s been open about her bipo­lar dis­or­der with the show’s writ­ing staff, who’ve been “re­spect­ful of the whole men­tal thing,” she says.

Public ac­cep­tance of other celebri­ties with men­tal ill­nesses, ”such as co­me­dian Tig No­taro and singer Demi Lo­vato, has helped her con­fi­dence, Bam­ford says.

“There’s even a bipo­lar mag­a­zine, for god sakes. It comes out quar­terly,” Bam­ford says. “It’s part of a greater move­ment in our so­ci­ety. When you’re sick, you’re de­void of any per­sonal self-con­fi­dence. But I’m very con­fi­dent now. It’s just that my nat­u­ral state is in­er­tia. As a co­me­dian my en­ergy on­stage is mostly ‘I don’t care,’ but I des­per­ately care.”

Bam­ford’s real-life pit­falls and tri­umphs are con­stantly re­flected on “Lady Dy­na­mite.” Early in the first sea­son, Bam­ford’s char­ac­ter shoots a se­ries of com­mer­cials dressed as an overly hy­per shop­per in­side a big-box re­tailer. These scenes are a re-cre­ation of her ac­tual 2010 hol­i­day com­mer­cials for Tar­get, filmed just be­fore her hos­pi­tal­iza­tion.

Bam­ford, who re­cently fin­ished tak­ing begin­ner- level act­ing classes at the Up­right Cit­i­zens Bri­gade the­ater in Los An­ge­les, says Sea­son 2 will dive into her mar­riage to artist Scott Marvel Cas­sidy, whom she met on an on­line dat­ing site.

“It’s even more bizarre to me, be­cause it’s about my hus­band, and that ex­pe­ri­ence, and it’s also sci­ence fic­tion-themed,” Bam­ford says, crack­ing up with a snort. “It’s al­most con­fus­ing, but I swear it will all make sense. Maybe only to me.”


“You put out enough en­ergy to make peo­ple think you still ex­ist, but not too much to draw at­ten­tion,”says co­me­dian Maria Bam­ford.

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