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9 Quick Questions for Maria Bamford

Comedian’s new memoir, ‘Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult,’ reveals how support groups gave her a sense of belonging

spinner image maria bamford against blue and purple ombre background
Photo Collage: MOA Staff; (Source: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images)

Judd Apatow, who has directed comedies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, once called comedian Maria Bamford, 52, “the funniest living being in the world.” But her life hasn’t always been a barrel of laughs. In her new memoir, Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult: A Memoir of Mental Illness and the Quest to Belong Anywhere, she shares a raw look at her mental health struggles and why she feels that some groups — such as 12-step programs and organized belief systems — can provide that illusive sense of community she craves. 

What in your book do you think will most surprise your fans?

spinner image maria bamford on book cover that says a memoir of mental illness and the quest to belong anywhere, sure i'll join your cult
In her new memoir, Bamford candidly shares about her struggles with depression and eating disorders.
Simon & Schuster

I talk about everything. I’m not a secret-keeper [in general]. I think they will maybe be surprised how cranky I am?

You talk frankly about your mental health struggles. Why do you think it’s important to use humor to talk about serious topics like depression and eating disorders?

Especially when you’re in it, it doesn’t feel very funny. I think whatever is helpful to people [is important], because just like any health issue, [mental health] is serious. I don’t want to be entertaining people out of taking direct action toward their own welfare. But I think I have lived experience, and I find a lot of the things very funny in retrospect — things that have happened that are taboo. I think that can be very helpful if we share with each other.

Do you have a favorite book?

One I’ve read a billion times is The Artist’s Way [by Julia Cameron]. I read it when I was 23, and it totally changed my life in terms of putting some sort of clarity to wanting to be a comedian. I realized, I can call myself that, and here are some steps I can do. That book has changed a lot of people’s lives.

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If you had to join a cult, which one do you think it would be?

Of course, it’s subjective. I am in 12-step groups, which some people find very culty, so I’m already doing that. The only thing I can say that makes it not a cult is that it is free. I think any one [of the cults] would be interesting for about a week.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love parties. I love having people over to our house and going swimming. I really do love 12-step groups. I like the storytelling element of those programs, where you can kind of be a witness to someone’s recovery or journey.

What was the best part about playing Debrie Bardeaux on Arrested Development

Lying down by a dumpster — that is in my wheelhouse of acting. That is what I was born to play. Anything where I can seem shaky and unable to speak — that’s also in my wheelhouse. I was really honored to be even a tiny part on such a wonderful show.

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You’re known for your love of dogs, especially pugs. Why that breed?

Pugs are always in love with you. They like to sit next to you, and they like to snuggle. They are also very low energy for the most part, or at least the pugs that I get are. We don’t usually get a pug unless it’s over 10 years old. Our current pug, Max, is around 13. It’s lovely. I don't like having to figure out whether a dog is into me or not.

If you weren’t a comedian, what do you think you would be doing?

I’m hoping to move into peer advocacy and training. I’m doing a 90-hour [online] training that they have in the state of California. It’s through the Painted Brain, which is an open day center for people with mental health issues to hang out. They have an art room, and there are places to connect with services. I hope to do more of that, while still performing. I really love being useful on a one-on-one level.

spinner image maria bamford behind microphone with james corden
Bamford appeared last year on “The Late Late Show With James Corden.” She is currently perfoming stand-up on a nationwide tour.
Terence Patrick/CBS via Getty Images

You’re in the midst of a nationwide stand-up tour. What are your strategies for staying healthy and connected while on the road?

That tour is just one week a month. I try to have time off in between. I bring my husband, and sometimes, if I can afford it, I bring my opener, my friend Jackie Kashian. That’s lovely to have that community along. One thing I’ve been using the internet for: I’ll tweet out — say where I am — and see if anybody wants to meet me for coffee. That’s really been a lifesaver in terms of just feeling more connected to the place that I’m in. I love the internet for that.

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