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?
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.
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.