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Comedian Maria Bamford uses laughter as mental health medicine

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Posted at 12:35 PM, Aug 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-31 15:35:18-04

Maria Bamford has made a mark in the entertainment world as an actress and comedian — not just with her quick-witted and self-deprecating humor but also with her ability to talk candidly about her mental health issues and other sensitive topics, including depression, anxiety, and suicide.

Her first comedy album eventually led to more comedy specials, feature films, and television shows, including the 2016 Netflix original series "Lady Dynamite" based on her own life.

During an appearance on "The Late Late Show with James Corden," Bamford joked with the audience. “Oh, my goodness, how delightful! You guys...some people love life; I’ve always been on the fence about the whole thing.”

During another stand-up routine on Comedy Central, Bamford talked about her depression, obsessive-compulsive and bipolar disorders, and what she described as “unwanted” thoughts about violence and self-harm.

“I told a friend, hey, heads up! If I ever start talking too fast about wanting to get in touch with the Pope or some other ethical authority, put me in a purple van and drive me to doggy daycare because I need to be boarded for the weekend,” Bamford joked.

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Maria Bamford

While some of Bamford’s remarks have caused controversy in the mental health community, her unique ability to joke about difficult issues has resonated with many who love Bamford’s knack for talking about mental health diseases in a way that makes it easy for people to relate to and understand.

She said comedy had been a nice distraction since she started stand-up at the age of 19 because it allows her to confide in other people openly and honestly.

“It felt great to me. I loved having everybody know everything,” Bamford told CBS 6 Photojournalist Chris Jenkins.

Bamford recently brought her highly-acclaimed show to Richmond, where she captivated audiences at The National.

“The thing I’m most passionate about now is just so people don’t feel bad when they ask for help, and it’s shitty. Like, sometimes I think that can be heartbreaking when you ask for help, and it’s bad, the response received, or non-existent,” Bamford said.

Bamford encouraged others to continue seeking help, even if they found the treatment challenging, numbing, or not receiving all the answers they were looking for.

“I don’t have the greatest psychiatrist, she’s not the greatest!” Bamford said. “I go to imperfect places for help. I go to 12-step programs, which are a mess of nonsense, but they are free, and they are all the time on Zoom.”

Sarah Metzger, a fan, said she drove from New York to Richmond to see Bamford’s show. The Alabama native said Bamford was an inspiration in helping her heal from a difficult time in her life.

“I’ve been a fan of Maria Bamford for a really, really long time,” Metzger said.

“I really got into her stuff, probably 2017, around then," Metzger said. "She talks so openly about her mental health struggles and at that time, I was just coming out of a hospital. I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt. I also do comedy and music, and it gave me the courage to be more real in my comedy.”

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Maria Bamford and fan, Sarah Metzger (August 31, 2022)

Metzger said she was thrilled that she got the chance to meet Bamford after the show to share her own story.

“I tried, but kinda panicked, like I started fan girling,” Metzger joked. “I think we’re best friends now.”

It’s that connection, Bamford said, that is important to share with her fans. While on tour, Bamford likes to reach out and connect with people on a personal level.

“I always try to find where I can connect with people, so sometimes I get on Twitter, and I’ll get somebody, a fan, to meet me for coffee, and that really helps me to feel very connected to a place,” Bamford said.

While fame and fortune have been nice, Bamford said the best part of her job is reassuring people who are suffering that they are not alone in this world and that there are many reasons to keep on laughing and loving life.

“I wish health, I wish health for everyone,” Bamford said. “And a billion dollars because money makes people happy, right?”

This segment is sponsored by WHOA Behavioral Health.

Tracy Sears at WTVR first reported this story.