It’s hard to find humor in the sadness of the past year. Yet, for at least one long-revered comedian, an entire career has led to greater understanding and hope for what the future of funny holds.
This coming Sunday, comedian Maria Bamford brings her 30+ years of personal, dysfunctional and melancholic comedic charms to the San Jose Improv for one night and one show only. The show—just one stop of Bamford’s 16-city tour—will bring the comedian’s sensibilities back to a semi-post COVID-19 audience—something she has missed throughout shelter-in-place.
“I love performing live—it’s just so delightful to hear live laughter again,” she says via phone from her recent four-show stop in Albany, New York. “I didn’t realize how much I adored that.”
Known primarily for her voiceover work on shows including Big Mouth, Bob’s Burgers and Adventure Time, Bamford never stopped performing during the pandemic. Like many other comedians, she pivoted to virtual shows, something she has both enjoyed and has helped to perfect her act.
“One way I practice my material is one-on-one, and to do it over Zoom is so convenient for me,” she says. “I tweet out and ask if anyone has time at [certain times], and then I can do my show for [that person]…and they get a tee-shirt sent to them! Now that restrictions are ripe, I can do it in person—I’m actually going to meet someone today.”
During the pandemic, Bamford took on a whole new cadre of work, continuing to prove her status as one of the hardest-working and most determined comedians in Hollywood. Currently, she is writing a book, lending her voice to animated sitcoms HouseBroken and Summer Camp Island, and is the star of the new animated show Teenage Euthansia.
The latter—created by Alyson Levy and Alissa Nutting, which premiered on Sept. 6 on Adult Swim—focuses on Bamford’s Trophy Fantasy, a teenage mother who left her baby Euthanasia “Annie” Fantasy with her mother and brother.
“It was just superb—it’s very dark, features a zombie suicide, and that can be intense,” she says. “But it’s very funny, I hope people can check it out.”
Coming back to in-person shows, Bamford is still getting used to the COVID-19 rules and regulations from city to city. She feels primarily for the servers at each club she performs at, as they already have way too much to do and the regulations for attending a show—vaxxed or proof of a negative COVID-19 test, masked or unmasked—can change day-to-day.
“I could ask for a vax card, but I’m too afraid—I’m a coward,” she laughed. “There’s no joke here—it’s not the most hilarious topic, and I’m the most protected Fabergé egg.”
While in Albany, Bamford performed both for upwards of 400 people per night and also balanced a performance for six people in a private home’s garage. Regardless of size, she called each experience “breathtaking.”
“I hope that I can remember that but I’m a human being, I get used to bliss pretty easily and then ask, ‘what’s more blissful? But here’s hoping!’”
If nothing else, 2020 acted as a reminder of the importance of both honesty and generosity.
“There’s only so much time on Earth—do the thing that you said you always wanted to do,” she says. “Be more pleasant, be more generous—this is the time to do that.”
Sun, 7pm, $30
The Improv, San Jose