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“I know that ‘banana’ works”—an interview with Maria Bamford


In 2008, while writing a blog for, I discovered that comedian Maria Bamford was doing the online dating thing. (I think she talked about it in her stand-up, or one of her comedy shorts.) Naturally, I wanted to know more…

Interview with Maria Bamford (June, 2008)

A friend told me about Maria Bamford’s three-minute shorts on Super Deluxe (resurrected in 2016 as a YouTube channel) and I was immediately hooked after watching one episode. The idea is that Maria, a Professional Comedian in L.A., loses it and moves back in with her family in Duluth, Minnesota. This gives Maria ample opportunity to play her disapproving mom, her slightly out-of-it dad, her catatonic boyfriend Todd, her nail-biting sister, and her frazzled boss Amy. It also lets Maria do crazy things to her hair and dress up Blossom, her pug, in any way she pleases.

Sadly, Maria is no longer making episodes of her show. But she is busy with her standup (visit for tour dates and ordering info for her CD How to WIN!), with her voiceover work, and with filming Sit Down, Shut Up!, a Fox TV show airing in a year featuring many of the cast members of the late, lamented Arrested Development. Because Maria is doing the online dating thing, and because she’s so f’in’ hilarious, I wanted to interview her for the blog. She was kind enough to chat for an hour about self-help, dating, and dog psychics (which, alas, didn’t make the final cut).

SC: How much of The Maria Bamford Show is true?

MB: Well, none of it’s true. I haven’t moved home with my family. It’s my greatest fear that I would have to move home with my parents so I thought I’d do a show about that. A lot of the issues are true, though. I have had a lot of depression. And the OCD issues are true, the dynamics and the family type stuff are true.

SC: You’re a comedian in real life. Who are you on a date?

MB: There’s an element of performance to what I do that takes away from the vulnerability/intimacy factor. Meeting someone, I want to be real with that person. I’m also a very sincere, serious person when I’m not joking. Not that I’m wearing a snood. I went on an Internet date a couple of weeks ago and I asked him about himself, and then he asked me about me and myself, and I said I was going to New York on the weekend. And then he says, “Oh, so you’re a big deal,” and then I think he thinks I think I’m a big deal, and then I’m thinking “revamp, revamp, revamp.”

SC: I would think working in the entertainment field you’d meet lots of guys.

MB: That’s what I would think too. I haven’t had many people ask me out. I get a lot of email solicitations, and I tell them come talk to me, I’m always at the shows on Monday [Maria co-hosts What’s Up Tiger Lily? at the Cuba Libra Bar in L.A. when she’s in town]. But they live in other countries, or they live in Alaska and they’re in their late 60s. I’d rather go on a dating site—then I know they’re looking for the same things I am–rather than meet someone at a bar, where maybe they’re interested in something else. I dated a guy I met online for six months. He was a great guy and we were looking for the same thing. It didn’t work out for other reasons. I’m totally into self-help and love talking about psychology, and that’s a giant thing for me. I think when I talked about it all he heard was [makes a high-pitched, keening sound]. I felt bad for him.

SC: What is your screening process?

MB: It’s based on what they write though it doesn’t necessarily have to be funny. I have friends who are really funny in person but might not be good at expressing it. I’m much more conscious of using a funny word ’cos I know that “banana” works. Right now, it’s someone who likes talking about God, who is interested in spirituality, and meditation [pronounces it “med-I-tay-she-o”] and using Spanglish to pronounce words like that. And someone who’s a goofball, but you can’t always tell.

SC: Are you getting good at weeding out people you won’t have anything to talk about with?

MB:  I think so. Sometimes I screen people who aren’t very good at talking on the phone because I travel a lot and I like talking on the phone. I’m still single at 37, but I have been trying. I met this guy, I don’t know, he had done a lot of talking on the phone, and he did all these impersonations of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I don’t know if he was disgusted or just nervous, but when we met he couldn’t make eye contact. I felt like, “I’m a big hosebeast.”

SC: In one of the episodes of The Maria Bamford Show, you’re ecstatic when you meet a guy you think will be your boyfriend so you can stop dating.

MB: It’s so awesome when you’ve decided you’re going to be steady buddies. Then it’s just like, oh we can make some plans, we can go on trips. You have a date to go places. I know I have friends, so I can do that with my friends. But it’s fun and a relief. But I think part of that, that guy Todd, he said nothing, he didn’t talk at all. Then you can put whatever fantasies you want on them, or whatever you think their thoughts are. And so, “Oh, he’s an amazing thoughtful person.” Maybe the reason he doesn’t talk very much is he doesn’t have very much to say. Or he’s not thinking about much.

In any relationship, I’ve found it’s important to really listen to what the person says about themselves. The last guy I went out with, on the sixth date, he was uncomfortable with something I was wearing. It was at an event and he didn’t like the colour. It was hot pink. And I felt terrible. At that point I should’ve said, “You know, that’s totally not going to work because that’s just not my thing where what you’re wearing is important.”

And that was important in his life—it was almost like a spiritual thing. Like he had lots of wonderful socks, which he matched with his clothes. I love that. And he wasn’t good at expressing it: “You’re wearing a pink dress and I’m scared.” It was like he was mad. So I’ve just got to trust my own instincts. And then the last guy I dated said, “Oh this is a really a bad time for me to have a relationship.” And that was so true! I didn’t learn the details of it until a year in. He had had some bisexual experiences that he told me about later. And it was like, Oh my God, it is a bad time. He was responsible for going forward too, but you have to listen when someone says something. They’re saying it for a reason. Those are two of my lessons. But there are many relationships to come, Shawn.

SC: Do you have any guys on the line now?

MB: Nobody. But I’m on [competing site]. And if anybody lives in the Los Angeles area and is an appropriate age range, within five years—well, I guess eight years older and five years younger. I don’t know, I’ve never dated anyone younger than me. I just think too far one way or the other, and it’s different what you’re ready for and what you’re interested in. I don’t know. When I was 32… I still wanted to par-tay.

I don’t know if there is a God, but I just think there’s gotta be somebody within five miles of where I live. It can’t be a guy in Bangladesh.

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