Maria Bamford Is Hilariously Transparent

The negative side of it—to me—is the lack of welcoming for somebody who isn’t all-in. Like to go, “Hey, I’m just here for harm reduction. I’d like to stop doing heroin, but I can’t right now.” You know, like, well, what can you do? I think I have a problem with 12 Step where it’s demonizing people who aren’t adhering to sobriety. I think that’s unhelpful.

Something that comes across so many times in the book is transparency. In a financial aspect— I watched a commencement address you gave [at University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts] where you completely focused on negotiation.

Yeah, and what I didn’t get. I could have gotten more money. God damnit! If I had been a better negotiator and held out for one more week, I could’ve gotten 15 grand. [Bamford got a $5,000 speaking fee, which she donated to a graduating student.]

That’s still pretty good. But in the book, there’s a pretty in-depth accounting of the finances, but you wanted to include even more detail. Why was that important to you?

I love attention. Let’s just say that. From Baby J, I really appreciated John Mulaney saying that at the end of his special. ‘If I can just get enough attention, now I’ll be fine.‘ So I think that’s the unattractive part of me. But also, it’s all I have to give. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be more open. Because I’ve been surprised how people still don’t pay openers. Not always, some people are paying people well, but it’s like the fact that when I ask a club, ‘What are you paying opener?’ And they’re paying what I got paid 30 years ago to open for people.

Maybe someone will negotiate for more the next time. Maybe it gives other comedians the information of like, ‘Hey, if someone’s good, if they’re getting 45 bucks a ticket at a club, and they’re doing seven shows that week, they’re making—with all the merch, after-show pictures, meet-and-greets, they’re making about 40 or 50 grand, so you asking for $1,000 or just $600, they might actually be grateful for you asking them if they like you as an act. And that’s the other thing: people don’t always know that the reason someone picked them as their opener is because it’s of serious value to them.

I have a manager, an agent, I still have to negotiate for myself. There’s certain things that I can only do myself, that I feel really uncomfortable [if I don’t do.] So anyways, a lot of it is I’m just virtue signaling what a great person I am. Which is monstrous. Apologies all around.

That’s something that comes up often now, virtue signaling, but everybody’s doing a performance. You might as well perform something good.

[I follow] a couple people on Instagram. I’m just like, ‘Oh my God. Yeah, you give that destitute family a whole new house and a crutches for the kid.’ Yes. Like, Like, Like, Like, Like! I have no problem with it. There’s the Jewish tradition of a mitzvah, where it only counts if you don’t talk about it.


I’ve never been able to manage mitzvah.

I looked for that Ethicist column you mentioned it in the book. I think I found it from October 2010. It starts, it starts off, ‘I am a celebrity broadly speaking spokesperson for a company that I’ve always loved,’ which was Target.

That’s it!

Something in there from the Ethicist’s response seems to be like a recurring theme in some of your concerns. ‘The more influential your post, the greater your moral responsibility.’ That sounds like what you were talking about, and getting younger comedians that information.

Yeah, I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ve got nothing to lose at this point. I hope, anyways, I feel embarrassed of that because I was kind of mental at the time when I was doing it, but that’s definitely my obsession. I was doing that job. I love Target. I was just at Target yesterday. But it became untenable.

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