I don't know what you were doing out late on Friday night, because I'm not your mother and you didn't update your Facebook and Twitter status to check in with me on Foursquare. But I do know that if you had stayed in and tuned in Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, you would have enjoyed it as Craigy Ferg welcomed both Billy Connolly and "the adorable and hilarious" Maria Bamford to his late-night story time.
Here is the Bammer's set from that show -- now with pink hair! -- in which she notes that the holidays remind her that she's not real big on relationships right about now. Also, if you want to see why Maria Bamford doesn't want to get botox, watch all the way to the end. I know. You already were going to watch the whole thing. So what are you waiting for? Roll it!
Thanksgiving is still a week away, but last night, I saw an amazing new ad for Target's "Black Friday" 2-day post-Turkey-Day sale that showed comedian Maria Bamford training and running all around the store. That spot's not online just yet, but others are.
Just like last year, it's nice to see Target making the most out of the Bammer, who like Target, is a Minnesota native.
Here's what's online so far. You can visit this page on Target to see the other clips as they become available.
And if you want to pull back the curtain and see why Target asked the Bammer back for 2010, then watch this calculated analysis on the company's 2009 ad campaign. Trade secrets! (Not really secret)
The second "Women in Comedy Festival" kicked off last night in the Boston area, with shows continuing through the weekend at Improv Boston in Cambridge and Mottley's Comedy Club in Boston.
It could easily be another gimmicky thing. But to the credit of festival co-director Maria Ciampa and her fellow organizers, it's not. For one thing, it's not trying to exclude men. “The ‘women’ in Women in Comedy Festival refers to the fact that WICF is directed by, produced by, and features comedy by the ladies,” Ciampa says. “However, men do comedy too, and we don’t want to exclude anyone. The festival's mission is to create a forum for people to experience the comedic expression of women, see strong female performers and, most importantly, to entertain.”
So, yes, they've booked funny ladies such as Maria Bamford, Jackie Kashian, Bonnie McFarlane, Kelly McFarland and Giuila Rozzi, in addition to dozens of other comedians (including a few men) for stand-up, improv and sketch shows each night.
Bonnie McFarlane is currently filming a documentary about women in comedy -- I saw her and her husband, stand-up Rich Vos, interviewing Chris Rock for the project recently at the Comedy Cellar, and know she'll be working more on that this weekend. Here's an interesting shot Vos took of McFarlane earlier this week, when she donned a disguise as man to perform at Stand-Up NY. It'll be interesting to learn how the audience perceived her jokes as a man, compared to how they'd react to her as herself. But that's just one aspect of what it's like to be a woman in comedy.
Perhaps more important than the shows themselves are the workshops and the panel -- and even theWICF blog -- because that's where the women in comedy can truly celebrate and support one another.
Jane Morris, founder of the Second City ETC stage in Chicago, hosts an improv workshop on Friday.
On Saturday, Jackie Kashian talks about getting road work and dealing with bookers, Zabeth Russell helps you simplify improv scenework, Maria Bamford takes part in a free afternoon open mic, and a free panel discussion talks and takes questions about the comedy business.
On Sunday, Cameron Esposito leads a workshop on the confidence and skills women could use in starting a stand-up career, Giulia Rozzi leads a storytelling workshop, and Loretta LaRoche will talk about the business of comedy.
You probably saw Maria Bamford on your TV in the past week, and if you weren't an avid fan of hers already, you may not have even known it! That's because Bamford starred in Target's post-Thanksgiving sale ad campaign.
Well, comedy fans and holiday shoppers...You have a great free gift to enjoy and share with those you love this holiday season.
As Bamford says in the opening: "This is a gift. My gift to you. A lot of things have been pretty tough this year, but not for me, 'cause I sold out. Yeah. I gave up my soul to 'The Man,' and so now I'm giving this batch of jokes to you. Enjoy!"
Sitting on her sofa with her two pugs, Bamford talks about such topics as: The Bamford family's holiday home game of emotional abuse. All of the languages, real and pretend, that she knows. A world geography lesson by hand. Mental illnesses. Relationships. Work. Religion. Other dark and unwanted thoughts (Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome!).
Here she is taking you on a tour of Africa. And yes, she realizes fans may have heard some of this before. "Dirty monkey dance?" But as she's quick to remind you: It's a gift. And it's free. As she also told friends and fans on Facebook, "Sell it at the Flea Market out of the back of your van with packs of socks and old phones!" Sounds like a plan.
It's 5 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving. Are you in line for a big holiday shopping deal? If so, I wonder if you're hunting for bargains at Target. The Minnesota-based discount retail giant turned to a comedian from its home state, Maria Bamford, to voice its holiday ad campaign. Of course the ads are funny. They tap into Bamford's many voices to great effect. To comedy fans, there's an extra layer of fun knowing that Bamford has a bit about running into one of her high-school classmates at a Target. You can see the entire Maria Bamford campaign for Target's 2-Day Sale on YouTube, or check out the other goodies with Bamford and her "sister" on Target's site. Here are the two newest ads:
And if you want to hear more from Bamford, she has a new stand-up comedy special that you can download from her site for FREE on Dec. 1. Check out that and other news from the Bammer here. Happy holidays!
We're about to see a bunch of new live stand-up comedy on our basic cable TV sets thanks to Comedy Central. The fourth season of Live at Gotham debuts this weekend, and in the first week of November, 24 stand-ups get to tape their very own half-hour Comedy Central Presents specials to air in early 2010. In between those two things, the network has given the go-ahead to John Oliver to present his very own stand-up showcase. If John Oliver & Friends sounds like something as fun and magical as the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival, well, then you can pretty well guess the lineup. It's going to be good.
There will be three tapings (Oct. 23-25) at NYU's Skirball Center, which will produce six half-hours of stand-up comedy, featuring Oliver and his friends. A few names appear multiple times, which is curious and suggests the format could spin a bit. We'll just have to wait and see, won't we!
SHOW 1 ~ Friday - Oct. 23 - 6:45 p.m., with Marc Maron, Janeane Garofalo, Maria Bamford, Hannibal Buress, Wyatt Cenac and Pete Holmes
SHOW 2 ~ Saturday - Oct. 24 - 7:45 p.m., with Paul F. Tompkins, Maria Bamford, Greg Fitzsimmons, Nick Kroll and Eugene Mirman
SHOW 3 ~ Sunday - Oct. 25 - 5:45 p.m., with Brian Posehn, Kristen Schaal, Wyatt Cenac, Greg Fitzsimmons, Eugene Mirman, Pete Holmes and Mary Lynn Rajskub
If you're going to be in NYC and are at least 18 years old, go to The Black List's John Oliver page and follow the instructions to request tickets.
Stand-up comedian Maria Bamford is well aware of her personality quirks, and she has laid them bare for us to enjoy, from the liner notes of Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome that explains her history with unwanted thoughts, and into the 50-minute CD, which is available today from Comedy Central Records. It also comes with a DVD containing the full 20-episode run of The Maria Bamford Show from the now-defunct SuperDeluxe. If you're ready to find out what the voices in Bamford's head are saying, and how they say it, then sit back and be prepared to learn a little something while you're laughing. For Bamford is an example of how the meek shall inherit the earth, or at least make us want to root for them to. If you need some background, read my interview with Maria Bamford from October 2008.
FOX has launched a new series of promotions for the upcoming animated comedy, Sit Down, Shut Up, which debuts April 19 in the network's Sunday animation block. The promos play up the reunion of Arrested Development cast members Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, which is good for all of the people who loved that sitcom but also odd because FOX didn't really stand by that award-winning show, did it now? Also odd, the promos don't even really talk about what Sit Down, Shut Up is about. Does it matter?
Answer: Of course it does...The comedy revolves around the teachers at a Florida high school. Here is a promotional video from a table read in 2008 that spells it all out, with a look at the cast that includes Henry Winkler, Cheri Oteri, Nick Kroll, Will Forte, Kenan Thompson and Tom Kenny. You'll note that during this clip, Maria Bamford plays the science teacher that Bateman's character has a crush on -- since then, Bamford informed us in a previous Comic's Comic interview that she had been fired (though still retained for some minor voice parts), and we see she has been subsequently replaced by Kristen Chenowith. Coincidentally, Bamford shows up right at the midway point of the promo clip, thereby securing screengrab status for eternity on the YouTube. Would you have known it was Bamford if they didn't show her speaking?
Want to see another promo that adds about another minute of background exposition? Your wish shall be granted after the jump!
Maria Bamford calls me en route to a gig last weekend at the Punchline in San Francisco. Don't worry. She's not driving during the course of this interview. That would be dangerous and illegal.
Bamford couldn't talk earlier because she was on a film set. Film set? Do tell. It's a film made by some friends of hers. "They asked if I could be in it, and said they'd pay me Screen Actors Guild money," she told me. "I play a crazy old lady. And I'm 38, so to play 72 seems pushing my, what is that called, my range! My range. But it was fun to be with a bunch of people and get free bananas, and trail mix. And then they gave us Chinese food."
Ah. A big budget, I see.
"It's just a short film," she said. "I could say it's for archival footage. But I don't know. It could be anything. It could be for IMAX theaters and it just hasn't been sold and distributed yet. Anything could possibly be on YouTube."
Do you think you'd be a big star, so to speak, on IMAX?
"I think it'd be great if while I was a crazy old lady there'd be a tiny camera going through my intestines and then there'd be sound effects while you go through my esophagus and gullet," Bamford says, before launching into a pitch for an IMAX sitcom. "OK, it's a sitcom, but it's an IMAX sitcom, and you can hear all of the characters, and they're spelunking, and suddenly they're diving from an airplane, and then they're wakeboarding across the Pacific."
Sounds like the first IMAX-sorta movie I ever saw when I went to DisneyWorld, which was a lot of fun as a kid. But when are we going to see more of your special MySpace commentaries on your Super Deluxe series, The Maria Bamford Show? It has been almost a month since you posted insight on episode three of 20…
"I know, I gotta do some more. Tomorrow. No, no, it's only people like you who make a difference. Yeah, I forget that I've started it, but suddenly I'm reminded, oh I was doing that and it was good," she said. "I'm so glad you're enjoying it. I didn't know people were reading it. I was talking to Hal Sparks and saying, 'What are you doing?' and he said, 'I'm sending out bulletins,' so I figured I should send out bulletins….well, the thing is, now that I've made it in show business, I've started phoning it in. I forget what I'm doing. I try to have a personal life. Once you realize you can't fill the hole inside, then you realize, oh, I've got to get friends. But they don't care about my long list of credits."
If you need brushing up on her Web series, start from the beginning:
Bamford mentions a book that helped her early on in her career.
"I think it was 1998, and it was 'Zen and the Art of Stand-up Comedy,' and yeah, I'm totally myself onstage," Bamford said. "I'm sort of a version of myself but not really. If I was really myself I don't know if I'd be really entertaining. I woke up and I worried about some stuff, and then I took a nap. But the Zen book was saying you have a character that you play. My sister says I'm telling a story and in every story I am the victim…The emotional truth is there. Which, of course, is completely subjective. It felt like some of those things happened even though they didn't happen at all. That whole series was my biggest fear of what would happen if I went mad? I could just live with my parents and make stuff. I could have friends and have a job. It's sort of a greatest wish, too, to just let go and live with my parents. Just give up! I think that's called clinical depression."
It's a feeling a lot of people might relate to during the global economic crisis.
But fear not for Bamford.
"I'm still doing OK financially, but it is pretty terrifying," she said. "I have room if people needed a place to stay. I only have one roommate…I have three couches, and then I've got a garage. So there's plenty of housing available. You know, I know it's not perfect. But it's temporary housing. I don't know how I'm going to answer all the requests for housing after this interview comes out. I'll set up an organization that fairly distributes the housing requests and then I'll only let my friends stay with me."
Phew. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk about your uncanny array of character voices. Which was the first voice you mastered? "Probably my mom," Bamford told me. "I don't know. Everyone in my family gets mad when I do impersonations of them now. It's become more of an issue, because I've gotten better, and people see things. Maybe I'll have to do other impersonations of local dogs, or shop owners."
This week the TV networks present their "upfront" fall programming for advertisers, and already, a few stand-up comedians know they'll have primetime work awaiting them. Fox already has ordered the animated series "Sit Down, Shut Up," from Arrested Development's Mitch Hurwitz, which features among its voices Maria Bamford and Nick Kroll (as well as Cheri Oteri, Will Forte, Tom Kenny, Jason Bateman and Will Arnett).
The upfronts schedule has NBC presenting today, ABC and The CW on Tuesday, CBS and Turner on Wednesday, Fox on Thursday. (THR)
Comedy Central's annual "Stand-Up Showdown" airs today, rebroadcasting the top 20 stand-up specials as voted online by fans over the past month. It's airing now!
The full schedule/countdown...which began at 11:30 a.m. today...(with applicable taping season)
20) Loni Love (season 11)
19) Doug Benson (season 8)
18) Chelsea Handler (season 11)
17) Steve Byrne (season 10)
16) Maria Bamford (season 11)*
15) Rich Vos (season 7)*
14) Dane Cook (season 3)
13) Stephen Lynch (season 12)**
12) Mike Birbiglia (season 10)*
11) Demetri Martin (season 8)
10) Mitch Hedberg (season 1)
9) Jim Gaffigan (season 3)
8) Pablo Francisco (season 4)
7) Kyle Cease (season 10)
6) Mitch Fatel (season 11)
5) Lewis Black (season 6)*
4) Frank Caliendo (season 8)
3) Lisa Landry (season 11)
2) Josh Sneed (season 11)
1) Jeff Dunham (his Spark of Insanity hourlong special)
* These comedians have multiple half-hour CCPs. Rich Vos has one upcoming this season.
** Stephen Lynch is the only one from this current crop of CCPs to make the list. Which, of course, is unfair to the many comedians this season who also taped with Lynch but haven't gotten on the air yet. Then again, this whole "showdown" is essentially just a test to see which comedian wants to mobilize his or her fans to vote early and often for them to get an extra TV airing. Really, that's it. No big cash prize. No trophy. But it certainly got us paying attention to Comedy Central on a Sunday in January, right? Of course, if I were one of the comedians who made the top 20, I'd probably still feel pretty good about it (while also looking at the other comedians who got listed ahead of me and behind me and wondering where I stood, which is why you have to realize and remind yourself that this isn't a "showdown" at all).
Some comedians don't translate so well to online sketches, while others, such as Maria Bamford, seem made for the medium. Bamford's Super Deluxe show allows her to bring her many voices to vivid life. It might take a couple of viewings to get used to her style. Or, if you're like me, you just sit back and watch and laugh. Either way, we win. This is her most recent episode...
You can catch all of her episodes here.
The New Faces of Comedy showcase is Montreal's version of the Best New Artist Grammy. Most of the 16 stand-ups selected for this week's showcases have several years of experience onstage, but they're new in the eyes of industry scouts, because this is the first step up the festival ladder. A few of the acts don't yet have agents or managers. Is that a good thing?
Maria Bamford (one of this year's Masters performers) and I talked briefly about this yesterday. I saw a comedian get an agent and manager -- which quickly resulted in a spot on Conan and headlining club dates -- out of the Aspen fest this winter. Worked out good for him. But Bamford, who once got two new representation offers out of a festival, said it can almost be like last call at a bar. "Who's the hottest one left here?" she said in one of her trademark voices. "And then the relationship has nowhere left to go." So there's that side of the coin, too.
The comics here aren't thinking like that, though. They're looking to be discovered.
How are they doing?
Last night, I caught half of the New Faces, and several members of the first group devoted most of their time trying to connect to the local Montreal audiences at Kola Note (which should be noted, is the most remote venue at the fest -- perhaps another reminder that the New Faces have a ways to go yet). Michael McIntyre (who sounded a bit like Stewie from Family Guy, but not, despite the fact that the FOX show and cast is also at the fest) joked about the local pedestrian signals with his own version of Monty Python's silly walks. Mike E. Winfield said "you guys have the most arrogant homeless people I have ever seen." Tom Segura said: "I was walking in your sex shop district...what do you call it? Oh, Montreal." A couple of the NYC comics in the showcase, Julian McCullough and James Patterson, brought the city with them -- McCullough talking about his Brooklyn neighborhood ("no, not that part") and contrasting the on-field performances of Barry Bonds and Darryl Strawberry ("He'd snort the first base line!"); Patterson on moving to the South Bronx "because my girlfriend wanted to study music -- she played the jazz rape whistle." Nikki Glaser managed to skewer the sponsoring MySpace and won the audience over with some off-color material. Pat Candaras exhibited a Lewis Black attitude if he were a frustrated grandmother. Mike E. Winfield had the look, if not the material. Sheng Wang was a hit with his wit and his closing bit tilting the phrase "you could do better" on its head. Matt Braunger brought this showcase to a close with a very strong personality and a funny bit about killer owls. But really, host Tom Papa had the best sets of the night in between acts, showing the New Faces how it's done.