Maria Bamford has always lived on the cutting edge of comedy, but the world may finally be catching up.
Over more than two decades as a stand-up, Bamford, 45, has become a cult favorite by blending kooky impressions and expertly written jokes with an overdose of human empathy. She has been open about her mental illness – she has dealt with obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder and anxiety, and has spent time in psychiatric wards – but has managed to turn her struggles into fertile ground for humor.
Now Bamford has brought her worldview to Netflix with “Lady Dynamite.” This offbeat sitcom, created by Mitch Hurwitz (“Arrested Development”), follows Bamford through three eras of her life: “The Past,” when she was thriving professionally but on the verge of an emotional collapse; “Duluth,” a somber look at her postbreakdown recuperation in Minnesota; and “The Present,” in which she is back in Los Angeles, contending with warring friends, gauche talent agents and the indignities of dating as a 40-something woman with a history of instability.
In a phone interview, Bamford discussed why mental illness is so central in her work, the novelty of starring in her own show and what her parents think of “Lady Dynamite.” These are excerpts.