In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
With upcoming appearances at the New York Comedy Festival and on USA’s new legal comedy Benched, Maria Bamford is having a busy fall. The surreal comedian has long been a fan favorite, having released four albums since 2005, in addition to the work she did with the Comedians Of Comedy. Her latest, Ask Me About My New God, is available now wherever comedy records are sold.
1. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Maria Bamford: The worst job I’ve ever had, which wasn’t too bad really, was at a laundry factory where you had to take the wire hangers and unwind them. Like, unwind the part of the wire hanger so they weren’t hangers anymore, they were just a long piece of wire. I did that for about eight hours a day for literally a week—it was a temp job. Maybe if I was there for a month it would have felt like more of a burden.
The A.V. Club: What was the point? They just wanted to turn them into wire?
MB: I do not know. That is a great question. One that I wish I had had the confidence and the chutzpah to ask at the time, but I just put my head down and quietly untwisted the wires. I can’t remember. Maybe there was some sort of focused goal. Maybe I wasn’t listening well enough to pay attention to that part.
2. What did your parents want you to be?
MB: My dad wanted me to be a nun. And I think my mom wanted me to marry someone wealthy. A doctor, presumably. I don’t think she had a lot of faith that I could live without an intense financial structure holding me up.
AVC: Maybe she knew you were artistic and thought, “She’s going to need someone who will support her.”
MB: I think I was slightly troubled. That was it. I did some waitressing and stuff, but I was not very good at it. Even though I did it for a number of years, I never seemed to improve.
3. Who would be your pop culture best friend?
MB: Chummy, the lady who’s in Call The Midwife. Do you watch that show? It’s on Netflix. I don’t know if it’s popular enough for people to know, but Chummy is very tall and she’s just very sweet. And she’s not a very good cook. She’s just a really sweet character and she just seems like a lovely person.
4. What game show would you be good at?
MB: Is Dr. Phil a game show? [Laughs.]
AVC: You think you’d be a good healthcare guest on Dr. Phil?
MB: I think I would. I think I could do that. Or My Cat From Hell. I don’t have a cat, but I could totally know what to do. The cat guy always comes in, this cat is just a nightmare. The cat is hurting people in the family. And the marriage is just about to fall apart, all because of this cat, so here’s what you do: The cat needs toys, number one. Are you giving it anything to do during the day? Next thing, the cat needs levels. It needs to be high up, and you need to give it a path all the way around the room where they don’t step their little paws on the ground. So, you create a cat trail around the ceiling. And then, that’s it basically. There is the odd chance your cat may have brain damage. And then they can only be settled down, only be helped with medication, but that is very rare on My Cat From Hell.
AVC: They don’t want any sad cat stories. They just want ones that can be solved.
MB: Well, yeah, there was one really sad one with a brain damaged cat. They’re just like, “Oh.” [Laughs.] Poor cat staring off into the corner of darkness. Lashing out at the beyond.
5. How would you enemies describe you?
MB: Manipulative. Irritating. Self-righteous. And dumb.
AVC: Those are pretty harsh and specific things. Did you get those from Twitter?
MB: I was thinking people who are in my life. Strangers, definitely irritating. Not funny. That would be the main complaint of people who feel like I’m a burden on society or whatever.
6. If a deli named a sandwich after you, what would be on it?
MB: Those little baby dill pickles. Peanut butter. Cheddar cheese and a raspberry jelly.
AVC: That’s so many flavors.
MB: Well, I haven’t ever tried the pickles with it, but I do love those pickles so much that I think if we’re at a deli, you can ask for the pickles on the side. But I definitely do eat a cheese, peanut butter, and jelly sandwich. That is a staple. With no bread. Did I mention that?
AVC: It’s just in a bowl?
MB: Yes. I just dip. You use your square cheese as a dipper. It’s like nachos, but with square cheese and peanut butter and jelly. And you make sweeping motions through the bowl.
7. What was your first big grown up purchase?
MB: I got a Writers Guild job writing for The Martin Short Show and I bought a brand new car in cash, which… I guess that’s supposed to be the worst financial decision you can make—in terms of investments, it’s like throwing $5,000 on the street.
The hilarious part is that it got stolen from an event I did for homeless kids. The car was covered in dog hair on the inside, and the one thing they did before totaling it was that they detailed the entire interior. It was sparkling clean on the inside.
Anyways. That was too long an answer. Yes. Brand new car. A Toyota Rav4, which I had initially been disgusted by. Have you ever gotten, like, “Oh, that disgusts me,” about certain products? And then three months later, you find out, “Oh I totally want that, I’m in love with that.”
AVC: Yes. Happens all the time.
MB: I completely did a turn around. Initially disgusted. Then I purchased it. Then I hit it. Yeah, I put a bunch of dents on it. It was a ridiculous purchase and I am embarrassed.
AVC: And it was stolen from an event you were volunteering at?
MB: Yes, and now I will only buy a five-year-old used car. Now I have a 2005 Prius that I bought from old roommate.
8. What’s your go-to karaoke song?
MB: I think Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”
AVC: Why that one?
MB: I know that I’ve done that one before. Or, I’ve done [Singing.] “Mamma don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys. Don’t let them pick at guitars and drive them old trucks.” I’ve done that one.
AVC: That’s a good one.
MB: I’ve probably done that one more than the Pat Benatar one. I just know that I did the one, but that was probably more aggressively showmanship karaoke.
AVC: Why are those the two you like? Are they just songs you like, or do you think, “Oh, I think I could sing this?”
MB: “I think I could sing this.” And they’re kind of funny. The Pat Benatar one, she’s mad. You know, she had a certain stance. And then the other one is sort of country and advisory.
9. What’s the worst living situation you’ve ever had?
MB: My worst living situation was on St. Andrew’s Place in Koreatown [in Los Angeles] in a single with 24/7 cockroaches who weren’t frightened by daylight. The landlord accepted sex for rent and there was a robbery and a knife fight in the hall and I was mugged within two months of living there. I begged to stay on a friend of a friend’s couch to get out.
10. Who could you take in a fight?
MB: I’m trying to think of anyone who I felt physically aggressive towards.
Well, this is weird, but the only person I’ve been physically aggressive to was my mother when I was a teenager. We would have slap battles. I know I could take her now, but that’s not right because she’s over the age of 70.
Who could I take in a fight? I think a lot of the shorter celebrities who are between the ages of 55 and 65. Celebrities are in really good shape and they are getting a lot of high-quality foods that don’t have a lot of additives in them. So they’re strong and they’re tiny. But 55 to 65, I think I have a pretty good chance.
AVC: Menopausal celebrities.
MB: Their bones become more brittle. [Laughs.] Yeah, menopausal celebrities. Liza Minnelli, of course she’s going down. Sally Field. Let me see. Oh, Christie Brinkley. She’s a very muscular looking 60, but that could all be a facade. I think she might have some brittle bones beneath there. I’m going to say 55 to 65 even if it is Christie Brinkley.
11. Do you have anybody’s autograph and if not, whose would you want?
MB: I don’t. I don’t have anyone’s autograph.
AVC: Getting an autograph is kind of a weird thing.
MB: Yeah, I’ve never been into that. I feel like I have a filing system. It would be like scrapbooking. That’d be something I’d have to organize.
But who would I like the autograph of? Well, I am into financial documents, and it would be neat to work with others, so I’d like some kind of contractual agreement to create something with another comedian and have it in writing. Someone Spanish speaking. Televisión is going on, so a multilingual international comedian who I haven’t even met yet.
Bonus 12th question from Jeff Bridges: Are we doomed? And if not, why?
MB: Yes. We’re doomed. And it’s okay. And that doesn’t take away from the fact that today’s pretty good.
I don’t know. I think he was hoping that I would say no.
AVC: Well, I asked him the question and he didn’t say no.
MB: I think we are doomed. That doesn’t mean I’m not willing to go through the motions. Oh, that’s so negative, I’m sorry.
AVC: And what question would you like to ask the next person?
MB: Hm. Okay. Who can you trust when you can’t trust yourself?
AVC: Do you have an answer for that?