Maria Bamford named her most recent comedy album “Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome” for a good reason: she suffers from it. But it also feeds her stand-up routines.
“I was about 10 years old and I stopped being able to sleep at night because I had these intense obsessions or fears that I was going to... usually a fear of doing something violent or sexual or something sort of taboo,” said Bamford, who will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday at City Arts Center, 3000 General Pershing Blvd at State Fair Park. “It’s kind of like the person who compulsively washes their hands, except you’re trying to wash your thoughts. Like you go, ‘I’m not going to think about the elephant I just thought of,’ and then your brain won’t let you stop thinking about it.’”
Bamford originally dealt with the condition by squeezing her fists together or avoiding contact, she said, but then when she would have an incident, she often found that time had a way of bringing out the humor in bizarre events.
"Whenever there’s something painful in your life, something you think a lot about, and you get some distance from it, it sometimes becomes funny,” said Bamford, 40. “Like when you lose your temper with somebody at 7 Eleven, telling them you need more crushed ice until you get arrested and you’re in the cop car and you go, ‘Well, that was dumb,’ that becomes a good story.”
These days, Bamford is filled with such good stories and comes armed with an amazing array of voices that bring them to life during her performances. Her voice characterizations can turn on a dime, going from a demented baby voice to Alicia Keys from zero to 60. Ridiculous family arguments about politics and religion provide the fuel for her bizarre but realistic bits about her mother, and Bamford precisely executes her mom’s Minnesota accent.