Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult by Maria Bamford

January 2, 2024

An uncomfortably-relatable, funny, and seemingly brave memoir.

I have this idea that people with the weirdest perspectives struggle with some things most don’t and see other things with clarity that most don’t.

That’s why great comedians so often range from interesting to bizarre, each having uniquely hard-won perspective they’ve managed to shape into a philosophy and package as entertainment.

That’s exactly what makes this book such a gift, not despite but because of some of its unpleasant parts. As Maria put it, with regard to her relationship with her husband:

(…) to mythologize a narrative in which we disallow any of the rough experiences would be disrespectful to just how much we’ve done together.

I have neither met nor worked with Maria Bamford and have no idea how much of these stories are embellished, but I got the sense of someone being brave, honest, and funny about sharing stories that are uniquely hers.

It’s plenty goofy. But it’s also comedy as a way of reflecting on and sometimes navigating some of life’s real and difficult shit.

Yes, your dreams might come true, but there are going to be these massive obstacles that anyone could have told you about, historically documented peaks to climb that were clearly marked on a map.

Maria bluntly runs at a series of stories and topics I wouldn’t have the bravery to get into, including personal and professional mistakes that don’t look flattering in any light. Between a lot of ALL CAPS YELLING for emphasis and a sloshing sea of self-deprecation, there’s generosity in the wisdom and experience she shares. A thoughtful evolution plodding through neuroticism one step at a time, which makes for a surprisingly encouraging theme.

The book doesn’t try to explain away discomfort, resolve everything with hindsight, or pander to any specific audience.

Everybody wants you to get better, but they don’t know what medication is going to work. I think that’s like most illnesses/school courses/human relationships. No one can guarantee security and stability, which is a real bummer when you think about it. Don’t think about it.

The wins and strong feelings are there, but usually spoken softly as though they’re delicate and don’t want to be boastful:

I cling to the philosophy of creative visualization and the great mantra “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

I would have loved to read more about Maria’s strong positive feelings about improv comedy, which seemed like a universal recommendation for humanity only mentioned briefly.

I also wish the book had ended with her unconventional suicide disclaimer, which struck me as unexpectedly personal and compassionate and a more sincere (and uncomfortable) note to end on than the appendix.

If you’re a fan of Maria Bamford, you’ll probably love this book. Even if you’re not and you’re trying to live your best life with “the mentals,” it may still be a worthwhile read with a bunch of good laughs.