Maria Bamford: “Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult”

An acclaimed comedian chronicles her experiences with mental illness and her search for community. Warning: her hilarious riffs will make you feel seen. Adam Grant, reviewing Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult by Maria Bamford

Maria Bamford—the favorite stand-up comedian of Stephen Colbert, Tig Notaro, and other notables—and star of Netflix’s Lady Dynamite (2016-17), which dealt with the aftermath of her actual mental breakdown, has a new book: Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult: A Memoir of Mental Illness and the Quest to Belong Anywhere.

You can read an excerpt on Slate (My First Cult Was My Family. My Mother Was in Charge“). The “cults” she tries (beyond her family) in order to belong somewhere/anywhere include 12-step programs such as Debtors Anonymous and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous as well as Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and the programs of Richard Simmons.

Bamford has long been open about her various mental health struggles. Among the list are anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, binge eating, a form of OCD called “unwanted thoughts syndrome” (for which she named a comedy CD), and Bipolar II Disorder.

Kirkus Reviews summarizes that Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult “is a memoir that examines her life in comedy, dealing with mental illness, and finding a way to belong.” Bamford, however, advises readers this is not your typical “trauma, healing, and victory” story.

More from Kirkus: “Bamford creates an effective mix of introduction (or reintroduction) to a fascinating comedian, a guide to the self-help industry, and an encouragingly lighthearted, respectful assessment of mental health, reminding readers that they are not alone.”

Publishers Weekly: “It’s all delivered with Bamford’s trademark blend of disarming intimacy and dark whimsy. The result is a consistently funny and occasionally heartbreaking glimpse into a unique comedic mind.”

On Goodreads Kendra Gayle Lee, an indie bookstore owner, writes:

If you’ve done a 12 step program, you’ll laugh. And nod along.
If you’ve struggled with anxiety, depression, OCD, you’ll feel so seen.
If you’ve ever felt like the only person in the world who didn’t get a ‘how-to’ manual for this life, you’ve found your book!

And, finally, I think Lee’s conclusion is definitely worth adding: “But what really got me was the last chapter on suicide. Maria Bamford wrote such a tender, compassionate tribute to folks who fight suicidal ideation–and sometimes die as a result of their mental illness–that it shifted something in me. She helped me understand something heretofore incomprehensible to me. I’m grateful for that.”

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