Contagion, or Maria Bamford is just perfect

The latest episode of NPR's Invisibilia podcast is on 'Entanglement,' the influence of thing on thing, or - as they approach it - person on person. I recommend the whole episode, but particularly the second half.

It is itself divided into two halves, and the first half speaks to how we are influenced by the moods of others and start to behave like them in a manner referred to as either 'conformity' (for slow adaptations) or 'contagion' (for rapid). I think one of the ways stand-up works in the live context is how the crowd feeds on itself, and that being within a responsive crowd makes you more responsive in turn. (Max Scheler referred to this as 'psychic contagion,' which is how I use it in A Vulgar Art). That's why the audience sound is so important for the mediating stand-up, as you want the response of an audience not only to punctuate the material but also to carry over and inform the audience at the receiving end of the broadcast or recording. It is also why we listen to stand-up more than once and still find it funny: there is always an audience present listening to it for the first time, and you are in a state of entanglement. 

Maria Bamford (from

And the second half is Maria Bamford and her mother Marilyn, speaking of the entangling influence a mother has on a daughter and how that is acted out on stage, not as a form of therapy but as a performance of self. She has some really interesting things to say about performance and the questionable issue of it as catharsis, but just as interesting is Marilyn and her ongoing understanding of how she has affected her daughter as revealed in her imitation. 

Bamford has recently been appearing on stage in the character of her mother for entire sets (which the podcast oddly doesn't mention), and has a web series called Ask My Mom where she plays Marilyn. But here's an older piece (which also recently reemerged) where she's just being awesome.