Maria was born in Port Hueneme, California at the Naval Base. Her parents are Joel, a dermatologist and Marilyn, therapist of Duluth, MN. She attended Chester Park Elementary and Marshall High School in Duluth MN and went on to attend Bates College (Lewiston, ME), University of Edinburgh (Scotland) and received a degree in Creative Writing at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. She started stand-up in Minneapolis at the age of nineteen at Stevie Ray's Comedy Cabaret and ten years later, made her first appearance on the Tonight Show.
Bamford has been in a number of movies and television shows, including voice appearances in cartoons. The best-known aspect of her act are her various impersonations (including her mother and her agent). Her comedy often takes the form of vignettes rather than the comedy stand-up standard setup/punchline format.
Bamford was featured in the documentary series The Comedians of Comedy on Comedy Central and Showtime, and appeared in short skits titled "The Maria Bamford Show" broadcast on the now defunct website Super Deluxe. She also appears on the comedy compilation CD Comedy Death-Ray.
Her last album, produced by Comedy Central Records and called Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome, was released in April 2009 and includes a DVD containing "The Maria Bamford Show" episodes.
During the Christmas 2009-2010 shopping seasons, Bamford was featured in a series of Target commercials, portraying an overachieving shopper determined to be first in line for the "Target Two-day Sale".
For Christmas 2009, she released a free stand-up special online as a gift to her fans.