Regular readers of this blog and of RIPCoco
know that Melina and I, along with the tireless and fortunately technologically astute P.J. Sauter
, form a kind of informal Marc Maron Blogger Booster Alliance, or as Maron calls those guilty of the crime of admiring his work, "stalkers".
Perhaps because progressive talk radio is still in its infancy, those who host shows in this medium have made themselves far more accessible to their audience than those on the right. With radio in general being a medium with no security and progressive talk radio in particular being particularly adept at chewing up hosts and spitting them out without ceremony, that accessibility is what allows the "chew-ee" to retain a following even after a show is cancelled.
In the nearly two years since Morning Sedition
was cancelled, listeners of the show have become a sort of loose federation of Maronisti -- sort of like Deadheads, except while we aren't loading up a van with doobies and veggie burgers and following Marc Maron around to comedy clubs over the country, we are making sure to catch him when he's in town. And so Mr. Brilliant, Melina, and I headed to Comix
last night to catch the early show.
It hasn't exactly been a great couple of years for Marc Maron. Two cancelled radio shows and a now second cancelled marriage aren't exactly the sort of events that make one greet each sunrise with a sense of hope and optimism for the coming day. As he said last night, his sentiment on waking up these days is more along the lines of "Fuck! Again?"
What has always separated the great stand-up comics from guys who just stand up and tell poop jokes and make fun of the fat people in the audience who didn't pay twenty-five bucks to watch the opening act make them feel shittier than the world in general does every day, is that the great ones are able to draw comedy from their own personal pain, instead of inflicting pain on you. If you use your personal life as fodder for your act, it's not much different from appearing on stage stark naked, only it's your psyche you're inviting people to laugh at, not your body. When done well, it's fearless, ferocious, heartbreaking -- and hilarious.
When Richard Pryor recovered from setting himself on fire while freebasing, the result was Live on the Sunset Strip
-- arguably the funniest stand-up movie ever made:
These days we're not seeing the kind of passionate, hyperarticulate political rants from Maron that we used to listen to on the radio. When one's personal life has fallen apart, it's hard to have any outrage left for the crimes of the neocon death cult currently running the country. So while last night's show contained some of the "greatest hits" of the Maron oeuvre
-- dressing up as Jesus at Christmastime and going to the mall
, great Jewish magicians
, and how the Chinese will inherit the earth
-- the bulk of the show was a kind of therapy, in which the comedy club stool and microphone stand in for the couch, and an audience of people paying ten bucks for some tomato sauce and cheese on a large cracker, seven bucks for a Sam Adams, and twelve bucks for a Bloody Mary, stand in for the shrink. For an hour, he ruminated about how dating is a ridiculous thing for adults to be doing, why Jews should never marry other Jews, his deaf therapist, why he chooses the women he does, trying to get out of your own head for a couple of hours, and the depressing state of being a guy alone in L.A. with four cats named Monkey, Moxie, Boomer, and LaFonda. (Fuck...she even left Boomer? Bitch.) During the show, he alluded himself to the effect this act of opening his head with a can opener, pulling the gargoyles out and playing with them for comedic purposes might have on the audience: "Half you people are going to leave here saying 'That was fucking hilarious!' and the other half are going to be saying, 'Gee, I hope he's going to be OK.'"
For me, watching Maron live and in person can be an uncomfortable experience. You see, I squandered my youth living in a head not all that different from that one. I know that head. I've lived in a head like that. I still live in it, except that most of the time I'm pretty successful at telling the tape loop in my head that says I'm too short, too fat, not pretty, not hardworking enough, not ambitious enough, not focused enough, not this enough, not that enough, to shut the fuck up, that it doesn't know what the hell it's talking about, and besides, it's a fucking tape. Who the fuck listens to tape anymore, anyway?
It's hard work, living in a head with half-unpacked baggage strewn all over it, trying not to step on anything sharp while navigating through life. It's exhausting and took many thousands of dollars worth of talking to therapists and sometimes it's two steps forward, one step back -- but it's kept me together enough to develop a career (such as it is) and a marriage of 21 years' duration. What it hasn't done is made me as funny as Marc Maron is. His personal life may be a mess, but the man's generosity in putting himself out there so that we can be entertained can't be brushed off as mere self-indulgence. His pain is our gain.
Labels: comedy, Marc Maron