On Thursday night, we saw Marc Maron at Just For Laughs.We were particularly interested because we listen to his podcast, WTF,, and have heard his interviews with such greats as Barack Obama, Jane Fonda, David Letterman, Carl Reiner, and many others from mainly media industries.As well, we have been watching his acting in GLOW( Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) on Netflix. What’s interesting about Maron is somehow at his advanced age of 56, he has morphed from a failed comic to a minor celebrity, and his prologues that introduce his WTF podcasts have been crafted into a quite wonderful comedy shtick.
Usually those prologues are self- serving as he ponders what a messed up guy he is, his crazy parents, his failed past life. He moans about his penitent for self destructive addictions, particularly dope. But in spite of his at least fifteen minute introspection, his interviews, for the most part are exceedingly excellent until he crosses the boundary of interviewer, creating an ersatz familiarity with the star, and inserting himself into the talk. Most often, he holds the line and it results in providing insights into the life and work of the masters at the other end of his microphone.
The Just For Laughs performance Thursday night segued that self serving dialogue with his wounded other self into incredible comedy. Using a variety of comedic formats from slapstick to irony to physical manoeuvres, Maron crafted a narrative: again based on self but truly elevated beyond sad guy talking about himself. The usual elements of annoying parents, useless religious gods, drugtaking loser guy were still present, but he had written a more than one hour piece that nicely transitioned his themes into a storyline with beginning, middle and end: a piece so seamlessly and professionally rehearsed and performed that his spontaneity allowed for calling out late comers to the show and appearing to be talking off the cuff, even commenting on Trudeau’s brown face. It was casual, entertaining and even insightful at moments. Maron soared as actor, storyteller and writer. Wow.
He asserted, “ It’s all story, folks” and he drew us into his unravelling story, now populated with Mike Pence, vaccine nay- sayers, Satan, climate change and Marvel comics. Going beyond his own deep neuroses, he used his life as the basis for his show, but incorporated them fully into his text.
Because I’ve listened to WTF, I was familiar with his continual gripes and search for meaning in relationships and life so I was sensitive to the tome he was unwinding. And it made me think of how much our professional lives are rooted in our personal ones. My daughter, the social worker , who has asserted her fears of death from an early age has catapulted her fears to her work life wherein she deals with multi levels of mortality. It’s the old adage of do what you know. And I’m quite sure it’s not easy to separate work and personal anxieties, but when you don’t professionalism can suffer. But those who are able to use themselves as primary research can ,in fact , soar in the areas of true authentic knowledge, empathy, struggle and outcome.
My interest in Maron was the transformation of life into “ more” wherein life substantiates the trigger but moves outward and beyond the self. And perhaps ironically as one’s inner life is set outside one’s own consciousness, and used as fodder or clay, self doubt absorption becomes not only enlightening and helpful, but something else. That does not mean one is ever free from the anxieties that pound in one’s head or one is able to stroll blissfully through the streets downtown, humming show tunes, but one has been able, briefly or concertedly to keep themselves in check, to move the pain and suffering to another platform ,poke at it, and remove its personal terror factor- maybe temporarily, but in that time, the time that Maron was doing his act, I’ll bet he was more concerned with his pacing, his audience engagement, the jokes and humour of his work ,making the parts subsume to the whole. And in that process, he was controlling, not controlled by the issues that dog him.
That’s another reason to love the arts. Whether you play an instrument, write a play, perform or paint, you set your task beyond yourself, and even if you engage in the arts just for yourself, not for audience consumption or laurels, there is a level that requires your mind, hands, voice, whatever to put yourself outside yourself and see/ hear/ whatever with the mind’s eye. It’s not that inner dialogue with self that merely beats you up. It’s something more as you become both critic/reviewer and performer. And it’s great because you are able to be objective, not wallowing on what was , what might have been, what could have been. “If apples had been oranges…”, for example, I used to chide my mother who wished she had pursued a life in nursing or interior design.( as always , it’s so much easier to dole out advice than take it yourself)
So it goes, we can’t change the past, maybe learn from it and leave it perhaps to rot as soil for new vegetables. Rehashing is only beneficial if something grows from the ashes. And so last night, the self flagellating Marc Maron took an impressive step in his professional life, showcasing himself as worthy of the acclaim he has been receiving, especially from GLOW and other acting gigs. So Bravo Marc.
Now , if some of that could transfer to his private life, maybe he’d be a happy dude, not the guy ruminating -and apparently according to the tabloids- still floundering , as the guy in those prologues still seeking redress as he castigates himself for growing into a talented successful man.