Although Marc Maron has been knocking around the comedy world for some time now, I admit I only first stumbled upon his comedy fairly recently. In August of 2010 I was browsing through comedy podcasts and stumbled upon his masterful WTF Podcast. Who was this man who spoke his mind and so freely - and eagerly - confessed his shortcomings and struggles, all while conducting incredible interviews with some amazing comedic minds? I was intrigued and instantly hooked.
Just like you wouldn't (or at least, shouldn't) start in on a TV show you've never seen by picking up in Season 3, I downloaded the entire WTF library and began my Maron appreciation with Episode 1. By that time, WTF had already been chugging along for nearly a year, which meant I was already running 97 episodes behind. According to iTunes, that's about 4.1 days' worth of material. A daunting task sure, but I couldn't get enough of Maron, his guests, his interview style, his insights, and what I felt were conversations with me (albeit very, very one-sided conversations).
Since then, I've been listening whenever I can to try to catch up: at work while videos rendered, in the car, at home, walking to and from the coffee shop, in the coffee shop, on airplanes, even during downtime at music festivals. And I'm still running behind. I'm gaining ground slowly - very slowly - but I am indeed making progress. I started off about 11 months late and I've narrowed that gap down to three.
When I received my copy of Maron's new comedy album, This Has to Be Funny, instead of sighing with an exasperated, "More?" as one might assume would be my reaction, I wasted no time in giving it a listen. I can't get enough of this guy. What can I say? I'm a fan. Although the title of the CD is This Has to Be Funny, I went into it with the mindset of "This is going to be funny."
And I was right.
There are few things as satisfying as going into something with high expectations and having every one of them met (and even exceeded). My first listen also alleviated any fears I - or other WTF-ers - may have had about material being recycled from his podcast and being presented here as "new." Although Maron touches on topics that will be familiar to his fans (his cats, his parents, his relationships with women) he saved some of his best observations and anecdotes for this album. His WTF podcast once featured an entire episode based on his visit to The Creation Museum outside of Cincinnati. Despite the fact that the longest track on this album is based on that trip, Maron has mined new comedy from that experience and there's no sense of "Oh man, I already heard this."
What I'm trying to say is, there's no excuse to not pick up this album.
As a self-proclaimed writer, one of the things I love most about Maron's comedy is also the thing that intimidates me most: his wonderfully unique use of the English language. He has concocted some amazing phrases that I have already stolen and added to my own Stephenie Meyer-level repertoire. My cat used to sit on my belly and "knead my stomach." Not anymore. Now she's "makin' muffins." A hipster in a fedora with a handlebar mustache used to be described simply as "a dork." Now he "looks like he was interrupted during a shave in the mid-1850s and had to dress quickly as he ran through a time tunnel."
Man, I love that.
I also love it when Maron invites us into his psyche, a virtual behind-the-scenes tour of the factory where his issues are made. There's a lot going on in here but our tour guide is more than familiar with the intricate inner workings (he's spent a generous amount of time inside) and we're in good hands. Sure, it gets loud in here once in a while (Maron's inner rant aimed at a woman on the subway carrying an ice cream maker is classic) but because he's taken the time to explain the process of what we're witnessing, we don't mind. If nothing else, we grow to welcome...to accept...and even look forward to the cacophony of the busyness.
Take the incident of mistaken identity on an airplane. To many comics, it would only be regarded as a 20-second throwaway bit, but Maron takes us beyond that. On the surface it's merely a case of racial profiling but Maron lets himself go deeper. Actually, it's not that he lets himself go deeper, it's more like he's pushed. His mind opens the cellar door and shoves him down the stairs, accusations and insinuations snowballing out of control as he tumbles, self-hatred and loathing for where he's allowing his mind to take him shooting out like sparks from a car that's lost a tire. The real struggle, and where the comedy ultimately is found, is in his sincere and earnest attempt to not let on outwardly to the other passengers and flight crew the chaotic situation that is spiraling out of control inside his head.
Of course, as heady as he may be - an adjective Maron takes issue with - there's real fun to be had when everyday bumps in the road are approached through his analytic processors. His love and concern for his cats (not yours), the responsibilities of a homeowner, and his dad's preference for mustard slacks over his grandchildren: all are approached with identical gravity and caution. Sure, they may not appear to be major life-altering situations upon first glance, but here in the Factory of Maron's Mind you just never know. Safety first. Those hard hats were given to us for a reason.
The album ends with Maron re-enacting a heated argument with his girlfriend (a stalker who won). Just as the conflict reaches its heated apex, we are confronted with an unexpected, sentimental visit from a neighbor. The audience greets this encounter with a hushed, awed expectancy of the unknown. Maron's less-than-impressed initial reaction? "I get it...you're some kind of weird angel."
This has to be funny.
And with Marc Maron, it's nothing but.