"People always criticize one-man shows for being self-indulgent," comedian Marc Maron says during a phone interview from his home in New York City. "So I took it to a level of grandiosity never before seen." That’s Maron for you. The cultural critic, storyteller and frequent guest of Late Night With Conan O’Brien brings his one-man show, The Jerusalem Syndrome, on the road.
While many in and around the stand-up comedy circuit wondered how to be funny in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Maron simply took his wit and comedic barbs to another level. "My comedy has become very entrenched in politics, reaction, fear, in addressing what’s going on," he says. "Onstage, it’s very hands-on and exciting, for very horrible reasons." But as a cultural critic, that’s his job — to make us aware of the crazy world we live in. "What else am I going to do?" he asks. Well, for one thing, Maron has decided to perform The Jerusalem Syndrome for the first time in about a year.
His one-night-only show in Tempe, Ariz., benefits Jewish Family and Children’s Service, Maricopa County’s leading provider of behavior health services and programs for victims of child abuse and domestic violence. Credit Maron’s brother, who works for the group, for getting him to take another look at his one-man show.
The title refers to a psychological phenomenon that bestows upon visitors to Israel the belief that they are religious prophets or saviors. "I’ve always felt that special," Maron says. He uses the syndrome as a launching pad for a rant on corporate culture, spiritual quests and his own misadventures through life. He talks about how his search for religious meaning took him from Jack Kerouac’s grave, through Hollywood, back across the country to a cigarette factory at Philip Morris headquarters and, eventually, to Jerusalem. Maron recently published a book based on the show. Although he isn’t a big sports fan — "I was just never programmed that way" — Maron could answer once and for all whether those damn New York Yankees suffer from the Jerusalem syndrome. "Of course they do," he says. "I know enough to know that."