If you follow Marc Maron at all, you already know that he has been working on his craft of stand-up for a couple of decades, made dozens of appearances on Conan, held court on national morning radio, and continues to tour the country.
That Maron has not become more of a household name yet certainly confuses not only his fans, but also the comedian himself. You can hear it in his tone and his material. Angry? Sure. But there's something real about his self-awareness and his social commentary that lets audiences know that he has put a lot of thought into the words coming out of his mouth. In the past year or two, his personal relationships have come to the fore of his thinking and have affected not only how he feels offstage, but also what he talks about onstage. So here we are in 2009, and instead of a 10-minute routine here or there about his most recent divorce (he's been through it twice), he has begun attempting to mine his personal battlefield for a full-length one-man show, titled "Scorching the Earth." He has performed it once in Los Angeles, and once (Jan. 3) in New York City.
You can see how Maron's show has evolved Jan. 15 at Union Hall in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
At the version I saw, Maron welcomed the packed crowd at The Green Room at 45 Bleecker to the sounds of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." Over the course of 90-plus minutes, you see Maron unleashed on his own psyche. It's unlike his previous one-man work, The Jerusalem Syndrome: My Life as a Reluctant Messiah, and also unlike the neuroses of Richard Lewis. Brash. Painfully self-aware. To the point where he acknowledges that perhaps women look at him as a "fixer-upper" project relationship, and you could see more than a few young ladies in the audience ready and willing to take him on. Despite hearing him describe all of his failings and relationship mistakes. And there are plenty of those. "I could use a God hole to dump my hate into — and that is a pickup line, ladies!" he says at one point.
He opened by talking about how everything that's wrong with you can be blamed on your parents. But he also lets the audience know that neither this show, nor stand-up comedy in general, is meant to be confused with therapy. Because when Maron (or another comic) visits his therapist, you hear more crying and wailing than anything resembling a punchline. He talks about his ex-wives, his drug and alcohol abuse, his relationships with cats. But mostly, it's about confronting all of the emotions and ideas running around in his brain. Which can make for a scattered narrative. That part can be fixed. But you'll still end up watching a comedian who observed onstage during a riff about David Blaine and how there is nothing magical about his stunts: "I am a magician! Come watch me try to get out of my own head for an hour and a half!"
Maron closed his NYC show with a "final" email to his recent ex that the audience encouraged him to read in full. "This is so weird," he acknowledged. "I feel like a misguided Lenny Bruce here." He read on, nevertheless, and at one point, stopped to wonder and even openly ask if his ex had shown up. Yes, he invited her. No, she didn't show. "I really wanted her to be here because it would've been such a f@$&ing weird show. I would've cried. We would've had to deal with that." Instead, he wrapped up his performance by kneeling and praying.
I have thought a lot about honesty in comedy since launching The Comic's Comic, and I safely can say that Marc Maron achieves such rare heights in onstage honesty, that even when recounting his demons and heartbreaking moments, you still want to laugh along and root for him to win. No wonder the women continue to adore him. For those who don't know him, this show may be a little too much to take in one sitting — you really should brush up on Maron by going to his site and watching at least a video or two beforehand; fans, though, will really feel treated.
P.S. Here is a note Maron sent out over the weekend to members of his show's Facebook group:
I want to thank all you folks who came out to the show at the Bleecker
Theater last weekend. It was cathartic. If you didn't come out, and
even if you did, I will be performing at Union Hall in Brooklyn this
Thursday, Jan. 15th. 8PM. 10 bucks. Some of the same stuff, lots of
other stuff, stuff I don't even know about, Maybe the whole letter, for
those in the know.