In a lot of ways, it is kind of heartening. I am sure those who know the WTF Podcast by now (and if you don’t you should start to) – who know Marc as a clever, incisive, deeply troubled empathetic dude who has become one of the best interviewers around. But is the comic-now-interviewer still on point as a comic? Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about that. This Has to be Funny, Maron’s new album is a tour in the head of a guy who has seen a lot, but ever so uneasily getting acclimated with having some inner peace.
For Maron fans, this won’t be terribly new. He has given versions of many of these anecdotes on various chat show appearances. Indeed the voices in his head and his truthful sound check are well honed and funny. His material these days is less overtly political, and in some ways more universal in its dealing with life problems. His description of the addiction of texting while driving is particularly funny “At least if you are driving drunk, SOMEONE is driving the car …”. He also touches upon his own family and the sort of communication issues they have – and certainly in the laughs there is some insights about the trouble that every family has – to some degree or another. The bits are all good of course – although the best one for me was Marc’s description of his visit to the Creation Museum. Those who know Marc’s background in politics can sort of see the direction the bit is going a mile away – and Maron does not disappoint. However, he is not without empathy for the true believers. Unlike Bill Maher, he does not belittle people who do that sort of thing – although certainly he is bemused by it – but when he lays out where True Believer Christians are on his scale of annoying relative to a demographic such as vegans, I couldn’t help but chuckle knowingly.
The real trait that permeates through Maron’s comedy is vulnerability and a certain emotional nakedness. Chris Rock – one of my very favorites – is a virtuoso at the sort of high level “who are we as a society” stuff that the auteur comics like Pryor did so well. However, he has a shield from his life – what is Chris Rock like at home – his views are clear, but I am not sure how personal it is. Rock is not the only one who is like this surely. Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, and even George Carlin all had those sorts of walls between the comedic persona and the man – while no value judgment on the comedy, the gig feels like a costume that they take off when they leave the stage. For Marc Maron, it’s all out there. He has struggled a lot with his inner self – and the struggle is there visibly. His stories and jokes are funny, but he provides his material a sort of autobiographical urgency that is interesting. The bits feel like they really happened to Marc in the way that he told them – it feels like HIS voice and HIS life, that we are looking into his life. The intimacy in his work is striking for a comic – it is hard not to feel like you know him a bit more than you do other guys after listening to him at work. Maron’s album, while not transcendent necessarily, is very solidly funny, and I am glad he is doing well – and that I care about how he is doing might sort of be the entire point.