Success From Sadness: Marc Maron Returns To Houston
Photo: Dan Hallman
Fifteen years ago, if you walked into pretty much any place other than a comedy club and mentioned the name Marc Maron; no one would have known who you were talking about. In fact, even within the confines of a comedy club, some people still might not have known the comedian. The fact is that Maron, known for his WTF with Marc Maron podcast, has spent the bulk of his career on the “unknown” circuit. Appearing more times than any other guest on the various talk shows of Conan O’Brien, Maron has had more jobs come and go than most, and yet he’s still kept things moving forward. It wasn’t until about six years ago, where he, like many comics- found his voice through a little known medium known as podcasting. Since then he’s released two comedy albums, written a book, and even gotten his own weekly show on IFC appropriately title “Maron.” On April 25th, minus a brief appearance at the recent Oddball Comedy Festival, the comic brings his stand up show to Houston for the first time in years.
It’s hard for most people to wrap their heads around this, but the average bottom of the barrel comic is smarter than some of the people you know who attended ivy league universities. When you ask anyone who has spent time around comics, those quick witted moments that come off as riffs happen more often than not; and there’s a genius level of brain activity that makes it occur. The WTF podcast has become the “swan song” for many artists today because of Maron’s quick witted questions and responses to those who venture into his garage. When comics, musicians, and anyone “cool” are making the rounds of talk show appearances; Maron’s garage is always a place they’d like to get into. It’s a right of passage for so many people, and is in many ways one of those “bucket list” appearances that was like hitting up the “Tonight Show: with Johnny Carson.” A modern day Charlie Rose, Maron has somehow gotten comics like Louis CK, Stephen Wright, Jim Gaffigan, Todd Barry; and on and on to come by his house to tape an episode. The guide of shows is like a who’s who in entertainment today. Musicians like Dave Grohl and J. Mascis have told Maron more than they’ve told anyone before. Robin Williams spoke about death and dying to only Maron before he left this world. And Carlos Mencia admitted that he stole jokes from comics, only on WTF. You could literally talk about the multitudes of guests that have been on the podcast if you had enough time and space, and you still wouldn’t have reached the ethos of what the show represents.
There’s also the television show on IFC, “Maron” where the comedian mixes bits from his comedy act with real life instances, and hints of being a world renowned podcaster. The show, gearing up for season three, is about a comic who’s making a podcast in his garage, and doing stand up as well. It’s a funny look at a mix of all of the Marc Marons that we, the audience, get to hear or read, or see. Where most television shows are meant to be a satirical look at a comic’s life, this show, coupled with his book, “Attempting Normal,” shows the comic as he truly is. In the book, Maron grapples with issues of drug addiction, fear, loneliness, and all of the gut wrenching details of Maron’s mind. All of the painful tales turned into punchlines we hear in his stand up and his podcast are contemplated and explored throughout the moments of failure and disgust into one beautiful package that places the reader inside the mind of the comic.
But, the podcast, the TV show, or the memoir isn’t what’s coming to Houston, it’s the comedian. I saw Maron about ten years ago when I was out in LA. Dry, quick, and self imposed torturous humor is what I walked away with. The comic who has spent a lifetime crafting jokes around themes of bitterness and self hate can sometimes leave an audience in stitches, with an ounce of humility thrown in. On his latest, “Thinky Pain,” Maron covers every topic from a midlife crisis to the genius of Bill Hicks. The way in which he segues in between topics like atheism and hypochondria, or a distaste of sports and porn is as effortless as it is beautiful. Maron, for the first time in a long time, feels like he’s in his element. That the Marc Maron that’s performing on “Thinky Pain” is the Marc Maron audiences have wanted to see for the bulk of his career. It’s the same Maron from the podcast, the same tales as that from the television show; but there’s something about his delivery system when he’s at the helm of a mic, where he feels like he’s at home.
That’s the Marc Maron that will be here in Houston at Fitzgerald’s on April 25th. The show, since sold out with a waiting list, is a stop on the Maronation Tour. It will feature Maron in his element covering a myriad of topics where the set feels more like therapy than a bit. For a guy who ends his podcast on the regular with the question, “we good,” it seems like everything is great. But in the end, that’s the Maron we’ve all come to know and love. And any other version of him would feel like we were given something fraudulent.