Even though I’ve never met the man, it’s not an exaggeration to say that I know Marc Maron very well. Sure, there are hundreds of comedy podcasts out there, but none are as intimate and thoroughly heartbreaking as WTF with Marc Maron. Labeled as an “angry comic” for years without ever breaking through, Marc has been able to channel his pent up anger, depression, and resentment and mix it with his inherent sensitive and genuinely good-natured heart to formulate one of the most successful podcasts of all time.
Maron was once a man with nothing left to gain (as he stated in the first scene of the show, he was planning on killing himself in the very same garage he now records WTF), which makes his resurrection just shy of his 50th birthday all the more improbable. He’s selling out comedy clubs for the first time in his career. He just recently released his memoir Attempting Normal. And, of course, he’s debuted his semi-autobiographical television series on IFC, Maron.
I’ve read a lot of advance word of the show that compares Maron to Louie, and, to be fair, it’s not a completely unnatural leap to make. The shows’ names and their protagonists’ jobs are two very strong links. The two are old friends, with Marc even making and appearance on C.K.’s show last year. And with the success of Louie and the creative freedom C.K. has over the show, nearly every working comic is looking for his or her own “Louie deal.” But you shouldn’t be going into Maron expecting anything close to the subdued, introspective, and absurd Louie. Maron, like Marc himself, is brash, loud, angry, confused, sensitive, and needy.
Basically, the pilot episode had everything I was expecting, but even still, I can’t exactly given “Internet Troll” a glowing review.
What comes off as completely natural and real in the podcast and in his standup act can’t help but feel forced in the show’s first episode. The whole conceit – Maron allowing a trolling Twitter follower to get under his skin before tracking him down in person – actually happened in real life (like, I would guess, more than 90 percent of this show). It’s a completely ridiculous plot line, but that’s not the issue I take with it, as Maron eventually sees how much of an asshole he was being. But the way Maron delivered many of these lines – like to the receptionist at the vet’s office – felt very out of character. He sounded more like he was making a monologue than actually having a conversation (this could be a personal problem, as I need to separate the real life Marc to the fictionalized Maron).
Naturally, Maron used plenty of material from his standup, many to great effect (the voice in his head telling him to please not screw this up isn’t quite as loud as the one screaming ‘Let’s screw it up!’). But when he ran into his pregnant ex-wife and scolded her for having a “spite baby” at him, it didn’t work as much as it did in his act, where he only thought these horrible thoughts while outwardly remaining polite. I understand that this type of introspective self-loathing doesn’t exactly work on television, but Marc has always come off as the conflicted, seething-on-the-inside type of guy ready to explode at any moment and not so much outwardly angry at the world during his everyday life. This is likely to remain a problem throughout the show. Maron’s mannerisms and actions will be exaggerated for the sake of the medium, and it doesn’t help much that Marc isn’t exactly a smooth and natural actor, even when playing himself. Still, I hope the show can start to showcase Maron’s inner-struggle a bit more, and maybe shed light on it to the audience through his retrospective podcast monologues.
For everything I was disappointed it, there was still plenty to be pleased about. For one, Maron’s interaction with his guest Dave Foley was a treat to watch unfold, even if they never get around to recording the podcast. It appears, like the podcast, the show will have an impressive rotation of guests for Marc to bounce off of, which is when he’s at his best. He gets these celebrities/friends of his to open up without much work, and conversely, his guests are quick to call him on his shit.
Likewise, the show is incredibly self-aware, which is something I was never worried about. Marc is constantly making rash decision that he quickly grows to regret, which is pretty much how the real Marc has arrived at where he is today. He knows he shouldn’t be out for everyone’s approval, but knowing that isn’t going to stop him from feeling like he should be universally loved. In his closing monologue, he states that sometimes things aren’t going to work out; you can count on it. And when they don’t, you need to reevaluate yourself. If you’re a dick, then stop being a dick. Unless you’re Marc.
Maron is a living example of Einstein’s theory of insanity, which is he continues to do the same things over and over again while expecting different results. And while there were some hiccups along the way in this first episode, Maron is such an intriguing and oddly sympathetic character that I trust the road will only get smoother along the way.
– “Am I gonna cry? Am I gonna yell? Am I gonna do both?” — Marc Maron in a nutshell.
– “What is this, a troll cave? What am I, inside the Internet?”
– Marc actually had a cat named Boomer who has since run away. He’s since adopted the slogan “Boomer Lives!” for T-shirts, posters, and end-credit screens-grabs.
– Maron isn’t a dog guy. He can’t have someone more needy than him in his house.
– @dragonmaster was played by none other than Garrett from Community.
– It was nice to see Maron genuinely delighted to talk to a fan of his at the pet store, and his reaction to not wanting to take any of the cats home with him in the end-credit scene was even better.
– Next week’s episode is already on demand and on IFC.com, and I can say that it is definitely a step in the right direction.