"For my next trick I will make everyone understand me..."
There are big laughs throughout his set, but it wouldn't do for Maron to be caught admitting it. Self-criticism is his thing; he is one of the "neurotic whining Jews" on whom standup was built. And he has continued to build upon that paradigm through his podcast 'WTF with Marc Maron', and his incessant need to come to terms with who he is and what he has been in a world that is seemingly against him. In essence, he is a man treading the water of sanity who is unabashed enough to let you watch and listen and laugh along.
In the Edmonton show, the American comic and podcaster proved that there's life left in traditional formula. Fretful solipsism and misanthropy may cost a lot in therapy, but the comedic value is limitless. His failed marriages, tumultuous friendships, and crash and burn career trajectories mirror even the most confident in his audience. And they loved him for it.
This is not, as Maron would be the first to point out, a show with momentum. He seemed to enjoy the awkward audience banter, possibly too much. While the first rule of stand up comedy would state 'Don't feed the trolls', he seemed pleasantly inspired by the cackling alcoholic "bitch" in the front of the room who left plenty of room for Maron's prepared heckler deflation. He'd rather be drawing attention to the drunks in the room or picking holes in his own now-meandering jokes than indulge in anything so formulaic as "structure". All the more surprising was that one found themselves blurting out big laughs at Maron's indiscriminate sideswipes. As my friend Shawn pointed out "His humour is accusatory." You are left wondering what his set would be without the hecklers.
But most of the humour is self-reflective and steeped in neurosis. The jokes revolved around Maron's midlife angst and the world seen through a fretful lens. There was great material about his relationships with women and his gnawing desire to fuck things up when they are going well, his struggle to get out of his own head, the "sad, tired demon" at his shoulder who once led him astray and now leads him to the Ben & Jerry's carton, and of course, his three cats. Authentic or otherwise, there's an impression of honesty and astringent relish of the fact that relentless self-questioning usually throws up some pretty galling answers.
Most ending with a desperate Maron screaming "GOD DAMN IT."
For more info on Marc Maron, here is a great interview: http://offthemike.com/2011/04/05/my-interview-with-marc-maron/
*All photos courtesy of Marc Maron's personal Facebook page and sample paragraphs lifted from the Guardian Article August 2010.