In September 2009, after being fired three times from Air America, Marc Maron started one last gambit to stave off the end of his comedic career. He started a podcast called WTF with Marc Maron, a product (if you can really call a free enterprise a product) designed to let him speak freely and interview fellow comedians and peers (usually in his garage) – which more often than not led to an inevitable apology on Marc’s part for some horrible spiteful comment/action that he’d done to them in the past. The show has had an amazing amount of success, and Marc has interviewed the likes of Robin Williams, Judd Apatow, Ira Glass, Jon Hamm, Bryan Cranston and Michael Keaton. Maron's interview style is unique in that he's more than a little self-involved, but also off the cuff in a disarming way that almost always makes for an interesting and unexpected experience (except maybe Gallagher).
After the strange meteoric rise of the podcast, IFC has created a show called Maron which is about a comedian who has a podcast where he interviews comedians in his garage… Sound like anyone you know? The correlations between Maron and Louie are anything but unexpected, to the point where Maron said in an interview that his show might as well be called “Not Louie.”
In this preview episode, Marc interviews Dennis Leary and admits to never having been in a fight. This is unacceptable to Dennis,
“How’s your self-esteem?”
“It’s fine. I mean, I hate myself, but… that’s where I get it out. I beat myself up.”
“You, from the moment I met you, have hated yourself. You have not advanced…”
“I’m much better at it.”
Here is the dichotomy that’s been placed on manhood. Either you’re a guy who goes out and gets into fights or a ‘pussy’ who doesn’t. Marc feels highly uncomfortable being put in the latter category. This theme of manhood is tested in three aspects in the episode: Marc finding out that his ex-wife’s father Is dying of cancer, Marc having to figure out how to remove a dead opossum from under his house, and taking on Kyle in a boss/mentor/father figure role.
The most obvious challenge to Marc is the opossum, which leads to a trip to the hardware store and an excuse to feel hypermasculine a la Home Improvement, but even that can’t keep him from spewing emotional insecurities at Kyle and generally making everyone uncomfortable (classic Marc). Then after a taco trip's worth of procrastination, Marc and Kyle are left staring at the crawlspace... and Marc can't do it. Fortunately, Jose Luis, the man who cuts Marc's lawn is there to spare them the experience. Rather than embarrassment, Marc sums everything up in a monologue on his podcast,
“Look folks, I’m not an alpha male, alright? I act like one sometimes but I’m not a real one. And the reason I know that if I ever lock eyes with a real alpha male – they know. They’re like, ‘Say hi to the little girl in there.’ And I’m like, oh no, they saw you. Look, I think all men have a girl inside them. You just don’t want her to come out at the wrong time. I know I’ve got one in there. I know she’s a bitch; I’m starting to think she has an eating disorder, and her name’s Jill. But that’s my issue. The bottom line is, no matter who you are, you’re going to be defined by your actions. And sometimes, you’ve just got to man up.”
And Marc does ‘man up’ in nearly every action. He visits his dying ex father-in-law and pays his respects, listens to Kyle’s story of maybe, possibly being molested at sleepaway camp, keeps him on as an assistant, and triumphantly hangs a hummingbird feeder in his backyard. Did he himself remove the opossum from the crawlspace under his house? Hell no, but that’s what makes Marc an individual and is what we can take away from the episode. Men as a gender are instructed that to be a man is to do these tasks that are (justifiably or unjustifiably) scary, and to do so with bravado so as to inspire the rest of the gender. Marc’s words couldn’t be any more truthful. Every man has a ‘girl’ inside of him that provides him with doubt and caution that more people should probably listen to. We can’t all be Dennis Leary, selling Ford trucks and pretending to need more towing power than any human should have access to. And who’s to say Dennis Leary is even that person?
Verdict: Look, I'm clearly biased in my opinion of Marc Maron, but I think this show has the possibility of tackling deeper issues and insecurities along with bringing in recognizable guest stars regularly through the plot device of the interview show. Marc's unique (needy and slightly draining) energy is something new for a leading man in a comedy, and it's something you have to see to understand and hopefully enjoy. I love what IFC has done in their cultivating of comedies like Portlandia and Comedy Bang Bang and hope that Maron can continue the trend of smart and thoughtful shows having commercial success as well.