I grew up being a fan of COMEDY, without any disambiguation. Knowing that many things on Comedy Central (Stand up, South Park, kind of everything) would have elements that my parents would find unsavory and not want me to watch made me feel like I was getting away with something while watching the channel. No matter the crassness, tone or intent of the humor, I took it all in and found it nearly universally redeeming. As I started to grow up a bit, I began to see some of the luster starting to fade. Wow, a lot of stand-up comedians hate their girlfriends or wives... and the phenomenon of Carlos Mencia and Jeff Dunham with their anything-but-covert racist jokes? So much of comedy is a race to the bottom, rampant with sexism, racism, classism, and more than anything sameness . Nothing is edgy when everyone does it. I've found my way to comedians with more of a point of view and something to actually say- whether it be in the broadest or narrowest sense. Thanks to my fellow blogger Shreya, I've become obsessed with Louie and Girls and will continue to search out more great comedies in that vein.
Maron , following the path of Louie , doesn't need to derive humor from base and tasteless subjects. What it does is take everyday situations and makes them simultaneously hilarious, awkward, and highly uncomfortable. This week brings us the reunion of Marc and his absent father (played by Judd Hirsch), whom he blames all of his problems on.
Marc's father appears as a silly old man obsessed with selling everyone in the nation homemade vitamins from his RV that will give them 5 hours of energy and a 72 hour erection (because, what else would you ever want from life?). We find out that he's: a former doctor whose license was revokes, a manic depressive off his meds and a self-centered mess. Of course, the irony of Marc calling anyone self-centered is pretty damn thick. Marc's father stands strong in his assessment that Marc was just like him, an allusion to similarity in both a paternal sense as well as bipolarity. I know, heavy man.
The B storyline that accompanies Marc and his dad's saga is one where Marc is trying to convince his agent that podcasting can be a way to make money and be successful in the comedy industry. This makes no sense to his agent, who can only see things like TV talk shows (like the one he's going to get Pete Holmes) as 'legitimate' avenues to pursue. Also, shout out to Pete and Marc for bringing their "do they or don't they actually hate each other?" vibe to the show. Loved it.
The turning point for both Marc and his dad revolve around special guest Jeff Garlin. Marc gets him to come over and record the show, and his dad accosts the two of them mid-interview to try to sell him on his vitamins. He gets him to take a box of vitamins, which is just the moral victory that he wanted. The fact that Garlin took the vitamins and became violently ill was of little importance... After a bout of vomiting, Garlin returns and gives a compelling interview that raises Marc's profile and the show's ranking from #18 to #8 (only seven behind This American Life!). Marc goes and brags to his agent and promptly fires him. Claiming that he doesn't need management and he'll do all this on his own... and cue the epiphany. After making a gesture to buy an extension cord to power his dad's RV, Marc returns to find that his dad has left. Again.
Wrapping it up: Are we all reflections of our parents, as much as we might vow to never become? Probably, genetics is a bitch that way... The way that the episode drug out the fight between Marc and his dad was great in that it took what a more traditional sitcom would address in one short exchange and made us all sit in it. All the accusations and narcissistic excuse-making swell the discomfort to the point where we all want to be Andy Kindler and try to stop the emotional draining. Is anything ultimately solved by them? No. Marc resolves to accept his father as is, but it takes two to bury the hatchet.
Marc is also particularly biting on the comedy industry, and industry in general in this bit of commentary in a monologue on the show -
"You'll never make a lot of money until you make someone else a lot of money. I mean you'll make enough to survive, but if you want a vacation house on the cape, or a Sherpa to carry your coffee grinder up Everest, it's not going to happen... until you make yourself an exploitable commodity."
And that, my friends, is a critique of capitalism in a mainstream comedy show. Not as thorough of one as I'd like, but his main point rings true. In a capitalist society, your accumulation of wealth is dependent on your ability to make more money for those in the class above you. The only escape hatch that appears to be open in Marc's situation is one of entrepreneurship - through his podcast. So, tackling the structures of father/son dynamics and the entertainment industry makes this a pretty dense and effective episode of Maron . What did you all think?