I am a huge fan of stand-up comedy, and I spend almost all my “TV” time watching comedians on Netflix or YouTube.
Recently I found myself watching the entire second season of Maron, the comedy series based on and starring comedian Marc Maron. Maron’s probably most famous for his “WTF” podcast, wherein he conducts long, generous interviews with an incredible array of comedians, actors, musicians, and other public figures. Maron’s great weapon as an interviewer and as a comedian is his absolute candor and commitment to truth. The fact that both his candor and his truth are filtered through a sometimes impossibly thick narcissism is the central tension of his work: He wants to be truthful, he even wants to be good, but there’s a ferociously selfish, wounded, self-protecting aspect to his personality that keeps it from being all good. I am reminded of David Foster Wallace’s quip, “The truth will set you free, but not until it’s finished with you.” The truth is not finished with Marc Maron.
I almost want to do an episode-by-episode review of this sometimes-astonishing series, but my first impression is that the whole season’s theme involves the movement from self-protectiveness toward responsibility to others. Maron’s got a growing awareness of his connectedness to others. He rails against the hypocrisy and narcissism in other characters, but almost inevitably his indignation turns toward a recognition of his own selfishness and need to change. He has a keen eye for b.s. and a rapidly evolving conscience. He’s responding more and more to the need for relationships, real friendships, family cohesion, and connection to a community. And, to my surprise, there’s even a growing sense of gratitude. I don’t know if this is Maron’s intention, but there’s almost a sense in which he’s climbing out of the hell he’s created for himself.
That said, it’s still pretty raunchy and broken, alternating between heartbreaking sadness and great comedy. Like Louie, it’s a show I wish I could recommend to parishioners, but in a world where EWTN is what people think of as “Catholic television,” this would seem jarring and vulgar. But I can’t help but think that the paschal mystery undergirds the whole message of the show. God, lead Marc Maron to whatever Sunday you have in store for him and for all of us.