Live: Marc Maron at the South Beach Comedy Festival, March 1
The Colony Theater, Miami Beach
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Better Than: Spending an evening alone on Twitter
Marc Maron -- despite the fact that he's based in sunny Los Angeles -- projects an image that's almost the antithesis of South Florida. His comic persona is constructed around being an over-thinker, a self-sabotager, and not so much a has-been as an almost-was.
"I don't have so much of a demographic as a mental disposition," he said of his target audience during his performance last night at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach. "It's a weird hyper-sensitivity bordering on bipolarism. I'm for people who know too much useless information, who use it to make their friends uncomfortable."
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The irony, though, is that Maron's star is rising again, thanks to the Internet. His constant presence on social networks like Twitter, as well as his super-popular, and super-insightful, podcast series WTF with Marc Maron, has garnered him a new generation of younger, tech-savvy fans.
Okay, so part of being a Maron fan is being familiar with his back story, knowing that he was part of a particular generation of comedians that included bigger stars like Dave Atell. Maron has appeared on Conan O'Brien's show some 46 times, yet he's still not a household name. (Last night, just a few blocks away, Lewis Black had sold out the Fillmore Miami Beach.)
Yet, here he was, headlining a show at the South Beach Comedy Festival, and for a pretty robust crowd at the Colony. Sure, there were a couple of empty rows, and he tried to fit on this for a bit at the beginning of the set, inviting those in the back to move forward and fill in the empty seats. To harp on this for more than a couple of minutes, though, would have seemed forced. The audience -- many of them 10 to 25 years younger than Maron's 48 -- were clearly there for him, and as a result, he absolutely slayed.
Some of Maron's recorded sets have wandered way too much into self-pity and complaining, but with an enthusiastic audience and -- more on this later -- something of a renewed lease on life, the wallowing was very sparse. Not to say that he's turned all sunshine and rainbows, though.
In fact, his act was divided roughly into two movements that unfolded almost conversationally, as he sat on a stool. The first half was centered around his own cynicism and laziness. "I hate when people say, 'Don't judge," he said near the beginning. "Fuck you, don't take away my hobbies!"
This led into a bit on the Occupy Movement, and the media's coverage of it. Why, for instance, does every news crew manage to find the one guy in tie-dye and dreadlocks, playing a drum? Even though it's embarrassing, we the movement needs him, Maron explained, just like Judaism needs Hasids. The latter pray at Israel's wailing wall for all Jews -- if they quit doing that, why should anyone bother? It's a similar responsibility for the dreadlocked guy.
"During the Occupy Movement, I didn't occupy anything. I have a hard enough time occupying myself. It's not that I'm apathetic, I'm inactive," Maron said. "It's not like I'm going to do the camping. We need that guy to do the camping!"
The second half of the show, though found Maron in a more positive space. Yes, he mentioned his divorce four years ago and did a bit on that, which was darkly funny. "I thought it was all about me so much," he recalled of the ensuing years, "that when she later had a baby, I thought, 'Oh, that's your move?'"
That almost seemed like token laugh-at-my-sadnes material, though, considering what came next -- talk of a new, albeit younger woman, who had stolen his heart. Yes, he tried to mock himself for falling into that old cliche, and went through a long routine about his hardened heart popping out of his chest and trying to give the new woman the middle finger. He also dramatized their fighting habits: "There's no sex better than that had on top of a pile of clothes pulled from a dresser to leave you with."
Still, despite all that grizzled window-dressing, it seems that things are looking up for Maron. And wonder of wonders, it's made his comedy improve. His observations are funnier and more fresh than his past overly long detours into self-flagellation. It's always a pleasant surprise when good comedy is born out of something other than personal tragedy.
Personal Bias: I come from a family of comedy geekery, and have received Maron albums as gifts. I'm also a Twitter addict.
The Crowd: Glasses and glasses. I think they were giving an eye exam at the door and turned away those with 20/20. Also, beards.
By the Way: You know how in every comedy audience there's that one person who, instead of laughing, repeats the last few words of every punchline? Are any of you reading this? If so, can you explain the motivation behind that?
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