Arts and culture writers sometimes meet creative people they not only admire, but who have also helped them through the death of a parent, a worldwide pandemic and a renegotiated relationship with alcohol.
Marc Maron turned down EW’s request for an interview, so that opportunity has yet to come for me.
All the same, I credit the comic, actor and podcast host with those things. His performance at the Hult Center on Friday, Nov. 18, offers fine consolation.
A veteran standup with a grip of comedy records and specials to his name, Maron’s in town honing material for a new HBO special he’ll shoot in New York this December. His award-winning Netflix special End Times Fun came out pre-pandemic in early 2020.
With a seemingly endless vocabulary for comic discomfort and neurotic self-reflection, Maron offered lovably grouchy insight in his last special into everything from nutritional supplement hustlers to his most enduring topic besides addiction recovery, coffee and blues music: What life is like as a cat owner.
As an actor, most know Maron as Sam Sylvia on the hit Netflix series GLOW. He also recently voiced Mr. Snake from the 2022 animated feature film Bad Guys. In the mid-2010s, he had four seasons of a thinly veiled autobiographical TV show, Maron, on IFC.
The groundbreaking WTF with Marc Maron podcast, produced in Maron’s “garage” since 2009, before podcasting was even a thing, is most broadly long-form conversation between the comedian and established or emerging individuals, often artists. More specifically, though, the show’s about trauma and how trauma informs a life story and creative process, the same well from which Maron draws comedy.
In his standup material and on his podcast, he also provides a reasonable progressive antidote to the often macho, pseudo-intellectual online culture and its figurehead: fellow comic and podcast host, Joe Rogan — a rightwing-sympathetic movement that Maron refers to as a “monoculture of free-thinkers.”
I saw Maron in Portland last year in an early tip-toe out as pandemic worries lessened. In the material, much of which will likely also be performed in Eugene, Maron covered his girlfriend’s sudden death in spring 2020 — she was the film director Lynn Shelton, who helmed End Times Fun — and in turn, he covered his experience with death and grieving.
Already a WTF fan, I followed Maron — raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico but “genetically Jersey,” as he puts it — on social media, and in the early days of the pandemic with standup stages dark, he streamed live on Instagram for wide-ranging improv chat sessions. After Shelton’s highly publicized death, those live streams took on new urgency.
I watched them whenever I could, like a phone call from a friend, some weird kind of theater, a body of work on their own. It felt like he knew it, too. I was reminded of my favorite Maron-ism: “For my next trick I will make everyone understand me.”