By Colin Woodward
Lately, I’ve become something of a Marc Maron fanatic.
I first saw him on Conan years ago. I didn’t know who he was then, but he was interesting. I remember him discussing the infantilization of America and mocking older men who wore white baseball caps all the time. Then he made a disparaging comment about Adam Sandler. Someone in the crowd booed him.
Booed on Conan? Who the hell is this guy?
Then his TV show, Maron, came on IFC, and I realized I had to see what this guy was all about. Season one of Maron was good. Season two was also good. Then I discovered his podcast, WTF.
At the sake of sounding like Squeaky Fromme, the more I listened, the more I realized I was on his wavelength. For example:
1.We both got married for the first time in our thirties.
2. We both have spent considerable time in Massachusetts. And we remember what Strawberry Records was.
3. We both play guitar.
4. Neither of us could get through Gravity’s Rainbow.
5. Neither of us understand Captain Beefheart.
6. Both are non-southerners who are obsessed with the South.
And so on.
Marc Maron does the kind of interviews I’d like to think I’d do if I had a podcast. I mean, how many people in the media have talked with Patterson Hood for two hours?
Larry David was a hero of mine for a while. Marc has picked up where Larry left off. Maron’s show is like Curb Your Enthusiasm for the hipster set. Um, not that I consider myself a hipster.
Every now and then, I really get into a stand-up comic. First it was Denis Leary. Then I realized Leary stole his act from Bill Hicks. I was into Hicks for a while until Larry David became famous. Now, it’s “all Maron, all the time” for me.
Stand-up comics are one of the true lights in the darkness. We like them not just because they’re funny, but because they have something to say.
Some stand-ups have an affinity for history. Larry David was a history major at–of all places–the University of Maryland. Marc Maron did not major in history at his alma mater, Boston University. But he has an obsession with the South, which pretty much makes you obsessed with history.
And as an archivist, it was very cool to read this passage from his book, Attempting Normal:
Before hoarding became a phenomenon, people just called it “collecting” or “being nostalgic.” I don’t hoard, exactly, but I get it. It’s a response to our need and desire for purpose, order, definition, and a fortress. It’s a calling that requires constant management, control, and obsessive attention. I am amassing artifacts from the history of me. My garage is a storeroom and temporary exhibition hall of the yet-to-be-built museum documenting the rise and fall of the Marc Age. I am the curator. I decide the meaning and worth of the collection based on my feelings in a moment. Where does the particular artifact take me now? How do I contextualize this laminated all-access talent pass from the 1995 Aspen comedy festival?
Later, he talks about the dread he feels when he thinks that were he to die, his brother would come by and simply throw everything out.
Maron asks, “Do I have some fantasy that scholars will be thrilled that I left such a disorganized treasure trove of creative evidence of me? Will the archives be fought over by college libraries?”
If I were an archivist in Los Angeles, I’d be trying to get him on the phone right now. Archivists love hoarders.
The more I know about Maron, the more he reminds me of my friends from graduate school: literary guys who also know a little too much about music. I think a lot of historians are frustrated musicians. I think a lot of stand-ups are, too.
Marc, though, has been doing just fine with his comedy lately. He’s the new “King of All Media”: he has a podcast, a TV show, and a book.
The life of a stand-up might be a mess. But comics are brave. Going into battle might be scary, but millions have done it. I’ve even met a few who’ve gone into battle. I have never met anyone who has attempted stand-up comedy. Is there anything more frightening than standing in front of strangers and trying to make them laugh?
We hope that we might be able to make a living from acting on our compulsions. Marc Maron does. Maron has been renewed for a third season. And I, for one, can’t wait.
Colin Woodward is an archivist and historian. He published his first book, Marching Masters, Slavery, Race, and the Confederate Army during the Civil War through UVA Press. He is working on a book on Johnny Cash.