Moontower Day 1: Marc Maron

The master of 'WTF' came out swinging at the Stateside

"Are you fucking kidding me?" Marc Maron wants to know.

I have no idea how the Anthony Jeselnik show next door at the Paramount went, though the line for that show snaked around the corner, just as it had for Bill Hader. But clearly the contrast between the crush over there and the far more subdued and sparsely populated scene at the Stateside was not a good thing for the egos of the talent booked there.

Even for a comedic icon like Marc Maron, host of the hit L.A. podcast WTF With Marc Maron, who, having taken in the situation pre-show, came out swinging with: "Are you fucking kidding me?" Okay, okay, he calmed himself down in his signature self-therapeutic style: "We're going to work through this issue together." But really, wasn't it bad enough that he had to look out at nine empty rows in the back and be able to see the faces of the audience judging him ("like a jury") because it was apparently too much trouble for the theatre to turn off the lights during his set? Finally, with a jab at Moontower for "running 90 shows in a town that can barely support four," Maron got down to the Being Marc Maron thing.

And was it ever brilliant.

Maron's brand of obsessive, rapid-fire, seemingly off-the-cuff observations about himself and his various "processes" is so smart that you can't help feel that it's impossible for an audience (or maybe just last night's?) to grasp how truly funny he is. (Not saying they didn't laugh – and hard – just a post-show feeling I had.) A Maron narrative is a manic but perfectly paced interior monologue in which he starts a story with frequent detours, say, to question his motives or bona fides, then, having resolved that query, circles back to the original story. Or not. Sometimes a digression may go a little dark or even verge on TMI, but Maron manages to reel it in with a course-and- tone-correcting private laugh.

A confounding amalgam of self-deprecation and cocky- with-a-chip, Maron is a master at alternately baiting the crowd ("Are you bored, bald guy? Or are you just taking it in?") and charming them with his willingness to expose his insecurities. ("Are we arc-ing now?" "You want some stronger material?" "Let's do some well-structured story material.")

Maron put on a terrific show at the Stateside. Like I said, he's the thinking person's comic.

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Marc Maron, Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival, Anthony Jeselnik, Bill Hader

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