Moontower Review: Marc Maron

The Cassandra of comedy enjoys the silence

Marc Maron at the 2022 Moontower Just for Laughs (Photo by Rachel Parker Photography)

If Marc Maron ever writes an autobiography, it should be called Hope Dies First, and the small set of surviving Studs Turkel fans will get a final laugh at the nod as the world burns.

And the world is burning, Maron warned in his headliner set Friday at the Moontower Just For Laughs comedy festival. Or rather, the pot has slowly heated to near-boil and we're dealing with the undeniable rise of fascism in Florida and Texas. Yet there's no joyous "I told you so" from the morose Cassandra of comedy, rather the frustration of acceptance, and even a sense that even he has been blindsided by the particularly vicious strain of stupidity that has ripped through American culture over the last few years. It wears you down, and this was less the studiously shaggy Maron and more the great anecdotalist dealing with a collapsing world, the misanthrope increasingly as public hermit. Yet he's no less barbed or direct than he has ever been: when a bizarre argument seemed to break out in the audience, he didn't bother with witty, withering put-downs of the show disturbers. Instead, there was a simple instruction: be an adult.

Maron remains one of the last great shock comics, but not in the facile fashion of throwing a few naughty words out there. Instead, he deals in provocative concepts like "not being awful," or calling out our darkest, most reclusive instincts (a section about his father's dementia was ther perfect example of saying the quiet bits loud). He's also one of the few comics utterly unafraid of silence. He instead embraces it, and there were pin-drop-quiet moments during his 90-plus minute set (the time was relevant: he kept locking at his watch, calling audibles to see whether he could fit everything in - which he finally did).

Inevitably he had to deal with the specter that was hanging over the last two years, the one thing that his jaundiced, dismissive, self-critical shell cannot protect him against: the fresh wellspring of grief from the death of his partner, filmmaker Lynn Shelton, in the early days of the pandemic. His comedy, as he noted and was obvious throughout, has a therapeutic strand to it, allowing him to process his intellectual and philosophical fury through an emotional outlet. But the story of his last visit with Shelton felt less like catharsis and more like something with which he now lives. After so much of his routine was built around his non-bonds with his parents, and before a closing section about the kids he's happy to have never had, this all landed differently.

It's impossible to see into someone else's relationships, especially through the often false openness of a comedy bit, but it was also impossible not to think that this moment had left a different kind of scar on Maron. So when he wrapped that story up with a joke that was both sweet and transgressive, it was almost as if he was telling the audience, "I'm OK." Maybe the reports of the demise of hope have been exaggerated.

Moontower Just For Laughs 2022, April 13-24. Tickets and info at

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