Watching Maron, you can’t help but feel good for the comedian at the center of the show. It wasn’t long ago that Marc Maron was languishing in relative obscurity and struggling through substance abuse and bitter divorce. After exiling himself to his garage, he began a podcast (WTF with Marc Maron) in which he’d interview various acquaintances of his from the world of comedy, gradually expanding the shows renown until he was interviewing pretty much everyone in the entertainment industry. Meanwhile, he used the show to get himself and his unique mix of neurotic, confessional/observational humor back into public circulation. The premiere of Maron, along with the release of his second book Attempting Normal, seems to be the cherry on top of the hugely successful career turnaround that is the past four or so years in Maron’s life. How does Maron feel about all this success? Terrified of course. His first words of the pilot “Internet Troll” are “Things are going well for me, but that’s a problem” and that seems to be the mantra of the rest of the episode and the series.
Last month when I previewed Maron I noted how there would be a natural tendency to compare Maron to Louis C.K.’s show Louie, and the comparison is certainly easy to make. They both utilize biographical details from their creators’ lives. They both portray previous, less-successful incarnations of their eponymous comedians. They also both take advantage of the new relationship between comedian and sitcom that Louie helped make popular. Traditionally, if a comedian wanted to get into television, they would try to get a role on a sitcom. Usually, maybe not always, the sitcom would have little to do with the comedians act or sometimes be far out of their style of humor. When Louie C.K. came along and successfully wrote, directed, edited, produced, and starred in his own show that was undeniably straight from C.K.’s mind and no one else’s, it seems to have changed the way comedians were allowed to approach the world of TV.
Likewise, Maron is an incarnation of its creator. The show with its distracted, rambling tone, its voicing of harsh truths, or its unapologetic tendency to switch effortlessly between humor and soul crushing sadness on a dime is completely reminiscent of Maron’s true voice and anyone who loves WTF will be immediately at home here with Maron. Still, the idea that the show is Maron’s to screw up seems valid. It’s a very personal show. “Internet Troll” focuses on Maron’s hunt for a lone critic who has been maligning his comedy continuously on Twitter. When he finally finds the “Dragon Master” as he’s called (Community fans may have trouble not seeing this guy as Garrett), he has to confront the fact that he does care quite a lot what people think of him. “Do you have to have everybody like you?” is the question the Dragon Master asks him, and it seems to be a valid one. It’s clear not everyone is going to like Maron. It’s depressing and unusual and manic and just a little bit self involved. Whereas WTF has the luxury of guest stars to take off some of the comedic responsibility (although Maron seems like it will have this to a degree as well with a guest appearance this week from Dave Foley of The Kids in the Hall), most of the focus of Maron will be solely on Marc Maron himself so in that sense, yes, the show is his to lose.
The good news is Maron is enjoyable and already has a huge fan base coming over from his podcast, and IFC does seem to be the perfect home for it. Although not as manic as some of the channel’s other shows (Portlandia, Comedy Bang! Bang!), I think IFC will provide the right audience for Marc Maron’s neuroses. That and the slew of notable guest stars that Maron is sure to bring with him on a weekly basis should keep things fresh enough and interesting enough to keep this comedy afloat for a while. As enjoyable as the pilot was, however, structurally it still feels a little safe. But it is the pilot afterall. Hopefully things will get a bit crazier as we go along.