When Marc Maron’s show at BAM sold out, I had no choice but to go see him in Huntingon, Long Island – something I figured might’ve been a mistake when I looked over the crowd of about 1,500 at the Paramount and saw just one skinny bearded guy. Just one recognizable hipster for Marc Maron, the ultimate alt comic? Even the opening act, Brooklyn’s own Mike Lawrence, seemed to know this could get ugly. After describing Florida as the “Ellis Island of awful people,” including Juggalos and Fred Durst, he said, “In the green room there was a Limp Bizkit poster. Fuck it, looking at it gave me the strength to do that joke even more.”
But it turns out, Strong Island might’ve been the right call. After taking the stage, Maron described the previous night at BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House: “There were like 2,000 people there. When you’re in one of those kinds of venues all you’re feeling is: I’m disappointing the venue. Like, it’s too big, it’s built for woodwinds, people singing – it was not built for a neurotic Jew complaining about things.”
Of course, recent events have put a crimp in that style. “How am I going to act like a miserable asshole?” Maron acknowledged. “I talked to the president. He fucked up my whole act!” He was referring, of course, to having interviewed Barack Obama for his WTF podcast.
The interview, released last Monday, drew attention not just because Obama traveled to Maron’s garage for it (“you know what it’s like to have to ask your neighbor if it’s okay to put snipers on your roof?” Maron asked) but also because Obama failed to use a euphemism when he said racial equality went beyond “it not being polite to say nigger in public.” On stage last night, Maron acknowledged those who thought the frank, hour-long conversation didn’t go deep enough. “I love people who are sort of like, ‘Well, you didn’t press him on anything.’ He was in my fucking house! ‘I think you should’ve been a little harder on him.’ He’s the president, you fuck!’”
On Thursday’s follow-up episode of WTF, Maron went on at length about how surreal it was to have POTUS in the garage of his Los Angeles home. Last night, he focused on one particular issue: his bathroom door, which has been “broken for a decade.” At first he was nervous about it, but then he realized: “I think if there’s any magic to the podcast it might be that broken bathroom door. Everyone who uses that bathroom has to do that thing where you try to shut it four times before you just say, ‘Fuck it,’ and hold it while you shit, you know. And that’s how they enter the interview, sort of like: ‘I feel a little violated – a little, like, no boundaries.’ That’s my trick.”
Eventually Maron made up his mind to “try to do a show even though I talked to the president,” and he went on to delve into issues familiar to rabid followers of his podcast: anger management, ice cream addiction, the life of a single middle-aged man with two cats. He also touched on his gentrifying neighborhood of Highland Park: “That’s when you know your neighborhood is changing — when you see more frightened young white couples walking their dogs quickly after daylight. ‘If we live, more will come. And then restaurants — restaurants and confusing boutiques.'”
Just before he closed, Maron offered to answer any “reasonable” questions from the audience. Asked to describe the best relationship he ever had, he said it lasted three days. “Here’s the thing,” he fumbled to explain. “I’m 51 and I’m at this point where, like, I have no kids and I don’t have to fucking do anything I don’t want to do, which includes tolerate a lot of bullshit from somebody else. So, maybe that’s cynical…” Then he caught himself. “Why am I talking like this? Like, I’m defensive: why are you asking me? I’m doing fine, I’m dating a painter [artist Sarah Cain], she paints big paintings, they’re in museums and shit, makes me feel small. Because that’s real art.”
“What the fuck do I do?” he added. I creatively complain.”