Anyone who still had doubts about the significance of podcasting in the age of the internet has only to look at what has happened to the career of navel-gazing comic Marc Maron. Resurrection may or may not be too strong a word, but reinvigoration is probably much too weak to describe what WTF? With Marc Maron, the twice a week interview podcast he’s been hosting for almost two years now, has done for him. It’s not that he wasn’t successful before; certainly he had almost a cult status that had many talking about his comic genius, but as listeners to his podcast know, genius is just another way of saying unsuccessful with the larger audience: too smart for the house.
And Maron is smart—smart and funny. Which attribute is more important for a comedian is clear, but if one is essential, the other is a welcome option. If you listen to his podcast, you can hear him discussing semiotics with Michael Showalter, Australian aborigine superstitions about the didgeridoo with Greg Fleet, and absurdist comedy with British comic Simon Munnery. But he’s just as comfortable talking about the Borscht Circuit with Richard Lewis or the Rolling Stones and Doo Wop with Jimmy Fallon, and people are comfortable talking to him. Over and over again he finds his guests revealing the kind of personal information you would never expect to hear in this kind of public forum. Just listen to his interview with Todd Hanson, still available on iTunes. It is a combination that has garnered him plenty of praise and plenty of new fans.
So, it’s not strange that he take the moment to parlay some of that success into the release of his fourth CD, a live performance recorded last year at Union Hall in Brooklyn on August 9th. This Has to Be Funny is a standup set that mixes his patented dark soul-searching with a dollop of social commentary. He talks about his current successes and his self-destructive urges which are bound to surface, albeit in the most colorful of language. Maron fans are of course familiar with his favorite four-letter word, and are likely to be offended if it were not thrown in liberally. The thing is that whether he is ranting about his ex-wife giving birth or texting while driving (of course in the Maron universe, it’s he that’s doing the texting), he has got the audience in the proverbial palm. And who knows what else he might have had in that palm.
In a set that includes 13 tracks there are big laughs and smirks. After all, everything on the CD, as advertised, has to be funny. For me Maron is at his best in the longest piece on the set, “The Creation Museum,” a classic satiric rant on the conflict between religion and science. A former host on Air America, although he was sure canceled a number of times, his particular point of view is not difficult to guess. “Earl’s Rooter” is a laugh-out-loud anecdote about the comic’s returning from a trip and finding some intriguing drain problems. The bit builds to a really unexpected climax. It is a button to die for. “Dating Agressively” is an insane commentary on his love life, and “A Situation In My Head” focuses on the impossibility of explaining himself to others.
Take an hour or so to listen to one of Maron’s podcasts. If you like it, you’ll love This Has to Be Funny. It has to be funny and it is.