Comedy Central Rec.
With his WTF podcast now so cemented, a staple – and as a result his voice, both the point of view and the actual timbre – so ingrained it’s no surprise that Marc Maron has released his finest comedy record with Thinky Pain, the audio version of a recent Comedy Central special.
I’ve found with Maron that when he isn’t trying to be funny he’s at his best – a strange request of a comedian perhaps but when he forces it, and he can certainly be found guilty of that across his career, in his recorded podcast interviews, in his writing he sounds joke-desperate, searching (too hard) for a laugh. When he relaxes into assessing himself and unleashing the anger of everyday life he’s a fascinating version of the self-absorbed, self-obsessed voice that is in (almost) all of us.
And so with Thinky Pain he takes a George Carlin-like approach to philosophically undressing, to paradoxically pointing out his frustrations around things that give other people pleasure and a few of his favourite topics from recent years pop up again (his vinyl midlife crisis, his spot-on mocking of Morning Zoo-styled breakfast radio).
Thinky Pain sees Maron slipping in some subversive darkness (Autoerotic Asphyxiation) as well as celebrating comedy hero Bill Hicks. Where Denis Leary simply stole from Hicks you can see the influence he had on Maron – but there’s no lifts here, just his own recounts, his own raconteur routine.
A comedy record is a hard sell in this day and age, I would have thought. I still have a few of my favourites from the 70s – a golden era for comedy albums – but new comedy albums seem, at best, a one-listen. We find all we need on the YouTube or elsewhere. And with Maron popping up twice weekly for in-depth discussions across comedy, music and pop culture, turning up his own analysis as well as reflecting his thoughts through conversations with guests you could run the risk of having a little too much Marc Maron in your life.
Where I couldn’t quite cope with his book (I wanted to like it, I liked a lot of it but it also fell over into the trying-to-hard-to-squeeze-out-a-bit problem I discussed earlier) Thinky Pain is only as meandering as it needs to be. It’s actually sharp, focussed and in the moments where it’s not funny it’s still engaging. Maron’s quest to understand himself – and to understand us, all of us – is strangely invigorating. And addictive. I tune in to hear him most weeks. And I’ll be giving the best bits on Thinky Pain a few more spins.
I do, too, love his story of not just survival but of eking out a living, espousing a philosophy, committing – so fully – to a labour of love. And of course there’s the story of success now, of, in whatever sense making it. His is a story of triumph. And the nastiness, the bitterness is being channelled correctly now. It informs the work rather than adding to any frustrations or holding the best of his material back.