Director: Lynn Shelton
Marc Maron’s sharper, funnier now than he’s ever been and yet Too Real, his latest comedy special – this one taped for Netflix – isn’t at all laugh-out-loud funny. But that’s okay! I’ve struggled through some of Maron’s specials, but I’m dedicated to the cause; a regular listener of his WTF podcast I’ll tune in every week, twice, no matter the guest. So an hour or so of a comedy special once a year or so isn’t too much to ask either.
Where I see Maron going – and he’s really not too far from it with much of Too Real – is in the vein of a Henry Rollins; more a truth-teller, nearly a philosopher (perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch). We don’t quite have an umbrella term for a person that stands up and talks – so we use comedian as the catch-all. I think Maron’s moving away from that. He might even be the last to fully know it. Or acknowledge it. But there are good stories here, with deft timing.
And whether it’s ripping on Trump (seemingly part of the contract for this year’s Netflix comedy specials) or talking about seeing The Rolling Stones – and beating traffic home being better than any encore – Maron’s settling into his metaphorical middle-aged spread a little late. Well, it took him 40+ years (by his own recent admission) to get close to being an adult. So it’s not surprise that at 53 he’s finally getting comfortable with middle-age. This sets up a nice tension actually – because he’s now on a permanent countdown of sorts, balancing cultural experiences against the potential number of days left on his
count. The doom and gloom of the Maron biological clock as it ticks and tocks and dongs ominously might be his masterstroke in late-career comedy, it’s his window into a true comedic shift.
He’s getting more laughs now – he’s more famous now. That’s a hand-in-hand situation. But the material is stronger, and though I’m all but damning with faint praise here – I really think that joke-telling/writing is not his strength. He’s a storyteller. We know that from the threads that emerge – and the side-path tangents – in his podcast conversations. We’re seeing that, increasingly in the roles he’s committing to on screen, and in the books he’s writing/compiling.
And so it is in his actual comedy.
Where More Later was very hard work to enjoy and Thinky Pain was mostly okay but not quite as clever as it wanted to be, Too Real is – for most of its run – very good. There should be no pressure to laugh. And of course watching it at home means that there is not. At all. And that shouldn’t put you off. There’s some good truth-telling and some well-crafted yarns. It’s the best of his efforts to date.