Marc Maron at Soho Theatre

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

In a distracted moment in tonight’s show, visiting American comic Marc Maron confesses that the only way he knows to appreciate art is to look at a painting and ask: ‘Is it finished?’ If it looks like it is – as if there’s nothing more the artist could do to improve it – it’s a fine piece of work.

Applying the same criterion to Maron’s own stand-up, you’d have to conclude that no, it isn’t finished. You get the impression that his whole life is one giant work-in-progress, with every morsel of angst, self-loathing and unhappiness becoming yet another dab of paint on the canvas of his comedy.

His material can be raw in both senses of the word: not yet cooked and sorely exposed. His unblinking honesty always risks being uncomfortable, but usually avoids it, as he builds up his deeply self-analytical thoughts. His knows his life is ridiculous, so invites you to laugh at it, even if it isn’t always easy.

Stand-up was built on ‘neurotic Jews whining’, says this particular neurotic Jew, as he leads us through his emotional malfunctions. There are the voices in his head that compel him to ruin his life whenever things are looking too rosy; his compulsion to sleep with emotionally broken women with daddy issues; the depressing truth that he can’t be a party animal into middle-age, with his addictive personality seeking intense highs outside the drink and drugs he’s been forced to forsake.

Yes, he’s one mass of hang-ups, his default position set to misery with occasional showers of suicidal depression. That, he says, is the human condition: happy people just aren’t seeing the full picture. However, he hates being described as a stand-up who uses comedy as therapy, but there’s certainly a sense that he’s trying to tame his demons by holding them up for all to see.

It will come as no surprise to learn that someone so very self-critical also frets about his own shortcomings, wondering whether the material is ‘relateable’ for anyone else. The phrase ‘Where did I lose you?’ almost becomes a catchphrase when he delves to deeply into his psyche.

There are occasional breaks in Maron’s intense introspection, allowing him to rage against, for example, the Catholic Church. But the comedy never as strong as when the focus is on him.

This isn’t a laugh-a-minute show, it’s too serious for that, but there are some exquisite phrases, plus chuckles to be had at any slight puncturing of the misery. It’s also rough around the edges. There are a few set pieces which he has down to a T, but in other segments it’s more like thinking aloud, stumbling towards a punchline.

Because of the seriousness of the approach and the deeply personal subject matter, the show is firmly in the ‘comedy as art’ camp. I bet it’ll be lovely when it’s finished.

Review date: 30 Jul 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Soho Theatre

What do you think?

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.