Marc Maron: Scorching The Earth

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

With more baggage than Louis Vuitton, this is Marc Maron’s tale of his spiteful and bitter divorce from his second wife. But it’s not the clichéd ‘comedy as therapy’, he insists, if not entirely convincingly. There is an inescapable feeling throughout this hour that he’s seeking, if not ‘closure’, then at least some sort of revenge or point-scoring on his ex-wife. Months of bitterness and acrimony, are spilling out the only way he knows how: through stand-up.

That’s not to say that the show – playing to a tiny late-night audience in the intimate Theatre Ste-Catherine – isn’t frequently funny, since Maron is an accomplished stand-up whose searing awareness of his own failings produces many a wryly funny punchline. But each laugh is hard-won against a difficult narrative in which no one emerges as a sympathetic character.

Maron readily admits to being a short-tempered, self-centred and needy man – he’s a comic, so that’s probably a given. Nor does he attempt to airbrush these unappealing traits into something more palatable. In keeping it honest – if not balanced - every criticism you can level at him is raised, if not always resolved. You feel perhaps he’s reliving past arguments with 20-20 hindsight, and more polished comebacks, even if he does acknowledge his own flaws.

The killer factor against him is that he left his first wife for a ‘better’ model, so why should we empathise with him, when he’s dumped for a very similar reason? And we’re not going to be rooting for the ex who, understandably, is hardly pictured in a flattering light. Like many a split, this is a story where everyone is a loser. Even Maron’s supposed psychological victory at the end is shallow, though he seems to think it’s a major ‘up yours’ to his ex.

That woman, incidentally is also a stand-up (Mishna Wolff, Wikipedia later reveals) and it turns out that the beau she dumped him for also works in the business, with Maron researching him on imdb, not Facebook like the rest of us would have to do. That, perhaps, explains why he feels he has to put his story out there. Though it can backfire: when he reads out the snarky email he sent to her, it reveals him to be an embittered, petty man you think she was better off without.

Observations on the fringes of the central, sad story tend to be where hey laughs lie – his bachelor life with four cats for company, for example – while the closer we get to the dark heart of the matter, the harder it is to see the funny side. A few little theatrical tricks, such as imagining a backyard possum to be the Devil trying to tempt him, attempt to sweeten the pill, with mixed results.

A good stand-up has to be honest and opinionated, and you can’t fault Maron on either of those points. He does expose his personality here, even if what we see isn’t always pleasant, but he doesn’t quite square the circle of making that personal pain consistently funny, despite coruscating flashes of dry wit. As such this show, perhaps like his life, feels very much like a work in progress.

Review date: 20 Jul 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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