Austin — Midnight on a Friday and the Paramount in Austin was packed. No matter that five solid hours of Moontower Comedy Festival in 10 venues had just gone down, people were ready for more. When comedy god Marc Maron of the famed WTF podcast comes to town, seats fill regardless of the time. True to fine Austin form, in spite of Maron’s cult following the two opening acts were treated well. Local comic Ryan Cownie proved to be an affable emcee, juggling three punchy comics and managing a well-lubricated crowd.
If you crossed Don Rickles with Richard Lewis, and mixed in a bit of Woody Allen, the result would be Andy Kindler, popping off insults, mainly of other comedians. It gets old. Really, more Jay Leno jokes? But at least he’s self-referential. He slammed Dane Cook and then wondered why he was poking a comic who peaked years ago. With his lean build and odd jerky, hunched pacing, he’s like a neurotic marionette. Best line: “I am not a practicing Jew. I’ve got it down.” He shines as Mort the funeral director in the popular animated FOX series Bob's Burgers.
James Adomian is a classic stand-up comic in top form, with the strong stage command, verbal sophistication and audience mastery befitting a top 10 finalist of Last Comic Standing. A strapping, casually fit guy, he spun a set of gay humor from the perspective of “someone who doesn’t scan gay.” He explored the hyper-masculinity of beer ads that range from pastoral scenes with no women around, handsome faces sporting stubble that indicates the absence of women just “hanging out being bros,” to outright anti-girlfriend stuff one step shy of voodoo dolls. That pales to the high-gloss homoeroticism of shaving product ads, he said, with their slavish adoration of the male physique. Quite skilled in the manipulation of his voice, Adomian closed with a sharp impression of self-contemptuous Louis CK tucking a neurotically wracked Maron into bed.
Maron returned the volley, opening with impersonations of a schleppy, clueless Dave Attell (“Whaaat?”) and a perfect David Cross rife with hissing judgments, nervous heel hops and wriggling fingers. From there, he quickly morphed into classic Maron mode. Just a man and a microphone scrunched up on a high stool, sharing unfiltered thoughts. It’s a remarkable intimacy. Throughout his set Maron lived up to the personal disclaimer: “I may not always be funny, but I am compelling.”
A 40-minute version of the opening stream-of-consciousness segment of WTF ensued. The main entwined themes were Maron’s anger and relationships: “A river of rage runs through me all the time. I’m just trying to close the gap between angry outburst and apology.” Just a few minutes into his set, he began chastising a woman seated up front who was talking to a friend during his set. He repeated her excuse—“You don’t know what kind of day I’ve had”—to boos from audience; the Austin ethos is strong on artist respect. When she kept chatting, he aggressively razed her until she left: “I’ve been talking about anger and… there it is.”
There was plenty in the set to remind audience members that Maron was not just a personality, he was a comedian, one with many years in business. He even stepped out of his self-absorption to do material that had nothing to do with him. A fan of science, he presented a long depiction of gravity as interpreted by literal Christians, believers in visits by extraterrestrials, and hyper-rationalists. “Whatever bullshit you want to believe, you can find support on the internet,” said Maron. But it wasn’t the usual comic’s reactionary trashing of spiritualists. Maron went on to skewer the science establishment for freaking out when Dr. Rupert Sheldrake dared to postulate that the gravitational constant might not be so constant. Deep stuff, funny stuff.
Maron gave a heartfelt rap about the things he’s come to terms with, like no longer having drugs and drink as a crutch. He told of buying a pint of ice cream (“two servings, it says”) and then another to compensate, ultimately rising from a half-sleep later that night to finish them off. He shuffled over to the mic stand, the universal signal that a comic is closing their set. The audience shuffled in anxiety: the event they’d waited so long for was almost over. They leaned forward, hoping he’d stay a little longer. He obliged with a rant recapping his feud with Time Warner Cable and how even a service technician could deliver a jab to his psyche. And then he was gone, to be seen the next day on the streets of Austin, tracking down comics for the podcast, going about the very public business of his life.
» The life of Marc Maron is semi-fictionalized in the comedy series Maron on IFC, with Maron playing the title role. In this excerpt, Maron drags a depressed, post-divorce Dave Foley to confront an internet troll in person:
» Our chief comedy critic Amy Martin is at Moontower Comedy Festival this week. Keep watching TheaterJones for interviews, reports, reviews and more.