“We will all be immortalized as content.” Delivered as a tag to one of the many longwinded non-sequiturs that constitute the entirety of standup comedian Marc Maron’s latest hour-long Netflix special, Marc Maron: Too Real, the sentiment feels more than thematically appropriate for the time in which it is being delivered. In the fallout of the 2016 presidential election, Maron’s fears and anxieties in the age of Donald Trump have been given a new prescience. Rather than signifying any sort of hyperbolic neurosis, Maron’s stereotypical manic energy has a real bogeyman to attach itself to.
Famous for his unconventional and informal interview with former President Barack Obama from June 2015, it’s no secret that Maron is a liberal thinker. A former co-host of the progressive talk radio network Air America during the George W. Bush era, Maron has long been one to wax poetic on the social failings of conservative ideologies. Quick to anger, Maron built his reputation on righteous and petty grievances, both political and personal, avenged via a string of wildly articulate monologues.
In Marc Maron: Too Real, the middle-aged thespian of the comedy club returns to deliver another state of the nation to a rabble of equally volatile fans. “I can’t take it. I don’t know what he’s going to do next,” pleads Maron from the start, in an open cry for likeminded camaraderie in the shadow of the current White House administration. Seeking to find some kind of imagined kinship with anyone who could have possibly voted for a person that Ta-Nehisi Coates subversively labeled “The First White President,” Maron imagines a scenario in which he might sit down to dinner with a Trump supporter.
Tied by a shared affinity for the music of Tom Petty – and divided only by a bowl versus burrito choice in menu options at Chipotle Mexican Grill – Maron paints the most tenuous of ties that bind a nation in a state of civil unrest. The peace is short lived, however, as Maron’s temporary ally quickly declares his hatred of Jews, to which Maron returns to his initial conclusion that Trump supporters have either actively or inactively given license to gross acts of racial, ethnic, and gendered prejudice, racism, hatred, and violence.
For longtime listeners of WTF with Marc Maron, this kind of thinking is par for the course, and a big part of why he continues to appeal to a significant fraction of the general population. Rather than espousing innocuous punch-lines or prop-based theatrics lacking any basis in a core sense of humanity, Maron levels with his listeners two times a week on the trivial and essential trials that we all face individually and together.
Many have seen fit to make a running gag out of the first 15-20 minutes of the average episode of WTF with Marc Maron, during which Maron is prone to indulging in selfish spats of navel-gazing. But such a sentiment would shortchange some of the moments of genuine empathy that hide between Maron’s latest updates on the biological status of his many house cats. Nestled within his many dire premonitions about the state of his own health and wellbeing, Maron reaches several moments of personal catharsis that become communal by the very nature of podcasting.
All of Maron’s shortcoming, worries, and concerns are made communal through his art, however self-involved a lot of his frame narratives sometimes are. Speaking directly to his listeners, Maron immeasurably connects to people who share a lot of the same emotional and psychic scars. Towards the final 20-minute mark of Marc Maron: Too Real, the comedian engages in an extended soliloquy bemoaning the ephemeral cool lent by material objects that become burdened with the depreciating baggage of the consumer. The moment is instantly relatable, and comically connects the 53-year-old across generations to the very mustache-sporting hipster Millennials that he uses as the crux and frame of reference to its punchline.
Throughout Marc Maron: Too Real, Maron moves briskly between pop culture digressions, political critiques, and middle class malaise with an ease that he has developed over the course of the past ten-odd years. After spending several decades in various states of overt antagonism, the Maron that viewers meet in Too Real is without a doubt the most laid back and intellectually honest version of him that standup comedy fans have been made privy to yet.
Gone are the days of Maron adopting various guises of an ever-malleable zeitgeist. The man who once wore a nehru jacket on Late Night with Conan O’Brien in an effort to look put-together in an eccentric fashion is gone. In his place is a wizened celebrity who has found his audience online and on the stage – and even with a supporting role on the critically acclaimed Jenji Kohan production, GLOW.
In describing his creative process, Maron reveals to his audience in Too Real that he often writes half-finished thoughts that come to him over the course of a day on small slips of paper. Of these fevered jottings, the one that sticks out the most from his latest special is the aforementioned mantra, “We will all be immortalized as content.” The statement feels personally true of Maron – who found mainstream success late in life through various multi-media formats before establishing the groundbreaking WTF with Marc Maron podcast in September 2009 – and diagnoses the absurdity of celebrity in the 2010s.
Technology has progressed to the point where talent has been irreparably debased, and the platform for social discourse has devolved to a stasis of shouting competitions engaged in an echo chamber. Media hubs and Internet celebrities compete to produce the most widely accessible batches of content for their respective audiences, while earnest creative enterprises and individuals are engaged as a passed over late-stage countercultural movement.
For Maron and his fans, the election of Donald Trump to the office of President of the United States stands as the final battle of a culture war waged on Twitter. 140 character long barrages of abuse and name-calling have cheapened the sanctity of the White House and public discourse. But as long as you can get retweeted, you too can be immortalized as content.
By the end of his latest Netflix standup special, Maron doesn’t offer much in the way of concrete hope. Instead, he delivers a string of absurdist takes on the improbable state of the world. From relating his experiences as an aging Baby Boomer at a Rolling Stones concert, to discussing the informal assemblage of his mother’s final affairs, Maron manages to make light of the innocuousness of life itself.
Marc Maron: Too Real sees Maron trading barbs with a country that still feels unfamiliar to many of us still living in it. As a response to the transition between two White House administrations, Maron does what he always has: rages against the impenetrable bureaucracy of fate. It doesn’t take away any of the sting of the past eight months, but it definitely helps to define the reality that we’re all living in.
Featured Image: Netflix