Marc Maron, a man highly revered and rewarded for his naturally salty disposition, is living the dream for curmudgeons everywhere. The comedian has opened up his personal life to an extensive following of WTF podcast listeners, IFC series viewers, and now, memoir readers.
Truth be told, I am skeptical of stand-up comedians turned writers because their stories tend to read like bits. Marc Maron’s Attempting Normal, his recently published collection of autobiographical mishaps, is no exception; however, Maron’s “bits” have always been his memoirs. His personal life is the driving force of his sarcastically sage voice that beautifully blurs the line between stand up and storytelling.
Earlier this week, a number of Maron fans gathered at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue for his reading of Attempting Normal. Marc Maron arrived on the bema and immediately cut to the chase.
“Alright, do you want me to read or do you want me to talk?”
Maron warned us that he was not a writer. He was merely a stand-up comic who could write well if forced to concentrate. He also admitted to an erratic writing process of “indiscernible blurts such as auto-erotic asphyxiation on numerous napkins” and his love/hate relationship his editor. Sounds like a writer to me.
Maron proceeded to perform the best reading I’ve ever attended (beating out my all-time favorite 2008 David Sedaris reading). He began detailing his initial tumbles through the undeclared hoops of stand-up comedy with “26” — the side splitting tale of opening for a heroin induced comic for 30 minutes every night and not a single minute less.
The laughter amongst both the reader and audience finally settled. “Alright,” he said. “You want weird?”
It got weird, candid, and downright emotional. Maron took us on a trip down memory lane with stories about his father competing for attention with his grandfather’s corpse at his grandfather’s funeral. We learned that Thanksgiving was a time for him to cook at his mother, a woman allergic to calories. We witnessed him tear up as he read his chapter on babies, which divulged his imminent fear of parenting with his upcoming third wife.
I believe Maron’s brutal honesty balances writer and comic without truly sacrificing either role. Maron doesn’t swap a story for a series of events. He won’t eliminate emotions with jokes. However, his verbal footnotes throughout the reading remind us that he views himself, first and foremost, as a stand-up comedian.
I don’t think Marc Maron could ever really be normal. He’s not meant to be. Fortunately, he is honest, and his innate crankiness, eccentricity, and quirkiness will continue to reverberate through his works.