There’s so much good television that it’s impossible to keep up, and as the Primetime Emmy nominations announcement approaches — set for July 14 — nominee speculation is all the rage. The comedy category was a particularly heavy hitter this past season. Emmy love of recent years has gone to comedies featuring female jailbirds and dysfunctional families, New York women and socially awkward nerds.
So, Emmy voters, with so many options, it’s expected that you all had a tough time with your nomination ballots. But I hope that you’ve given “Modern Family” a rest this year, and opted to give IFC’s “Maron” — and its namesake comedian Marc Maron — some Comedy Series and acting attention. (That is, if you have any interest in actually awarding the best comedy on television.)
Folks may know comedian Marc Maron primarily for his wildly popular podcast, “WTF with Marc Maron,” on which, from his garage, he conducts uniquely intimate longform interviews with comics, actors and other artists. Part of the intimacy lies in the fact that he also speaks candidly about himself — the fascinatingly complex individual that he presumably is. A fictionalized version of his life is the focus of “Maron.”
Maron isn’t the conventionally palatable frontman seen in other, perhaps more mainstream eponymous comedies. He’s not attempting the family man life like “Louie,” overcoming a baby-faced disposition like “Mulaney” or devoting his life to “nothing” like “Seinfeld.” Rather, Maron has a voice made for radio — gravelly, slightly shouty and loaded with angry subtext. He’s twice-divorced and 17 years sober, has multiple cats and fading anger issues. He’s put on the defense when people call him a “cat person” or describe him as “heady.” He’s neurotic, self-concerned and anxious. In other words, even the screen version of Marc Maron is more human and relatable than, well, most people you’d actually encounter on a daily basis.
The television series branches off from his stand-up and podcast, all of which are rooted in his personal struggles and shenanigans. It’s not necessarily what Maron says that’s funny — it’s his bubbling anxiety and neurosis that cloud his outlook on everyday situations that give him a kick. With that, Maron searches for a human connection with his audiences, letting each show emotionally exhaust him. Similarly, the television show’s allure is its rawness and authenticity. No other comedy out there is putting on such a genuine display of emotions, all the while infusing the humanness with top-notch humor.
As a follower of Maron’s, I occasionally feel as if watching the show is an intrusion on the comedian’s life, with some of the scenarios dramatized on the show feeling eerily similar to personal stories told during his podcast and in his published memoirs. Elements of a season two storyline following Maron’s tumultuous — but intensely formative — relationship with a younger woman named Jen (played by Nora Zehetner) mirror those of a real-life relationship and subsequent breakup with a younger woman.
Season two episode “Therapy,” in particular, exposes a nerve to which we as viewers don’t deserve access. As he did in real life, Maron informs his podcast listeners of the breakup. The camera focuses uncomfortably close on Maron as he intimately shares his anguish in coping with the failed relationship’s emotional aftermath. It feels too raw. It’s devastating to think that Maron, at least in part, unearthed genuine experiences and feelings for the scene. Even writing about it feels intrusive. Who gave us permission to access this world of such honesty?
The scene alone should have been enough to garner attention from Emmy voters back in 2014 — it’s one of the most intense emotional experiences I’ve witnessed on television — but because it didn’t happen then, the ongoing “Maron” season four should surely be enough.
Maron has previously said, “The life that you see on television is really the life I live.” Season four mostly strays from that real-life narrative and throws Maron into a shitstorm of addiction, rehab and self-exploration, thus allowing the comedian to do what he does best: reach into his own life and form true human connection, this time through the screen. Instead of happily grabbing coffee with comic friends, he’s apologizing to them. Instead of despising his father from afar, he’s bitterly engaging with him post-rehab. Ex-girlfriend Jen even makes an appearance as he’s making his essentially half-hearted amends in a June 29 episode. It’s all hilarious — and heart-wrenching.
Maron has this mantra that he yells out at the end of each podcast: “Boomer lives!” The summarized story behind it is that one of his feral cats Boomer disappeared without a trace or clue as to what happened to the guy. Maron coined the phrase in tribute to the cat: Though unlikely, Boomer could be out roaming the earth “An Incredible Journey”-style. The mantra — I own a “WTF” shirt bearing the phrase — evokes hope that something a little wild that you nonetheless loved isn’t irrelevant or lost, but thriving. “Maron” certainly is.
So here’s hoping that come July 14, Marc Maron’s name will be read off as an Emmy nominee. Boy, is it much-deserved.