News Column

'Maron,' New IFC Comedy, Features Podcast Pioneer

May 4, 2013
marc maron, podcast, television show, review

Funny and trying, "Maron," which premiered Friday on IFC, stars the comedian and podcaster Marc Maron as comedian and podcaster Marc Maron.

Among self-referential sitcoms, it is somewhere on (or around) the continuum between "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Louie," less fanciful than the first and more conventional than the latter. As a character, he's angrier than Larry David and less sweet than Louis C.K., though they all share an inability not to act from the inconvenient, if honest, impulse. (Perhaps that is just one definition of comedy.)

There was a time when all comedians were lovable. Even sad clowns excited your pity rather than challenging your ability to stay in the room with them. Maron is an angry comic, his unease rooted in equal parts self-revulsion -- though it is an unrepentant sort of self-revulsion -- and disgust with the foolish humans around him.

Still, his humor has a moral core -- not just an irritable one -- which leads him to kindness enough. He has filled his show with friction, but not at the cost of delicacy. It doesn't hurt that he loves cats.

Formerly a host on the late experiment in left-leaning talk radio Air America, Maron more recently has maintained his reputation with "WTF with Marc Maron," a podcast he produces out of his garage -- as he does in "Maron" -- on which he interviews comedians.

Replicated for the series, including appearances by Denis Leary (also an executive producer), Aubrey Plaza, Jeff Garlin, Mark Duplass and Ileana Douglas, these sequences, though they may touch on subjects germane to the episode, have the feel of unforced conversation.

At 49, he is enough of an old man to complain about kids these days: the smallness of their historical knowledge, their entitled approach to everything. ("They will be humbled -- the realities of life will bear down on them eventually and they will have to take responsibility for themselves.")

But the rage that fuels his own sense of responsibility does him no favors.

"I hate myself," he tells Leary.

"You have not advanced," Leary observes.

"I'm better at it."

That he is a difficult character is not lost on Maron, or the collective superego that runs his show. Other characters -- the supporting performances are shaded and excellent throughout and help take the edges off -- find him difficult as well; they stand in for the audience, criticizing him on its behalf.

In the opening episode, which costars Dave Foley, Maron goes in search of an Internet troll whose Twitter posts are driving him mad: "Marc Maron wasn't funny when he was funny, and that was 20 years ago," "Marc Maron is sad and draining with his soul-sucking jokes."

"Why are you taking it so personally?" says Foley, who is drunk, tired and hungry. "He's just some ... on-the-money idiot."

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robert.lloyd@latimes.com

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