Maron's pilot opened with Marc over-sharing with his vet and simultaneously giving the audience a helpful talking-head intro to the series and its star. This week starts with a very different version of the same thing, only the mailman is the target now, and the over-sharing has been cranked to eleven. That sauce Maron puts on the phrase "his name … is LARRY" when discussing his dad? Delicious. And remember Marc accusing his second ex-wife of having a baby at him? Well here’s Maron opening a letter at the mailman. A stellar cold open.
Maron shares an agent with the comic Pete Holmes. This man is the lamest possible caricature of a human. You quickly get the sense Real Maron has agent issues. "Can we make it about me for a second??" Marc begs this person who is mysteriously more self-absorbed than him. Also, did you dig how much the discussion re: the merits and monetization of podcasting mirrored Vulture's recent chat with Maron? Yeaaaaah ya did.
"You'll never make a lot of money until you make someone else a lot of money," Maron tells his empty garage. "It's not gonna happen until you make yourself an exploitable commodity. Not really my thing, but I can tell you this from experience: It's easy to maintain your integrity when no one is offering to buy it out." It's poignant and strikes the perfect notes of Maronian bitterness, but it also feels overwrought. Maybe I need to work more on viewing Maron without thinking about WTF, where the monologues tend to have a tossed off, roaming vibe. Those exact qualities have convinced a lot of listeners to fast-forward the podcast intros — I wonder if those listeners are enjoying TV Maron’s short monologue leash.
We meet Maron's brother for a second, but it's mostly to further hammer in the essence of what a nut their estranged father is. There’s no real character established here. Brother Maron gets a good line, though: "My kids are now beating the shit out of my wife's kids. Did I screw up my life?" Perhaps we'll see him again soon, or perhaps we'll never see him again.
Ed Asner played Maron Sr. in a pilot filmed a couple years ago, but now it's 78-year-old Judd Hirsch, of Taxi and Independence Day. His opening line is an oily, "Ay, remember me?" Maron slings back a deadpan, "Hey dad." Larry, whose chunky R.V. is more or less annexed to Marc's home now, is hoping to find his newly mailed driver’s license. "They better not have put me down as an organ donor, because I'm takin' this shit with me." It’s a great stand-up-style joke transposed to TV, and a perfect illustration of just what a self-centered prick Larry is.
Maron's father — an unmedicated bipolar sufferer, a lifelong schemer, and a onetime doctor stripped of his medical license — is peddling Maron's Mix, a questionable supplement that packs five hours of energy and 72 hours of erection. Larry dumps on Marc's mostly viable comedy career while preaching for his own totally useless scheme. Hirsch nails the role of someone completely convinced he's got it together while being the only person oblivious to the fact he's a human disaster.
Andy Kindler, as seen on Everybody Loves Raymond and the judges’ table on Last Comic Standing, is Maron's late-arriving sidekick for the week. Somehow these guys are gym buddies. Kindler squeezes in a five-minute set on the sidewalk for the neighborhood gawkers assembled thanks to Maron's dad’s ruckus. (Is anyone terribly in love with the dynamic between Marc and Andy? The banter feels genuine, but I'm not especially interested to see more. Bring back Kyle, the assistant from last week. And erase the part of my brain that found out Kindler doesn't like Louis C.K., too.)
Marc is making an eleventh hour effort to open his dad's eyes to the selfishness that has screwed up the whole family (and given Marc a career in comedy, probably). It’s not going to work out. Maron and Larry begin the loaded tête-à-tête in Larry’s R.V. Marc’s fed up with his dad's "doom-schemes." (Great turn of phrase.) Marc needs a break — he wishes Larry “would just drive his house away.” But not before Marc lets his dad know that "going whitewater rafting with a crying man is no fun for a kid."
Jeff Garlin shows to the cat ranch playing a vaguely stuck-up version of Jeff Garlin. He haltingly calls Maron's neighborhood "authentic" in the same breath he uses to worry that his car might not be safe sitting on the street. A few minutes into a podcast taping, Larry busts in to sell Rich Mr. Garlin some Maron's Mix. Garlin takes the vitamin and suffers immediate health problems. Go away, dad! You ruin everything!
Maron gets an offer for a podcast sponsor, a fictionalized version of AdamAndEve.com, the erotic site any WTF listener has heard Maron plug so many times it stopped being uncomfortable. Marc rubs the news in his agent's face, fires the schmuck, and heads home to tell his garage about the joys of accepting one’s parents, parenting oneself, and letting go of the anger. It’s a good triumphant closer, but it comes awfully quickly after a distracted, confused episode. My guess is this was a setup episode for a later installment featuring Larry and some actual resolution of the father/son issues. Or maybe we're on the "no hugging, no learning" diet. We'll see.
• Bobcat Goldthwait — comedian, Police Academy actor, writer/director behind World’s Greatest Dad and God Bless America — directed this week's episode, and he'll be behind the camera for the next two weeks, as well. Goldthwait appeared on WTF in 2011 and it was great.
• "Who are you, Walter White?" Maron asks his dad, a week after some visual Breaking Bad cues.
• Maron on the phone promising Jeff Garlin’s assistant that Jeff will enjoy himself on WTF is both a nice hustle and terribly desperate.
• The podcast dug Real Maron out of a personal and professional hole, so it's nice seeing the affectionate touch the podcast scenes get. "I was at a place in my life where I had gotten very cynical," he recently told Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I had lost a lot of hope for my comedy and everything else, and I really feel that I was no longer able to really appreciate other people's stories. I had lost my ability to really kind of listen and enjoy the company of other people." While Maron hasn’t given us a deep podcast conversation yet (and might never do that), the affection Marc feels for the entire podcasting process is evident onscreen.