Anyone unfamiliar with Marc Maron's history may be interested to know the man is very recently engaged to the woman this episode is, at best, loosely based upon. Well, maybe the woman herself different — as open as Maron is, he's pretty tight-lipped about his now-fiancé — but the events are ripped from life and comedy, down to the title, "Sex Fest." (Also down to Maron's and his Sex Fest partner's age gap: two decades.) Curious and unconvinced parties can head to this clip of Maron on Conan, which even includes an anecdote about the episode’s opener.
That opener features the too-brief return of Maron’s young assistant, Kyle, who’s back solely to deliver the news that Marc has received a fan email including a complimentary vagina photo. There’s a montage showing how many baked goods Maron receives from fans, just to throw us off the scent and make us imagine for a moment that a TV show about a male comedian will put him in bed with anyone other than a beautiful woman. Shortly after Marc lands in Phoenix for a comedy festival, the vagina-emailing fan, Jen, materializes. She’s played by Brick’s Nora Zehetner, and is, as mandated, attractive. She starts talking to Marc about Sex Fest within 30 seconds.
"It's definitely a bad idea … I'm gonna do it," was Maron’s philosophy going into this encounter, and he clings to it ferociously. Marc and Jen get on with gettin’ it on, and shirtless, glasses-less Marc has now appeared in three of the four last episodes. Jen is a superfan, deeply acquainted with everything about Marc thanks to the podcast. She doesn't rock a pixie ’do, but she very nearly fits the manic pixie dreamgirl archetype, no?
Marc heads to the lobby to carouse and to get a break from Jen. Anthony Jeselnik is there for a second, underused. I'd compare the "bucket of pussy" joke to Louis C.K.'s "bag of dicks" joke if I wasn't positive every gathering of two or more comedians has landed on some similar riff.
Let’s step back for a moment and consider a few bad, suffocating feelings we all encounter in life: staying in an unremarkable hotel room for days; spending lots of time with someone you don’t know, while failing to get to know them; being trapped in a bad relationship — this episode captures all three. And while bad, suffocating feelings can make for compelling, often suspenseful television, “Sex Fest” has me desperate for some real dialogue. Could we get to know Jen beyond her studious Marc Maron fanaticism and her memorization of his preferences? She’s neither developed enough to be interesting as her own character, nor underwritten enough just to act a foil for Marc's quirks and problems.
After Marc and Jen's second breakup — which doesn’t for a minute feel like it will stick — Sex Fest turns to Ice Cream Fest. The idea of a montage reliving a single weekend of sex-centric fun is better in theory than in practice. What doesn't work in theory or practice is seeing Marc Maron simulate sex. Highly unnecessary and inadvisable. (And why’s it lit like Spring Breakers?)
Marc's wrap-it-all-up narration ends up being another close-up Maron rant, this time to a hotel maid who doesn’t speak a scrap of English. Marc knows how to pick an audience. "It's not like you were gonna marry her," Marc’s buddy Dave Anthony (also a comedian, also a podcast host) consoles. Except (a) Real Marc ends up marrying the real-life version of this woman (named Jess rather than Jen), and (b) TV Marc is sad anyway. Both Marcs find themselves easily attached.
It’s easy to assume Maron is suddenly taking a turn into contiguous storytelling, and the fact that the next episode is titled “Jen Moves to L.A.” confirms that hunch. So while this was a necessary episode to introduce us to Marc’s first multi-episode love interest, it would’ve been nice to have her actually introduced. We only know she likes sex, knows a lot about Marc, and is temperamental. My faith in the series is far from shaken, and I imagine Jen could become fascinating and funny in future episodes, but this was a distinctly dull half-hour.
- Wonderful Maron Exchange No. 1, with the room service guy: "Hit me with the whipped cream."
- Wonderful Maron Exchange No. 2, with the wake-up caller: "I don't wanna get up, leave me alone! Oh, I thought you were a machine … how's everything?"
- Real Maron must have a stand-up bit in the works about the fights he and his fiancé had over this episode’s depiction of the start of their relationship. Keep an eye out. It’ll show up somewhere soon.
- Where can I stream the Tub Time with Tom podcast?
- I’ll leave you with this ancient clip of Maron I found this week. Barely recognizable, very fascinating.