While there's plenty of bitterness and possibly some regret in Marc Maron's work, there's rarely any speculation about what life would've been like for Maron without comedy. Despite being confined to the alt-comic tier apparently forever, Maron keeps soldiering on, fondly mythologizing his career as he goes. But this penultimate season one episode gives Marc a chance to imagine something else, something just as crappy, although a different kind of crappy.
It starts with a conversation with Bobby “The Pit Bull of Comedy” Slayton talking about how people who used to open for him are now hugely successful. Maron is baffled that Slayton somehow isn’t bitter. Hammering in the “getting it right” theme is Maron’s newly retired neighbor, who seems desperate to occupy himself to stave off the regret of a life that’s passed him by. Slayton affectionately calls Maron’s podcast the dumbest show he's ever done in his life.
Marc is joined by his buddy Andy Kindler to pick up some buttons at a customizable merch store. Kindler and Maron are pros at the comics-ribbing-each-other routine (“Are you losing another Twitter war with a 9-year-old?"), which gives Marc a chance to warm up his asshole schtick safely, on a friend, before he unleashes it on a rival. That would be Danny Ruckler, director of such fine fare as Lunch Lady and Slaps McCracken (did Adam Sandler star in just one of these alternate universe films, or both?). Marc, as obsessed with artistic honor as ever, isn’t sure he wants to go down this hackish actor road. Kindler wisely tells his prickly pal, "There's no scenario in which your life wouldn't be completely miserable."
Marc’s mid-episode garage monologue touches on familiar themes — he’s a child, he feels weird about his garage being the site of his success, he nurtures his sense of integrity even though he doesn’t know why. He thinks if he had compromised he might’ve wound up in a better place, although he would’ve paradoxically been unhappier. And yet: "I can tell you this from experience — knowing that I never really did compromise, I can honestly say that that hasn't really worked out yet." There’s a palpable thread of morbid self-pity; Maron instead dubs it "babbling enthusiastically about myself.”
We arrive at the episode’s core, a lunch with Marc's filmmaker friend, played by Eric Stoltz. He’s a rich asshole, but he and Maron share history back to their twenties in Boston. Reminiscing gets Marc into the mindset of a man with a pair of kids, a spirit-crushing wife, and a gig as a company man (in advertising, seems like?). It’s a joy to see Marc wearing an unhip shirt and playing dad. “Look, I didn’t wanna come here in the first place,” Marc grumbles over his cell phone. “Bribing a kid to get a B? I mean, is that how we’re raising our children, to be mediocre and corrupt, like Russian autocrats?”
Things get tense — a climate I’d imagine a hypothetical Maron family encountering nineteen dozen times a day — and the daughter asks if mommy and daddy are divorcing. "I'm open to it," Marc rejoins. When the kids don't show any enthusiasm for the idea of living with their dad, Marc says he'll just make new kids. Hopefully we can see this Maron Family scenario again someday, somehow.
Next, a college memory of Marc getting a little handsy with another guy gets him wondering about life as a gay man. As soon as the notion of oral sex pops up, Marc hollers his way out of the daydream.
The role Danny has in mind for Marc is Bobo the Hobo, a "hilarious" ("I think you're using that word wrong") bum who stows away on Bobcat Goldthwait's garbage truck. (Goldthwait directed this episode, his fourth of the season.) Marc is powerless to hide his snobbery and just take the money and the health insurance. Danny is vapid but he’s got a good point: Maybe Maron has clung to his hallowed principles for so long just so he can feel better about being unsuccessful, so he has a bold cause to point to instead of considering the fact that maybe the world just didn’t love him as an entertainer.
Which brings us to an imaginary life where Maron dared not to try. This Maron wound up a grumpy chef instead of a grumpy comic. He gets his thrills by telling his favorite waitress they'll have sex someday soon. Weird, and the least-best fantasy of the episode.
After all the integrity spluttering, Maron winds up playing a bum not once but twice on his own show. Bum One is Maron’s idea of a noble bum, railing against corruption, the one percent, and sheeple. Bum Two is exactly the character Danny envisioned for Marc — a kooky, confused man who looks distinctly like Marc Maron on a regular day, only with a little grease on his face. (Bobcat Goldthwait indeed shows up for the latter scene, looking miserable and dishing up a snack-sized portion of what used to be his trademark shriek.) Marc records a podcast with Danny, although it ends up being another imaginary reality, one where Marc Maron could embrace people coming up to him on the street and quoting an idiotic line from a braindead movie. Doesn’t sound like Maron, right? Because it’s not. It’s Danny’s daydream this time. Turns out bigwig sellouts secretly crave Maron’s integrity and seal of approval. It’s a wonderful life for Maron after all.
- Maron and Slayton's podcast scene is one of the most genuine and lengthy of the season. Probably because they weren't explicitly discussing the episode's plot and/or Marc's problems.
- The irate merch store owner telling Maron, "Suck my dick"...!
- Maron played a zombie last week, then a delusional hobo this week. Quite the one-two assault on his principles.