Last Friday my wife and I drove two and a half hours north to Grand Rapids, MI to see Marc Maron and Dean Delray perform at the Fountain Street Church. It was an overcast drive thru tree-covered hills and various small towns that acted as landscape along our drive on 131. Michigan wears overcast days well, so I didn’t mind the grey clouds and chill in the air at all. Last year we spent an afternoon with our two youngest walking along the shores of Lake Michigan in South Haven, wind chilly and the water even chillier under chrome skies and a steely, intimidating horizon.
I guess you could say as a family we’re more Bauhaus than Katrina and the Waves.
I’ve been listening to Marc Maron for close to six years now. I discovered his podcast in 2014 and quickly became a fan of his personal, open book personality. I admire someone who can be so open and honest about how they feel towards others, as well as themselves. His interviews come across as real conversations, as opposed to a laundry list of by-the-book questions. He relates to his guests on a human level, meaning “Hey, we’re all people underneath the film roles, record releases, and sold out gigs so lets talk about growing up and getting our hearts broken.”
Maron, from the point I jumped into his podcast world, was honest about his faults and his fears. He displayed his insecurities in his spoken-word editorials before each conversation and hearing those twice a week made me want to be more honest. He also spoke about his issues with anxiety and panic attacks, which I began dealing with myself that year. Hearing someone else talk about it made me feel not so insane and allowed me to cope with them and understand how to deal with them. Marc Maron was the flawed, angst-y, bare wire philosopher I needed in my life.
I got my wife into Maron’s WTF Podcast as well, so we’d start talking about who we heard on his show that week. By 2017 our oldest was going to a private school two hours south, so the drives to Muncie and back were filled with these funny and often poignant talks about the artist’s craft, childhood traumas, finding passion in creativity, and quite often Marc’s strained relationships with his parents, past friends, past lovers, and his undying devotion to his cats. It was a great way to pass four hours of drive time.
I’ve always been a fan of stand up comedy. From being a little kid and watching old Robin Williams Betamax tapes to recording people like Sam Kinison, Richard Lewis, Elayne Boosler, Jake Johannsen, Stephen Wright, Robert Kline, Janeane Garofalo and Bill Hicks on late night television, there was something about a person standing alone on a stage making a room full of strangers laugh that was mystifying to me. I never wanted to be one myself, but I wanted to harness that power they wielded with a mic. The best comics are more than just joke writers. They’re the last bastion of real talk. They’re the ones that hold the mirror up in front of us and show us how ugly things are getting. What’s funny about that? Well, knowing there’s a problem is half the battle. The comedian discusses the elephant in the room. Not only the elephant, but the massive piles of shit that elephant has left in its wake.
As I got older I obsessed over guys like George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, Lenny Bruce, and Dave Chappelle. These were the comedians that in my mind felt more like philosophers than entertainers. The Mark Twains of four-letter words. They were relatable in that they spoke to you and not over you, but what they spoke about was life. Politics, religion, sex, human interaction, and the absurdity of living itself. I resonated with comedy that felt connective. When I discovered Marc Maron I found a very similar connection. But even more than guys like Carlin, Pryor, and Hicks, Maron showed a vulnerability in his comedy and an introspective view that I don’t think those guys never would(or could.) I feel I found my comedy guy.
So yeah, the show at Fountain Street Church was great. Dean Delray opened the show and was fantastic. Personal comedy is the best comedy, and Delray comes across as a guy I’d love to just sit down with and talk early thrash metal. He’s a down-to-earth guy that’s been all over the world four times over(and if you’re reading this Dean, the front middle section at FSC may have been weird, but the rest of us loved you.) Maron came out and it felt pretty raw and off-the-cuff. He’s working material for his next comedy special and he just felt tapped into the room. Lots of politics, religion, personal stories, and a story involving a lizard portal, iguanas, and his mom that absolutely killed me. And the last ten minutes was some of the funniest and crass comedy I’ve heard in a long, long time. Pretty damn brilliant.
I told my wife I think I could transition from going to rock concerts to comedy pretty easily. I feel a crowd at a comedy show is much more engaged and plugged in than a rock concert. I think we need that human engagement these days. Now more than ever.