After a week in which he released a new book and had his new comedy series premiere on IFC, Marc Maron capped it off with an extended stand-up performance at The Pabst Theatre on Saturday night.
Known for his distinct assertive yet neurotic personality, Maron began the night by talking about the panic he’d had about his wardrobe before he went out on the stage. Not only had he accidentally spilled soda on his shoes, but he happened to be wearing a shirt almost identical to that of the night’s opening act, Johnny Beehner. Rather than change shirts, Maron wore a jacket to help disguise this, but still went ahead and told everyone about the attempted cover-up.
After improvising the first few minutes of the set, Maron took a pause and then reflected how he loved this moment. He explained that it was the moment between going from off-the-cuff into planned material that would define the performance. "Who the f*** knows what’s going to happen? Theoretically, I should." Then he described his attitude about not wanting to prepare for shows. "If I don’t prepare and I pull this off, I’m a f***ing genius. And if I fail…well, I didn’t prepare."
Maron’s style of absolute honesty is an element that has contributed to his podcast "WTF" (you should know what this stands for) becoming one of the most popular and most relevant comedy podcasts. However, Maron certainly isn't for everyone and he noticed a female audience member in the first row who didn't seem into the show.
After prying, Maron learned that the 22-year old was attending the show because of her boyfriend, who was a Maron fan. This created a touchstone for Maron throughout the evening, as he frequently checked back in on the couple and at times found himself tempted to make the date as uncomfortable as possible.
The night consisted of a wide range of stories covering topics such as Maron’s constant judgment of others, his hatred of morning zoo radio, his intolerance the way atheists present their argument and his period as a hypochondriac. After providing graphic details about prostate exams, one audience member with a distinctive guttural laugh bellowed for a good thirty seconds. Smartly, Maron observed "I now know that’s the first time that guy’s laughed tonight."
Since Maron shares so many stories on his podcast, several of his bits had been heard over the course of WTF’s life, which is nearing 400 episodes. One vocal fan expressed his displeasure that he’d heard some of this material before, which was really disappointing. Fortunately, Maron was able to turn the tables and do a heightened impression of the fan that found the perfect balance of teasing but not alienating someone who clearly appreciates Maron’s work.
While the night had many tangents, Maron always made sure to let the audience know that he was going to eventually get back to what he had started talking about. This hyper-awareness was really impressive as Maron was truly in the moment. When the spotlight went out for a split second because of a fan walking past it, that led to a brilliant sidetrack about Maron experiencing signs that he was going to die that night.
He then projected what would happen if he died on-stage and how long it would take for anyone to actually check on him or if the audience would wait it out thinking he was doing an Andy Kaufman-esque bit.
Since he was on such a roll with the Pabst audience, Maron decided to extend his set and told a great story about his interactions with Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. He then unveiled a new bit about his hatred of sports and the origin of it in his childhood. With his keen sense of what was taking place, Maron realized that a fan close to the stage was possibly recording this and asked that the fan stop since he didn’t want this story leaking out across the internet.
As it was, it was kind of the signature Maron story that brought in elements of melancholy and causality while still being hilarious. While he won’t appeal to everyone, Maron is one of the most brilliant comedians and it was pretty cool that The Pabst audience got to see him in the midst of one of his career’s high points.
As mentioned, the opening act for the evening was Johnny Beehner. Beehner, who hails from the Milwaukee area and tours nationally, incorporated a number of local references at the beginning of his set to help win over the crowd.
A small portion of the material was the same from his previous opening performance for Jim Breuer at Turner Hall last year, but Beehner’s style is very endearing and he is the type of performer that can be paired with any headliner.