Maron v Seder = Excellent

Readers of this blog (at least, those with a) long memories and b) any concern about things I like whatsoever) may remember me mentioning Marc Maron before, here and here.Well, I now have the opportunity to plug a couple of things Marc is doing that you can actually go and find on the Electric Internet. One of them is that Guardian America, the US face of our very own Grauniad, has signed up Maron to go on a road trip with them, apparently. Which is nice, but so far the promised “daily short videos” are either very well hidden amongst the “On The Road” posts, or have failed to materialise. I wonder what’s going on there?

Anyway, meanwhile Maron is also involved in the actually-happening-at-the-moment daily webcast Maron v Seder. This is a daily ~45 minute video feed narrowcast live at 3pm Eastern Time (8pm GMT, for the British). It can be found live here, and you can also stream old episodes on demand here, or subscribe to the podcast here. So what is it? It’s essentially a comparatively tightly produced radio show with pictures hosted by Marc Maron and Sam Seder (both ex-Air Ameria Radio hosts), with – so far – one guest per day, comedy segments (don’t worry, they’re usually genuinely funny), questions from listeners, and Maron and Seder’s analysis of the day’s political news, from an unashamedly left/liberal perspective.

As a fan of both hosts’ radio shows of the past, especially the brilliant Morning Sedition, I would recommend it as a great way to stay abreast of US politics, election or no election. If you’re not yet convinced, here’s a sample, in the form of Episode 2, from Thursday last week:

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It’s Thursday, Ya Bastards!

Well, here it is, election day, and I’ve decided it might be nice to make this post a polling day tradition. So:

Vote
by Marc Maron

If you want to rewrite what’s been wrote
Vote

If you want to squeeze the bastard’s throat
Vote

If you can’t find the remote
Vote

If you’re in a german u-boat
Vote

If tomorrow you want to gloat
Vote

Get out there people!

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Edinburgh Reviews #4: Marc Maron & Kirk Fox

Marc Maron & Kirk Fox
Company: Gilded Balloon Productions
Venue: Gilded Balloon – Wine Bar
Date: 21 Aug ’07

To be honest, I can’t review these two in the same review. I thought it was a bizarre decision to put them on a double bill in the first place; the standard length of a stand-up slot in Edinburgh is an hour, abnormally short to start with. To close that down to half an hour seems undesirable. To put two comedians together on the basis of not much more than the fact that they are both Americans who have been on TV and are a bit different seems condescending. And to try to rate two very different performances together seems unfair. So:

Kirk Fox:

Clearly, the performance I saw, and for all I know many of them, was adversely affected by a negative review that the show had received (in Fest, of all places – the fact they had good reviews from The Herald and Three Weeks, both much more influential organs, makes me puzzled that it bothered them so much). The audience wasn’t of a great size either, which I suspect had more to do with it. Fox seemed to be down and irritable as a result, although for all I know that is just his style. Whatever, it didn’t work. Even if the material wasn’t actually that bad, the tone of voice and the empty acoustic in the room suggested he was dying. It didn’t help that he hadn’t really made much effort to localize his humour, doing a bit about his score on the US FICO system which obviously meant nothing to any of the UK audience. It helped even less that his material is pretty average in the first place.

2/5

Marc Maron:

I cannot be as impartial as I would like to be about Maron, having been aware of his work for a while both as a stand-up comic and, I think, as an even better radio host. Nonetheless, I thought this was a fantastic performance from him. The word “edgy” is used about a lot of comedy nowadays, but this is one place where the word genuinely applies. Maron’s wife Mishna has left him recently, apparently, which would explain why he was quite so angry, even for him. The point, though, is that Maron managed to turn what negativity he had about him into the energy to drive a scorching performance.

As familiar as I am with his established material, it took me a good twenty minutes before I spotted any. In contrast to Fox, he started his section with a bunch of comments about Scotland, ranging from the Scots diet (he wondered why, with so much fried food about, there weren’t nearly so many fat people as in the US, eventually concluding that it was because Americans never stop eating: “It’s part of your freedom in America”), to the bewildering popularity of circus-entertainment-type street performers relative to buskers on the Royal Mile. This was a jumping off point to a standard Maron theme: the idea that art and entertainment are not the same.

By far the funniest material, though, was the obviously very raw sentiment he expressed about his divorce, and his failings with women (“I keep thinking that if I can just find the broken Daddy Box in their heads…”). Continually kneeling on his haunches to get on a more intimate level with the audience, and lowering his voice to the level of a calm, suppressed anger, the performance often felt a bit like a therapy session where we, the therapists, were allowed to laugh directly at the patient. The result was the most disorientating show I saw in Edinburgh. As Maron says, he prefers people to come out of his shows remarking not “that was hilarious” but rather “I hope that guy’s OK”. He certainly managed that.

It is something I find continually frustrating about Maron’s comedy, that I don’t know how much of it is artifice, and how much is genuine. As a result, he has attracted a troupe of fans, at their peak when Maron was on the radio and able to give them a daily fix, who feel rather too concerned for, and familiar with, him. I fight the urge to become one of them. But it is perhaps this very uncertainty that makes Maron’s comedy work so well: if we were certain it was for real and not exaggerated, we would feel guilty laughing; if we were certain it was all show, it wouldn’t be nearly so funny. I just hope that Marc ultimately finds it fulfilling that he can make us laugh.

In any case, this is exactly the kind of show the Fringe is for, and I really hope to see Marc back with a show of his own and a bit more hype.

5/5

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It’s Thursday, Ya Bastards!

Well, today’s the day. I have just been and voted, and I already voted at home via the internet (which, today’s Guardian tells me, may not be such a good idea, but never mind…)

I have really nothing more to say, other than that I thought it would be nice to reprint (in slightly edited form) Marc Maron‘s work of literary genius on the subject of voting:

Vote
by Marc Maron

If you want to rewrite what’s been wrote
Vote

If you want to squeeze the bastard’s throat
Vote

If you can’t find the remote
Vote

If you’re in a german u-boat
Vote

If tomorrow you want to gloat
Vote

Get out there people!

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Now For Something Completely Different

One of my random interests that will probably end up on this blog often is US politics. Anyone with a similar interest is probably aware of Air America Radio. For those who aren’t, there follows a brief introduction. If you are, skip the following few paragraphs.

Air America was founded in April 2004, before the November election. It was intended as an effort to bring some balance to the talk radio arena, which since Reagan’s removal of the fairness doctrine from US broadcasting legislation has been dominated by Republicans. Headed by Rush Limbaugh, the American right had built up quite a stranglehold over the medium. There were, of course, a few efforts by individual hosts who have carved out careers for themselves, some of whom joined up to Air America upon it’s inception.

Randi Rhodes and Mike Malloy (who claims that, in some of his previous radio jobs, his views have forced him to carry a gun for protection at work) spring to mind. But the big news when Air America started up was Al Franken, who had recently written his rather entertaining book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. Since then, it has become evident that his forte is not really radio, and his show is only really fun to listen to in the sense that it is kind of warm and gentle (comparitively). At the same time, however, new faces were arriving. Part of the strategy of Air America was to use big names. Franken was one. Another fairly obvious contender was Janeane Garofalo, who had made a name for herself in the relevant circles in the run-up to the Iraq war as a fairly outspoken pundit (against, you’ll be glad to know).

START READING AGAIN NOW!

On Garofalo’s recommendation, they also contacted Marc Maron, a little known standup comic. Interestingly enough for someone with perhaps the least experience of any of their hosts, they stuck him on the breakfast show, Morning Sedition, albeit alongside experienced radio host Mark Riley. The show built from a shaky start into one of the most entertaining things I’ve ever come across. Then, at a time when the show was accumulating listeners and Howard Stern was about to go off the air, the CEO of Air America decided he didn’t like it. He didn’t renew Maron’s contract, despite a big outcry from the fans of the show (which it had accumulated in a way I have rarely seen a radio programme do).

But the good news is, he’s now back on the air, in a programme from Los Angeles in the evenings (or, in the UK, 6-8am!). You can stream it from here. You can also podcast it from here, although it will cost you money. I would recommend it to anyone who would like to hear the comings and goings of US Politics in an entertaining way every weekday.

So why am I writing about Maron? Well, it occurs to me that often, he is in fact one of the few genuinely liberal voices on Air America. We all like to bemoan the misuse of the word to characterise the American left, who are now trying fairly hard to rename themselves “Progressives”, since the right have fairly succesfully made liberal a dirty word. Nonetheless, Maron is accurately describable as a liberal, I would say. On the day after the Oscars, many made jokes about Three 6 Mafia winning an award were made by hosts on Air America. Only Maron, to my knowledge, felt uncomfortable with the racially patronising tone of the jokes, and devoted a segment to bringing up his concern.

He frequently makes reference to his enjoyment of people being “freaks in a good way”, and is socially liberal in areas where others might not feel it helps their cause to be (for instance, his stances on pornography). In a rant about the church his co-host Jim Earl made a point of not denying anyone’s right to free speech where all too often other hosts do. Of course, US economic debate is so warped now that it’s hardly fair to look at his economic opinion on the same terms as we would use in the UK. Nonetheless, as a liberal, I would recommend the Marc Maron Show to anyone. Apart from anything else, it’s frequently very funny.

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