Earlier today, Marc Maron made a Tweet stating it marked the 12-year anniversary of his sobriety – a milestone in-and-of-itself anyone could celebrate. But add onto the fact it also marks the day of Maron’s 4th comedy album being released and we see the comedian/podcast giant is having just a banner week.
Extrapolate this further, Maron has been on a banner run since 2009 – a podcast with over 20 million downloads that catapulted him to the top of the comedy ladder and profiles in major publications hailing him as the toast of the proverbial comedic town. Marc Maron is an overnight success story 20 years in the making.
Things weren’t always puppies (well for him, cats) and rainbows for the comedian. In fact, a few days back as he delivered the keynote speech at the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal he painted a grim picture of his former “unbookable” self. We witnessed a powerful moment as Maron told a packed room of comedy fans and industry that the craft he devoted his life to nearly killed him, yet saved him at the same time.
This Has To Be Funny is not only Maron’s first release for Comedy Central Records but the title also suggests he’s aware of the expectations the album holds. It could be disastrous had such album deliver anything but the best to his newfound followers. Followers who know Marc Maron the podcaster but not Marc Maron the stand-up comedian. But fear not, This Has To Be Funny is a triumph for comedy’s underdog.
Recorded live at Union Hall in the hipster of hipster-iest towns of New York City (Park Slope), the album kicks off with “Honest Sound Check,” a quick bit of Maron soundchecking with “test, test.. I disappointed my parents,” as he reveals insecurities with rapid fire. After the intro, he settles into the long-form storytelling that has become his signature style, something that can only be cultivated by hours of unregulated podcasting and operating on his own station clock. His storytelling style is much stronger than on his self-admitted, lesser previous albums.
If you are looking for a set-up/punchline form of comedy, this is not the album for you. Maron is not about reaching some fictional laughs-per-minute quota, in fact sometimes he’s often going on a long jag, spinning a story into something that breaks smiles and giggles the entire time over one or two belly laughs. It’s the equivalent of witnessing a friend telling the story of a lifetime; you are completely along for the ride and thoroughly entertained the entire time.
Maron’s material runs the gamut, failed relationships – he sums up his dating life as finding the ones with “daddy issues” who end up burning him in effigy. His cats – he’s not a “cat guy,” he’s a “his cat guy.” The longest story on the album tackles Creationism, done via a story about his visit to the Creation Museum and the “pseudo-science and dioramas” that came along with it. I won’t ruin the story, but he manages to weave dinosaurs as pets, into odd ties to Judaism, into geographically and scientific inaccuracies of Eden, into proud Americanism, into veganism. Not topics usually grouped together in comedy but they make hilarious sense when told by Maron.
No matter what the topic, This Has To Be Funny captures a storyteller with the ability to make anything into a compelling tale. You don’t always know where you are going once Marc Maron begins the ride, but by the time the trip ends, you are damned confident your decision to take shotgun in the car was the best call.