Maron Review: "Dead Possum" (Episode 1.02)

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<i>Maron</i> Review: "Dead Possum" (Episode 1.02)

“Dead Possum,” the second episode of comedian and podcast host Marc Maron’s new self-titled show on IFC, was a much more straightforward episode than last week’s premiere. The pilot episode—to both its benefit and detriment—delved more deeply into the neuroses of its perpetually dissatisfied creator as he rambled around Los Angeles venting his frustrations. This week the issue was more succinct—Maron’s modern manhood—which created a more self-contained, standard 30 minutes.

First, we meet Marc’s mother, played by Sally Kellerman, who power-walks onto the screen and immediately fits as family. “Everyone dies from something,” she tells her maladjusted son. Mothers of a certain age are necessarily macabre—checking in with their children and updating them on health issues and which of their peer group is dying. It turns out that the one in danger this time is Marc’s first ex-wife’s father, a man who Maron respected even though he failed as a husband to this daughter.

Marc’s mother is also calling to remind her son that he’s supposed to be meeting Kyle (Josh Brener), an aspiring young comic. His response, “there’s no such thing as a career in comedy,” gets at the central juxtaposition of the show—Maron represents the outlier in denial about his own success. But like all the screeds from tenured professors dissuading potential PhD students in recent weeks, Maron, too, has to deal with charges of hypocrisy. For him, though, his anxiety and lack of perspective—that constant dissatisfaction—is as much his “schtick” as anything. At the same time, it’s probably part of the reason he has succeeded where others have fallen short.

The guest this week is Denis Leary, who quickly gets on Maron for never having been in a fight. I’ve never really been in a fight either, but to Leary, Maron’s brand of “diplomacy” is a sign of weakness. Today, Leary seems put on this earth to give voice to aggression and male urges; as he dresses down the floundering comic, he’s become some kind of Zen masculinity guru of self-actualization. The only person Maron takes his aggression out on, Leary argues, is himself.

The other problem this week is that Maron’s house smells because there’s a dead possum in his crawlspace. The dying marsupial represents a challenge to Maron’s manhood—he calls the guy who cuts his lawn to ask for help before deciding to remove it himself.

Kyle arrives, and he seems the typical youngish, dry striver with unrealistic expectations (to be the next Apatow, at least “before he got shitty”) and no real plan. I’ve never lived in LA, but from what friends out there have told me, it’s populated by many young people like this—a few more degrees of separation than they’d like to admit away from any actionable plan. In this case, Maron’s his one connection, and he convinces the comic to let him work as his assistant.

They head for a hardware store in a scene that’s a fairly funny portrayal of two creative-type men of the 21st century over-prepping for something fairly straightforward. Kyle volunteers to Google “dead animal grabber” while the hardware store manager fills their cart with supplies. In their jumpsuits, they get a head-nod from two other men walking by—acceptance into the workingmen’s fraternity. Getting in is a matter of looking the part, even if you’re barely capable of acting it.

Back at the house, Maron panics, frustrated by his own fear and feelings of inadequacy. “Why can’t I do this? Every other guy can do this,” he whines, blaming his father, who apparently never showed him how to be a man. It’s not the most well-delivered rant, but he eventually talks himself into the crawlspace only to have Jose Luis, who cuts his grass, intervene and dispose of the possum for him.

In what seems like it’s going to be the way these are structured, Maron delivers his trademark podcast monologue at the episode’s end, summing things up and providing a moral, I guess. “I’m not an alpha male,” he says. “The way I know that is if I ever lock eyes with one, they know.”

It’s trademark Maron-as-character—his insecurities are the only thing that prevent him from being the guy he wants to be. He’s afraid of being exposed—as not enough of a man, as the comedian who got lucky—and that fear prevents progress. Here, though, Maron “mans up” and visits his ailing former father-in-law, tying things up fairly well. All in all, it’s a well-contained “lesson episode” that doesn’t get to the big striving themes of the first week, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.