It should be clear by now after almost two dozen episodes of Maron on IFC that Marc Maron is a generally uncomfortable person. He’s a neurotic, self-sabotaging, hypochondriac who lacks any real, substantive companionate (or romantic) relationships with any “real” people. He prefers characters.
If anything, the people he winds up being the most comfortable around are the damaged denizens of the Los Angeles suburbs—ex-convicts, drug addicts, and dominatrices. He’s OK because he knows he’s in a better place than them, and he often even tries to help them get to his semi-stable state. But if he can find anyone equally self-adjusted or even more “together” willing to give him the time of day—putting Marc in a position where he needs to act like a real adult—he’ll go back to being a caricature and screw it up. Fantastically.
Though Marc already impressively failed the last time he fell for a podcast guest earlier this year with Caroline Rhea, his flirty chemistry with Rachael Harris makes him give it another go. They’re rehashing past relationship fails (another favorite Maron topic, in part because he has such a wellspring of material to draw from), and Rachael’s revealing her flaw—she’s a “fixer.” She’s damaged because she seeks out damaged lovers. A perfect match!
The idea of “fixing” Marc’s residual anger issues and working through them at yoga never really stood a chance because of who Marc is. Whether it’s Dungeons & Dragons or The Walking Dead, I don’t think we’ve come across something “popular” that Marc doesn’t hate. And dropping him into new company—the beets, berries, and wheatgrass crowd at Namaste Highland Park— (when he prefers the guys begging for change across the street) was bound to create some friction. I can’t imagine Marc using the word “yummy,” much less trying to make something so.
Yogi Jeremy is a fitting nemesis for Marc—another alpha male looking for attention. The digs go back and forth, and Jeremy turning Marc’s “happy baby” smile upside down by forcing a fart out of him sits right in the Marc Maron humor 101 wheelhouse.
In the same way that Marc’s quest for self-improvement was doomed from the start, so too, though is his revenge plot once he realizes that Jeremy (or J.T. Emmett Vance, if you prefer) is actually one of “his people”—a daddy-damaged, cocaine-addled failing actor whose one-man-show is what Kyle appropriately calls a “car crash falling onto a train wreck.” Marc’s not mean, and once the initial glee of seeing Jeremy’s desperation wears off, Marc’s ready to get back down into the muck and (not unlike Rachael), try to help “fix” Jeremy.
But Jeremy’s car seat confessions, which reveal his plans for Rachael once he’s done stretching her out, turn Marc back into the same guy he was a few weeks ago in Caroline Rhea’s hotel room—a desperate crusader fighting for what he thinks are everyone else’s best interests. Only just like then, no one wants to hear it; Marc’s old-man soapbox has seldom been met with more “meh.”
Maybe one of these weeks, things will actually go well for Marc, but for now, he’s back to ruining things. It’s true to form, but in a more inventive way than some of the weaker episodes of the past few weeks because of how well-contained the plot is and how smartly the pieces fit together.
With regard to Rachael, Marc’s damage is that he’s not damaged enough. Even though his anger has come back, it’s in a self-righteous way, and Jeremy is in even more need of fixing. She’s willing to admit that Marc was right, but his yoga-room rant made her realize how messed up Jeremy is, drawing her to him like a fruit smoothie sucked out of a straw.
And she’s right: Marc’s “too old and sober to still be an angry asshole.” As much as Marc would like to think he’s as damaged as the company he keeps, in reality he’s stuck between stations—past his troubles but not quite satisfied enough to be “normal” just yet. But who is? On Maron (and in life), everybody’s damaged, but that’s OK. Namaste.
John Vilanova is a New York and Philadelphia based writer and academic currently serving as the managing editor of Philadelphia Style magazine. His work has appeared in publications including Paste, Rolling Stone, Vogue, and others. Follow him on Twitter.