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Monday, May 6, 2013

Marc Maron @ The Pabst Theater

May 4, 2013

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Melissa Miller
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Though he’s received a well-deserved boost in recognition in recent years, largely thanks to his popular WTF podcast, Marc Maron has always been what you might call a comedian’s comedian. Referring to anyone as a something’s-something has certain connotations of course, but Maron fits the bill pretty well: He’s immensely talented, knows stand-up inside and out, and has the kind of resume, working his way up from doorman to performer at LA’s notorious Comedy Store before becoming a staple of New York’s fertile 1990s alt-comedy scene, that confers instant credibility, yet he’s always been a little too smart or too cynical (and, yes, maybe a bit too prone to substance abuse) to be a household name, no matter how many times he appeared on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Thankfully though, the world is catching up and Maron’s stock has never been higher, as Saturday’s well-attended show at the Pabst can attest.

Maron’s own limited appeal was just one of the topics brought to life by his signature curmudgeonly comedic voice, alongside what it’s like dating a woman 20 years his junior, how boring life would be if you couldn’t judge anybody and why atheists and vegans are the worst people you could ever decide to have lunch with. He’s a veteran comic, but his command of what is clearly a huge wealth of material is a thing to behold; at times he would digress from bit to bit to bit, like Russian nesting dolls, before circling back and giving them all closure and added punch line. Comedy has always seemed like a therapeutic exercise for Maron, and there was plenty of catharsis here, from a gross history of his hypochondria to an explanation of why he hates sports that culminated in a role-play heart-to-heart with his younger, chubbier self on a pee-wee baseball field.

Like the experienced pro he is however, literally everything turned into laughs, no matter how dark, like his mother’s anorexia, or how random, like a bug flitting about above him onstage. He also shifted from written material to crowd work with ease, taking time out to engage specific audience members before effortlessly, cohesively returning to what he was saying, memorably with a catty, overexcited super-fan and an unsuspecting, but game, 22-year-old couple in the front row, to whom he personally explained the process of getting a prostate exam in graphic detail. On the whole, the crowd was present and enthusiastic, so even though nearly two hours had gone by when he said good night, they looked like they’d have been happy to sit there indefinitely. It’s great to see comics of his caliber here in Milwaukee, and even better to see them getting the appreciation they deserve.

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