Billed as a bright light in the “alternative” branch of standup comedy, Maron has inflated his signature performance piece into a coming-of-age memoir. It’s not exactly Everyman’s story, but it might be Someanxiousjewishman’s story.
Throughout the hipster text, beginning with his unappetizing dedication, the author seems to confuse his reader with his therapist. He seeks, with indifferent success, to engage the audience in his search for his identity through drugs and delusions and a trip home to Albuquerque. Certainly all comics get their best material from within, but Maron’s resolute attempt to mine his navel for laughs leads to more flop sweat than you may care to watch. His defensive protest—“I don’t want you to judge me. I don’t want you saying, ‘The book was interesting, but he had a drug problem’ ”—is rendered disingenuous by his juvenile angst and youthful service as a Beat acolyte. There follow the potent magic powder purveyed at the Comedy Store and the aggression of the late Sam Kinison, Maron’s demented former belief in world domination by secret societies (including an admittedly droll bit on the Founding Fathers as Illuminati-Masons), and a trip to the Holy Land mediated through a Sony camcorder. Despite his weak grasp of theology, this boomer class clown, in faithful accordance with the Jerusalem Syndrome—a widely-recognized phenomenon in which susceptible visitors to the religious capital assume the guise of important Old or New Testament personalities—waited for instruction from the Almighty but failed to land a prophet gig. His trip to a cigarette factory and his tour of the Coke museum give evidence of truly good reporting, but the self-absorption threatens, like a black hole, to swallow all.
It’s a fast line of patter, but, as Maron would say, it’s only rock ’n’ roll, man, only rock ’n’ roll.