(Editor’s note: While this item is in our review section, what follows is the liner notes for Marc Maron’s new album, Final Engagement, which I wrote. If I had written a proper review of the album it wouldn’t have looked much different than this. I wrote this in March while I was producing Maron’s one-man show Scorching the Earth in New York City. It isn’t meant to be unbiased. I obviously think what Maron does is generally outstanding. -Dylan)
A good stand-up comedian makes you laugh and maybe forget your problems for 45 minutes. A great comedian stays with you, impacts your life, if only in a small way. Then there are the best comedians: The best comedians fuck your soul.
Let’s be clear: The phrase “fuck your soul” is not mine, no matter how much I wish it were. It’s Marc Maron’s. Specifically, it’s Maron’s take on how he handles the sexual component of his romantic relationships. But if you’ve seen Maron live — and if you indeed “get” the Maron — you’d agree that upon leaving the showroom, you feel as if your soul and psyche have been ravaged. That is, if you’re not an unfeeling pig.
Now whether you feel that way after listening to Final Engagement depends on a few things. First off, do you want to feel that way? Let me answer for you: Yes! You bought, borrowed or stole this album, didn’t you? Clearly you’re not in the mood for Jerry Seinfeld’s vanilla observations or Larry the Cable Guy’s poop jokes. And although you’re looking for some comedic escape from the realities of this ever-graying world, you don’t want your deliverer of release to ignore what’s at the root of said fucked planet. Right? Right!
OK, so beyond wanting to feel soul-fucked — it’s a good feeling, I promise — you also have to be willing to withhold judgment and extend your emotional boundaries. There’s no place for either of those impediments on this album. If you don’t, you’re going to find it difficult to accept that maybe God sounds like the dog from Davey and Goliath; or you’ll be disturbed (instead of feeling wonderfully engaged) when our favorite angry Jew explains the process of masturbating in front of his four cats; or you might think it’s a bad idea (instead of an ingenious one) to start shooting all the losing contestants on American Idol.
So it’s obvious you have some high-functioning, incredibly evolved gray matter between your ears — not to mention excellent taste in comedy. Your years of experience and faulty emotional episodes have brought you to this album — to feel release, to laugh, and maybe, most important, to feel connected to something (and someone) real. Because no matter how real you think your everyday experiences are, remember this: Most interactions are tempered in societal pleasantries, faux grins and noncommittal language; the word, “fine” as Maron points out, is part of that vernacular.
Midway through Final Engagement’s first disc, Maron asks the crowd, “Everybody fine?” and then quickly follows up with, “You know what? Fuck the word ‘fine.’ ‘Fine’ is always a lie. In the dictionary it should say, ‘fine: adjective/ adverb — fucking lie.’ If you walk up to someone and say, ‘Hey, how ya doing?’ And they say, ‘Fine,’ what they’re really saying is, ‘Help me! Don’t walk away. I’m in trouble. Please don’t walk away. I got issues. I need help. Please!’”
And that’s real. Sometimes we need help explicating life. And sometimes that help, for it to be most sincere, needs to come from someone just as confused and drained by the process as we are. After all, who really wants to hear from someone who thinks they have it all figured out? Maron never claims to have the right answers. In fact, he claims quite the opposite. The difference between me and him or you and him is that he’s willing to flay himself in front of us and prod his guts into a pulp of greater understanding. The energy it takes for Maron to do this ultimately transfers to us, his audience — the willing recipients of a good old- fashioned soul-fucking.
Click on the graphic below to purchase Marc Maron’s Final Engagement.