Now that most of my portable video games are exhausted, I’ve taken to finally catching up with my backpack-stored New Yorkers.
Sometimes, I just discover why I wasn’t inspired to read them in the first place, with articles on bullet-proof fashion-wear and extremely depressing things.
But at least I’ll usually glean a good cartoon, sitting on a blue subway-car bench. And snap a picture. And feel good about that.
Lately, I’ve had moments of needing that reassurance (surprised?).
As my vacation approaches, I gird myself with classes taken to bring myself to a sort of crescendo of experience before I leave for Paris, where all my classes and shows end a week or days before I leave and I am left with some sort of sense of finality, of completeness, of accomplishment if you will, before heading off to a foreign land.
This also means just putting myself out there. Going to see shows, doing more improv, seeing my friends. Trying to take opportunities, or just not be in my house. The usual, really.
But this sort of chain has been yielding fruit for me, as going out to ASSSSCATs at UCB led to going out to Chris Gethard Shows, led to going on a date, led somehow to being called a douchebag by comedian (and definite person I think is cool) Marc Maron.
To give some background, I was on a date with a nice young lady (whom, for once, I don’t wish to embarrass here), sitting at a bar having one of those long “we’re connecting!” talks over drinks I was drinking more quickly than she was, when a stand-up fresh from an open mic wandered out and heard me invoke the name of Marc Maron.
“Marc Maron?” the stand-up asked. “His podcast is great.”
And thus began the 15-minute long conversation that took place in front of my date, mostly not involving her, that looking back was both mortifying and somewhat unavoidable.
At least I can probably assume that she learned about Marc Maron and the WTF podcast that night, if also not to date comedy-nerd douchebags.
But the conversation ended strangely with the stand-up telling me he was actually moderating a panel that Marc Maron was going to be at tomorrow night and that he had free passes he had forgotten to give away and did I want them.
“Yeah, uh, sure.” I said, completely unbelieving that some dude I just met would give me tickets to see a sold-out Marc Maron panel.
But he asked me to tweet at him and lo-and-behold the next day I received a tweet-back saying that my tickets were reserved under my name with a plus-one.
Thus began the scurry to try to find someone to go with.
I should probably pause at this point and explain a little bit for those of you who don’t know about who Marc Maron is.
Maron is a comedian who came up with the class of Janeane Garofalo, David Cross, Todd Barry, Louis C.K. and more in the 90s mostly and was well-known back then both for his acerbic honesty on stage as his drug and alcohol problems. In that era he both won acclaim for being funny and some respect from his fellow comics and also managed to alienate nearly all of his friends with his self-destructive behavior. By the mid 2000s he had hit something of bottom having failed to land the big movie parts (a bit in “Almost Famous” was his break) or good TV gigs that contemporaries like David Cross or Dave Attell had landed (he did a few shows that were short-lived) and was unsure what to do with his life following a string of firings from liberal-talk radio Air America. It was around this time that, conscious or not, he started up a podcast called “WTF” which was possibly intended to be a show examining life’s “WTF moments” but ended up being both a series of intimate interviews with talented comedians (Cross and Barry were some early guests) and his own personal quest for redemption, talking frankly about his life and where he was in it, his feelings of despair and self-loathing and romantic unfulfillment. He would often start an interview by apologizing to his guest for any wrongs he had committed towards them, kind of a 12-step amend, since he was now sober. As the podcast continued, it became more and more influential as bigger names stepped up and people became more involved in the show. Suddenly Ben Stiller, Judd Apatow, Robin Williams, Louis C.K., many greats appeared and even solicited appearances on Marc’s podcast. It became a place where people went to see the truth, the back-room of comedy. What these opaque performers were like behind their masks interested us and Marc’s own struggle and frankness made us root for and identify with him. His was a no-bullshit zone in which his audience was his confidant and support, a dangerous, but typically stand-up comedian move. Here’s an article from the Times if anyone needs more info.
I got into the podcast through my ex, who was a big stand-up fan before I had even really gotten into stand-up, and through me it went virally to my father and my friends and it expanded through other channels until at least 30 percent of the people I knew listened to the show, those in or out of comedy. As someone who writes about himself and his life in sometimes awkward, sometimes funny, sometimes sad ways, it was obviously a good fit for me and I was and am a big fan of the podcast and Marc’s comedy.
Which is why the panel kinda sucked.
First there was a poor set-up.
I hadn’t listened to the guy offering me tickets so I didn’t realize when he tweeted me back that the show was the next night. I tried in vain to get the girl who I’d gone on a date with to come with me but understandably she was busy. My friend Bander who’d invited me to a different WTF event was also busy as was my improv buddy Sebastian. So I did what I thought was the right thing and invited my ex to come along, considering she’s the biggest Maron fan I knew and she gratefully accepted.
I was worried about some awkwardness there but there wasn’t much. We had sort of settled things the last time we’d seen each other and I had come to the realization that the person I missed was the one who loved me. a person who no longer exists. So it was just like seeing a friend, just a little more awkward.
Then we got there and sat down, I had a drink of wine from the free bar (always nice) and sat down to watch the “Maron”, the Denis Leary-produced pilot that Marc Maron was there to world-premiere to the onlooking audience of (I could only assume) rabid fans.
I saw him before the show standing outside the theater sizing up people as he has before every show I’ve seen him at.
“How’s the pilot?” I asked him.
“We’ll see.” He replied.
The pilot was… lacking in my opinion. Coming from a fan perspective, I wasn’t sure how a TV-version of Marc’s podcast would work considering that the whole show is premised on his “outsider” status looking in, talking to people more outwardly successful than him. The pilot seemed to be similar to “Louie”, Louis C.K.’s superb show on FX, with a similar typeface, a similar title and a similar single-camera shooting style, lit like a short film (It was directed by the 2010 Academy Award Winner for Best Short, an NYU alum). My main problem with it was that it seemed like what it was: a “sitcom-ed” version of Marc’s life, but the very nature of his life and podcast (as well as Louie’s show) is to eschew such bullshit. People don’t speak in epithets, people are messy, but in the sitcom Marc had made, he had written it (as he described on the panel) by hiring a sitcom writer and just taking him around his house and telling him stories from his life which the sitcom writer turned into sitcom dialogue. It’s not rewarding to see something you expect truth from and have it regurgitated in that form.
So when the Q+A came around I asked a question, as I’m always a question-asker at Q+As out of–curiosity? need for attention? need to connect with people? No matter, I asked my question, which was something along the lines of?
“Hi, so it seems like this clearly references Louie in some of it’s choices, the typeface, the title, the single-camera shooting style. I wondered, I know that in Louie, they made those aesthetic choices based on Louis C.K.’s style of rough-hewn comedy, an attempt to tacke uncomfortable truths in a messy aesthetic type of way, reflecting it. So I just wanted to know, what influenced your aesthetic decisions on this show?”
Which of course, Marc Maron, with his epic insecurities must have treated like “You’re ripping off Louie” and that’s what he replied to.
“Well, obviously that comment is meant to be provocative and you must feel very smart.” He started. “But let me just say this isn’t like Louie, you said single-camera and Louis is shot like a short film, we just have a similar title because WTF was a weird title, but other than that there aren’t any similarities.”
A smattering of applause.
“But no, this guy over here, it’s OK, it’s OK, I see myself in him. It’s fine.” He continued to laughter.
Another comedian asked another question, a softball, an obvious attempt to defuse the situation asking “How does it feel to go from wanting to kill yourself in your garage two year ago to being in front of a crowd laughing hysterically at your pilot?” to which Marc replied:
“It would be great but now I just feel bad about what I did to this guy over here [gesture at me] even though he’s obviously the douchebag in the situation.”
They cut the Q+A there, if I recall correctly.
Last night, I met someone who was also there and confirmed both the general responses, the strangeness of Marc’s lashing out of me but said that his tone toward the end was more conciliatory.
My ex was amused, though I apologized to her for putting her on the spot, sitting to next to me.
“No, it was awesome.” She said. “Marc Maron said he saw himself in you.”
Most of the crowd I felt glaring at me as I got up to go to the bathroom at the end of the show, or waited in the line to pee.
The funniest reaction came from an old film professor of mine from NYU who happened to have been sitting next to me who the second the panel ended said “Well Nick, pleasure seeing you” and fucking darted for the door as quickly as possible shoving her way past everyone else.
I saw Maron after the show as I walked out.
“I’m a big fan, actually.” I told him.
“I’m sure you are.” He replied.
“Well anyway.” I said.
“We cool?” He asked.
“Sure, of course.” I said and shook his hand and left.
I felt fine about it all and obviously even for its length the version I give you is abridged. I knew it was more about Marc and his insecurities than about me, which my friends confirmed.
But still I went home and felt a little bad, until I had someone to talk to.
Also, that first date just cancelled on me.
That’s Karma, Marc Maron.
You got it.
There are many shameful things I share here on the pages of this blog:
Stuff about my sex life, addiction issues, feelings of inadequacy, terrible things I do to people, my private relationships.
But I have to say there are few things I have more trepidation about sharing than my occasional Magic: The Gathering relapses.
In fact, it was pretty much the only thing for years that I lied to my parents about, going to the store and playing with my friends when I was supposed to be at high-school newspaper (called “The Polygon”) meetings.
I just want to take this moment to say, ironically at my school newspaper, I was the “People” editor. Enough said.
Anyway, I quit Magic a few years ago, but no one ever quits Magic, like other things I’m sure and every now and then I’m lured in again, to play a card game and exorcise all of the adrenaline and competitiveness that I never got out (nor will ever get out) through sports.
It was nice that the “Magicians” at the store I’d never been to in Williamsburg (Twenty-Sided Store) noticed that I had lost weight as they in their infinite lacks-of-finesse would always tell me when I looked fatter.
Aside: Opening up a gaming store in hipster Williamsburg=smartest idea ever. What do you think all those douchebags who make iPhone apps and work for Tumblr used to do in high school and college? Settlers of Catan, motherfucker.
“Gay” was the thing Chadd Harbold told me when I told him where I was before getting brunch with him and I felt that to be, in spirit, a pretty accurate reaction.
What can I say? It’s enjoyable, it hearkens back to what fun parts of my youth there are, it’s a nice way to let off steam when I get so involved in the other nerdy community I’m in of improv comedy.
I don’t do it all the time. But it was pre-release event and it was a Saturday morning and I thought it would just be fun to go.
Dangerous I know and dangerous to admit! I posted on here a while ago a whole article/bonanza about a woman outing and dumping and dissing a date she’d been on because he was someone who was a Magic virtuoso, someone I looked up to when I was a kid.
What can I say except that person sucked who dissed Jon Finkel and the internet all agreed, that I am who I am and don’t try to hide that very often, that sometimes I do things that might be counter-productive or not in my best interest. Sometimes I might go to a smelly, crowded gaming store, sit in a crowd of people who seem like stereotypes (I as well) and sweat it out through 3-4 hours of competitive “spell-casting”.
But some people snort Adderall and I find that much fucking weirder.
So, there I am. I did ok. I played in two events going 3-0 and 1-2, somewhat even. I felt good and reconnected people I hadn’t seen in years.
I played Magic for a day.
And as much as I would seek to self-deprecate through that statement, if you don’t like that, fuck you.
I’ll never get over that my best friend Frank is in such goddam good shape when he used to be the chubby kid back in middle school. It’s just one of those things that will make me eternally insecure.
We hung out in Park Slope going to a new meatball shop (not worth mentioning) and just walking while I drank a huge bottle of Raspberry-flavored seltzer down the Park Slope avenues.
I called him on one of his excited mentions now that we were both looking ok (I still am constantly worried about my weight, despite not owning a scale) of going to some place that was dangerously named “Ample Creamery”.
Frank for his part was phobic. As a personal trainer, if he is seen at any point walking near his gym, he can be conscripted to hang out doing what’s called a “floor shift”, having to walk around the gym pitching packages of training sessions to customers.
So we took a round-about route that Frank complained about that was actually just a straight L that led us right there, much to Frank’s Brooklyn-native consternation.
“What, who cares if I live here?” Frank said. “Doesn’t mean I need to know how to get places.”
“You said this was way out of the way.” I told him.
“Meh!” Frank exclaimed in his usual exclamation of indifferent defiance.
And it was settled.
When we got to the Ample Creamery, we were given an ice-crema tour by samples from a nice attendant through crazy flavors involving everything from gummy bears to jam and Frank got a cone full of breakfast cereals and cereal-milk flavored ice-cream while I opted for a 70% dark chocolate scoop.
The ice cream was rich and gelato-like and enough that I shamefully ate all of it, though such things are not forbidden to me even on my weight worrying.
“Sleepy.” I told Frank.
“Man up,” He replied as we walked out of the store. “Crunch time.”
And I was reminded why Frank looks so much goddam better than I do.
Dark Chocolate Single Scoop- $4
Corner of Vanderbilt Aves and St. Marks Pl. Brooklyn, NY
Q to 7th Ave. 23 to Grand Army Plaza.