Published Sep 25, 2013There's no way a comedy show could get more meta than the open concept "I have no material!" conceit that Marc Maron and Andy Kindler each employed before a kind, eager crowd at their early set at JFL42 in Toronto. Their insistent admissions that they had no idea where they were going lent the night a sense of daring, made all the more impressive by how the inherent scrappiness of it all actually led to some sublime, refined and honest work.
"Are there paid laughers? I've never done this well ever!" Kindler exclaimed after hitting the stage and immediately mocking himself to the great delight of a crowd pleasantly surprised that Maron had such a high-calibre opener. Kindler spent about 90 percent of his time acknowledging his process, ending virtually every joke with an assessment of how he felt it landed. It was like "take your audience to work day." But Kindler is such a kinetic force, his self-awareness and skilful abandonment of jokes is charming. And when he does eventually follow through on bits eviscerating Robin Williams and Jimmy Fallon or knowingly dropping punny uncle one-liners, you see the genius in him.
Maron bounded on-stage, clearly pleased that his old friend was there to warm up the crowd. "Sometimes I sit backstage and watch Andy and I'm just so thrilled those jokes worked, I really am," he said to great applause, as Kindler, just visible off-stage, hammed it up after successfully navigating a tightrope of his own design. After doing brief physical impressions of Kindler (with Kindler himself helping out), Maron admitted he had a small arsenal of impersonations he was capable of doing. "They're very specific; I could open with those," he muttered almost as much to himself, as to us, and then briefly, subtly conjured Dave Attell and David Cross.
It was the first of many seemingly unplanned moments that had the room eating out of Maron's hand. He worked the room by working the country, discussing his experiences in Montreal and Toronto and the joy derived from his stories had as much to do with his attitude and presence as the content itself. "I should've prepared, I don't prepare," he admitted, vexed about taking on a whole hour with no fallback plan. "I make sure I don't know what the fuck I'm going to do. I bring a notebook onstage. I'm not going to look at it but I like to know it's there."
Part of Maron's recklessness stems from the fact that, after years of struggle and doubt, the success of his WTF podcast and the ensuing books, records and TV shows makes him a headliner to be reckoned with, and enabled Maron to finally trust himself and the audience along for the scenic route. Even when he downplays his act by conjuring a hidden blogger within, who offers recurring critical opinions of the set as it's happening, he does so strutting. Talking frankly about sex and his now apparently rocky relationship (he got engaged recently, but now has doubts), Maron knows he's at his best completely raw and unfettered and that's what he brought back to Toronto.