New Thoughts For A New Year

Here’s what bothers me about breaking bad. It’s incredibly stressful. Yes, its an extremely well done show that does not rely on sex or explosions to keep your interest, but it just stresses me the fuck out. Mad Men, I can handle. You know everything is going to be ok, and the characters aren’t that likable to begin with. But Breaking Bad, you just want everything to turn out ok for everyone involved! Oh man, I’m getting worked up just thinking about it!

Let me rewind. I had never seen a single episode prior to last week. We just finished season two on Netflix, and I think I have to call it quits. In the season finale, I found myself futzing with my phone, just so I would have an excuse to look away from the screen.

I knew a friend of a friend, lets say acquaintance, who told everyone he had cancer and acted traumatized. It later turned out he was making false statements. Yeah, special place in hell. Watching Walter White (w-w-w) makes me even more offended by that person. But I feel nearly the exact anger when someone on Breaking Bad does something stupid. I’m literally yelling at Jesse. I just can’t take it.

Am I just running away from serious things and taking shelter in Seinfeld reruns or episodes of Planet Earth and Antiques Roadshow? Yes, I probably am. But sometimes you don’t want to confront the darkside, you just want to know how much someones charming heirloom side table is worth. Am I Right?

Well, its a new year, should we talk about some reflections or thoughts? Here’s a concept to wrap your head around. There comes a time we all must accept that people we don’t like are very talented. I think if you wanted to put your finger on what it feels like to be an adult, that’s probably it. I think it’s quite a discovery. It can make us work harder and think differently though, so there is an upside. Someone get me some grant money. Let’s get Marc Maron involved, it’s pretty much all he talks about.

There are lots of shows coming up in the new year, Nels Cline and Thurston Moore later this month, Andrew Bird way off in April, I’m sure there will be one or two more. The Bad Plus did their annual run at the Vanguard last week, inspiring and confusing all at the same time. So much so, that I felt the need to drink about 13 Old Fashioned-s (what is the correct tense on that?) in celebration. Sometimes, that’s all you can do.

Marc Maron at the Comedy Cellar, and the General Greatness Of Podcasts

What a strange weekend.  Sometimes it seems the earth woke up spinning the wrong way, a little bit too early, after eating 2 bags of Doritos for dinner and feels really dehydrated.  There were signs saying “don’t leave the house!” and there were others saying “Get your ass out there!”

We began with a plan.  The band I play with was supposed to travel to North Carolina, but it fell through for reasons beyond control.  Such things happen.  Recording was supposed to take place saturday afternoon, but a sudden blizzard descended upon the northeast, and made travel impossible.  Lovely.  But let’s focus on pre blizzard conditions.


I’m a huge Podcast enthusiast.  I’d venture to say I’m one of the biggest podcast enthusiasts out there.  For years and years, I’ve listened to everything I could get my hands on.  Yes, This American Life and Radiolab, but also some non hipster shit.  KCRW’s The Treatment, Chicago Public Radio’s Sound Opinions,  Jesse Thorne’s The Sound Of Young America.  There’s some great stuff out there, and it will make your commute fly by like one of those bullet trains now outlawed in several states due to environmental corruption regulations (I completely made that up.)

But the main show sweeping the nation and beyond, is WTF with Marc Maron.  Maron, a stand up comedian, interviews all sorts of performers.  Mostly comedians, some writers and actors.  He’s so intriguing.  It might be because so many creative type neurotic Jews identify with his tendencies, but he’s a fantastic interviewer.  He not only asks exactly the questions you want to hear, but get’s to them in a way that doesn’t seem like some pretend journalist on an entertainment show.  It’s a dark and disturbing show at one moment, and completely hilarious the next.  He made Ira Glass erupt with high voiced anger.  That alone is worth the price of admission.

So on Friday evening, we learned he would be at the Comedy Cellar, and figured what the hell.  Its in a douchey neighborhood, probably filled with assholes, but we might get some laughs out of it, so why not.  Its always tricky seeing someone you are so familiar with in one area fairly out of context.  Yes, we know Maron made his name doing stand up, but the majority of people know him from his show. Well, whatever the outcome, we were in it, stuck at the very first table in the tiny basement that is the Comedy Cellar.

It was a typical night of standup, 5 performers and an MC, an experience I’m not at all used to.  Jim Norton showed up and had some great moments.  Others I can’t remember….did not.  It’s really just like watching a musician, only with absolutely no protection.  It’s far easier to hide behind an instrument.  Play a few chords, if you don’t know what to do next, just make some noise, throw in a few extra notes.  These guys have nothing.  If you pause…it’s dead silence.  That would terrify me more than anything.

Maron performed third, and seemed to be a little flustered.  He had just gotten in an argument with another comic beforehand…which no one who listens to the show would be surprised at.  But it seemed to throw him off a bit. A vein in his forehead looked like it was going to explode, and he kept making steady, direct, almost psychotic eye contact with me.  This was noted by others around me as well.  I had no idea what to do.  Do you laugh?  Do you just smile?  Do you look uncomfortable and keep drinking your surprisingly not overpriced beer?  Guess which one I chose.

But still, I was in it with him for the long haul.  I want to see where it goes.  And I mean, I kind of want it to be funny.  It what looked like a millisecond of panic, he told his story of falsely beating mouth cancer.  Yes it’s hilarious, but you have to figure, the show sold out most likely because of this guy.  He has rabid fans, both of the show and of his stand up.  He’s done this story both on the podcast, and Conan O’brien’s show.  Maybe it seemed like the room was full of unfamiliar ears?  We’ll never know. Look, you can even google Marc Maron Mouth Cancer and it comes up:

Is that how comedy works though?  I really have no idea.  Is that like a band playing a song on various media outlets a few times?  Or are jokes a different animal altogether?  Could it also be a product of this rapid availability of information?  If someone were just on late night TV, you have the chunk of people who watch it live, but the majority had no idea it ever happened.  But now, no one sees it live, it floats around on youtube, millions download the podcast….you have to know it’s out there!

Maron is kind of like the Nels Cline of comedy.  Shows up out of nowhere later in his career, and is suddenly a hero.  I wonder what kind of effect this has on one’s performance.  You’ve been honing your craft for years only getting the occasionally spotlight, and suddenly, all eyes are on you.  We all wonder how it will play out.

Sunday, through the magic of crazy gear head message boards, I drove to Southern NJ and swapped my Swart Spacetone 6v6 for a Fender Deluxe Reverb Reissue.  This went very smoothly, and would have been a fantastic journey, had I not become violently ill on the trip home.  And let me tell you, if you’re going to get violently ill anywhere, I’d say a Honda Fit on the NJ Turnpike is probably at the top of anyone’s list.  It’s a mad dash to the next rest stop, and those things are about 36 miles apart.  Good thing I had some angry ranting Jews talking about literature and the downfall of American society cranking out the speakers.  What a lovely way to end the week.