Review: Marc Maron

At the Quays Theatre, the Lowry, Salford, 4 April

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“Is this where sad rain was invented?” Comedian Marc Maron may be far from his LA stomping ground but he’s brought a few home comforts with him on his travels, namely his trademark dry humour. Maron’s in Salford tonight (not Manchester as one overly enthusiastic fan insists on reminding him) and, as usual, the weather is terrible. But in a weird way the harsh wind and drizzle are oddly in keeping with the podcast giant’s brooding, self-analytical – and sometimes quite dark – shtick. Taking a short break from his massively successful WTF podcast, Maron’s visit tonight is the sole northern date of his express UK tour – and fans are grateful for it. There’s scarcely a seat left in the Lowry’s Quays Theatre and those lucky enough to get comfy in this intimate space are treated to 120 minutes from a stand-up working at the top of his game.

In fact, intimacy is the key word here. Maybe it’s the personal connection gifted to us via Maron’s weekly visits to our smartphones or the confessional tone of his chatter that’s got us feeling more like we’re hanging out with an old friend than seeing just another touring comic. Of course, the close confines of the theatre helps, allowing for a back-and-forth between crowd and performer that’s lost in larger spaces. Thankfully it’s not abused – even when Maron vents a few pre-show demons by recalling a rather passive-aggressive tweet posted by a local interviewer following an afternoon press chat. For Maron it’s a therapeutic exercise – but for us, it’s access into the world he invited us into years ago but up until now has been confined to a pair of headphones.

One gag about his choking father and some emergency CPR ruining the eggs he was cooking particularly tickles Salford’s funny bone

Throughout his set Maron takes us on a journey through his life: from tea addiction and vitamin quandaries to hilarious should-rise-above-it-but-just-can’t moments that are all too relatable. Family and politics form a large part of extended bits – with his impressive pièce de résistance focusing on a particularly descriptive and totally brilliant take on US Vice President Mike Pence’s unfortunate final moments during the apocalypse. With notes on hand and a loose feel throughout, Maron’s quick to remind us that tonight’s show is very much a work-in-progress. “You’re going to love this when the special is released,” he grins half way through. However despite all the pre-prepared scribbles, segues and chunkier segments, it’s the smaller moments when Maron’s true personality is revealed (that same personality that got us hooked in the first place) and that garner tonight’s biggest laughs. One throwaway gag about his choking father and some emergency CPR ruining the eggs he was cooking particularly tickles Salford’s funny bone.

About three quarters in, Maron chuckles about how half of the audience are likely only here because their significant other is a fan of his podcast – which very well might be true. That said, based on the vibe in the Lowry this evening it’s a safe bet that the uninitiated segment of tonight’s crowd will be leaving as converts to Maron’s neurotic brand of stand-up comedy. It might be a while before he’s back in our neck of the woods but, thanks to WTF, Maron never feels too far away. Like the arrival of an old friend, the north looks forward to his next visit.

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