Marc Maron at Bloomsbury Theatre review: the podcast king was at his best when he got personal

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Marc Maron is arguably more famous for his acclaimed WTF podcast than his stand-up work, having grilled icons from Barack Obama to Keith Richards. On a whirlwind trip to London the American raconteur did both, recording a podcast with British doppelganger David Baddiel and fronting two solo shows. “I don’t understand your country but apparently if I stay long enough I have a shot at Prime Minister”, he said. Join the club Marc. Lots of us don’t currently understand it either.

Maron and Baddiel actually share more than just shaggy looks. They both specialise in performances that are heavy on unflinching honesty. Maron is definitely the bleaker of the two. His set took in thoughts on dealing with the grief prompted by his partner’s death in 2020 and his octogenarian father’s dementia. Not your usual observational subjects (though coincidentally Baddiel has also tackled parental dementia) yet he made each topic funny as well as deeply moving.

At times this was as dark as entertainment gets. Maron also found room between the oversharing to squeeze in a few gags about the Holocaust. Surely they must have had comedians in Auschwitz, he mused, before suggesting that maybe anyone contemplating a career in showbusiness in a concentration camp might not have had long-term prospects.

Elsewhere This May Be The Last Time – the title teasingly hints that this could be a valedictory lap of honour – had a meandering tone, with moments of piercing wit mixed with more quotidian humorous terrain. He was excellent at pinpointing the slippery slope of scepticism that can lead to an anti-vaxxer position, less original when noting that the very conspiracy theorists who reject Covid drugs can be the type of people that happily snort all sorts of dubious powders.

But for every familiar riff, such as his swipe at stupid people who think they know more than scientists, there was a priceless bon mot. Even when his material was not cutting edge, there was a dry, sardonic aside that sold it as he wandered around the stage or perched precariously on his stool. Don’t worry about the apocalypse, he announced, it’s okay folks, Greta Thunberg is going to save us.

It was the personal rather than the political that hit home with the most force. A story about his elderly mother dating, an anecdote about his father’s obsession with sipping soy sauce from a spoon. And most powerfully, recalling the first joke he wrote after his late partner’s death. For serial pessimist Maron, stand up is a form of therapy, a way of processing his angst. He is just trying to figure out life, like the rest of us. The difference is he chooses to do it in public.