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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Maron: “A Real Woman”

Illustration for article titled Maron: “A Real Woman”
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This is Marc Maron’s cross to bear, according to “A Real Woman”: Young (generally flaky and good-looking) women are attracted to him. It’s practically a curse! As he defensively tells Gina Gershon early in this episode, “I can’t help it if that’s the demographic I’m attracting right now.” When the episode opens, Maron has just finished banging a barista, Ivy (Brea Grant from Heroes), on his sofa. Everyone can empathize with his plight, right?

A few of you mentioned in the comments that last week’s episode felt too sitcom-esque, but this one goes much further down that road: A woman named Alexa (Gershon), who’s having issues with her teenage son, sleeps with Marc to get him to appear on her kid’s podcast, because the boy idolizes Maron and it’ll help mend their relationship. And she’s married. There’s even an “Oh no, my husband’s home early!” moment. All that’s missing is a kooky neighbor. Maybe a dog putting his paw over his eyes too?

In his defense, Marc didn’t know about Alexa’s ulterior motive, though he somehow missed her wedding ring. As disgusted as he is by her scheming—randomly bumping into him at the coffee shop, it turns out, was not so random—he’s more disappointed than anything else. The titular “real woman”—she recognizes Buddy Guy!—ends up being as flaky as the lithe 20-something who has half the life experience. Oh well, looks like it’s back to hooking up with a ceaseless parade of attractive young women!

Sadness lurks at the core of “A Real Woman,” and really the core of Maron (at least thus far), and it comes from the same romantic longing shared by characters on a million sitcoms, hacky or otherwise. Whether it’s a bunch of single friends living in a big city, trying to find their place in the world, or a jaded comedian pushing 50, they all seeking some version of the same thing. That’s why Marc is genuinely crestfallen when Alexa’s true intentions are revealed. Here’s an “age-appropriate” (his words) woman with whom he connects, who seems to get him. They have chemistry, witty banter, and the same reticence to deal with the hassle of going out on a Saturday night. They even finish having sex before 10 o’clock!

Marc’s sadness may be genuine, but it feels a little unearned, mostly because it has a whiff of condescension—like, “Maybe a woman my age could be a fulfilling partner.” (Well, as long as she looks like Gina Gershon.) He may have closed out last episode wondering how many times he’ll stick his dick into a hurricane without learning his lesson, but he also didn’t seem too motivated to change his ways.

Why? Because while Alexa may have stories about singing onstage with Chicago blues legends, all that living comes with baggage, as Mark Duplass notes during his interview in the garage. In Alexa’s case, that baggage (at least before her whole “being married” thing is revealed) is a 14-year-old son named Zachary, or as we’ll call him, Maron Jr. You can practically see the afterglow drain from Maron’s face when she mentions it: “I can’t wait to… to… hear more about him.” You know who doesn’t have adolescent children? Women who aren’t so many years removed from adolescence themselves. They may be into unfamiliar food and bands you’ve never heard of, but they don’t have kids!


Children have been on Maron’s mind lately. There’s a chapter in Attempting Normal about his girlfriend’s desire to procreate, he’s been talking about it in his stand-up, and just recently on WTF he mentioned that they’re taking a shot at having a kid. But his bafflement to Duplass about how to deal with kids is probably real. As he writes in Attempting Normal, the love and joy that apparently accompany parenthood frighten him. “Love and joy? That sounds horrifying. I have no way of knowing whether I can handle either of those. I’m much better with need and fear. They are what ground me.”

Marc’s pre-distress over being someone’s stepdad proves unwarranted, as the kid still very much has a dad—a dismissive asshole of a dad, but still a dad. But it brings out Marc’s empathy: Maron Jr. tries very hard to mimic his hero’s look and jaded pessimism, but he can’t help but look like a kid playing dress up. He seems like a natural podcaster, but he emulates Maron without quite understanding what he’s doing. He mistakes rudeness for candor, and his motor-mouthed glibness makes him even more off-putting. He and Marc find some common ground in time, especially once daddy gets home, because Marc sees his childhood being repeated by bickering, resentful parents who are undoubtedly doing a number on this kid. The best moment of the episode happens when Marc leaves their house, saying to Alexa, “Thank you for everything,” then to the husband, “Uh, yeah, okay,” and then finally to Maron Jr., “Good luck with everything—and them.”


It’s a nice moment that saves some of the sitcom wackiness that preceded it, like Alexa saying to Marc, ‘”You wanna hear something odd? Sleeping with you made me feel so much closer to my son,” or her baby-talking him about making a “snack” for his “tummy.”

“A Real Woman” continues down the sitcom path in its final scene, as Marc makes plans with Ivy “to bone” and chats with Maron Jr. It all wraps up a little too tidily, exhibiting Marc’s romantic stasis but showing that he’s making progress in other areas. Even if it logically follows what preceded it, it feels a little too pat.


Stray observations:

  • Bobcat Goldthwait directed this episode as well. Neither of his eps so far has struck me visually like the first two episodes of the series. Maron’s performance in this episode was stronger, though.
  • Alexa summarizes Marc: “You’re the guy on NPR who talks about the comedy stuff and cats.”
  • As shaky as this episode is, it has some good lines, like, “This is usually the point in the evening where my dates trying to convince me to read The Hunger Games,” and “Eventually you’ll stumble into a couple awkward sexual experiences that will define your future.” I also liked Maron Jr.’s “I will bill you if I get pink eye.”
  • Marc nails the rallying cry of 30- and 40-somethings everywhere: “I’m just happy that I didn’t have to go out on a Saturday night, to be honest with you.”
  • “How are the lessons? Is he stopping the yanking long enough to become the next Dave Matthews?”
  • Shabu-shabu: a delicious type of Japanese beef fondue. Shabooh Shoobah: the 1982 INXS album that has “Don’t Change” on it.