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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Maron: “Jen Moves To LA”

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Despite Maron turning the corner with last week’s “Sex Fest,” Marc's true-life relationship with Jen isn’t my favorite pairing on the show—that would be Maron and his hopelessly pathetic “assistant” Kyle. He cleans the cat litter box, organizes all aspects of Maron’s professional life, knows where the nicotine lozenges are located, but Marc treats him as a nuisance. Jen knows exactly what she wants, and knows that Maron will eventually come around to her way of thinking, and goes about living her life while spirals through jealousy and takes out his anger on a kid who just wants a chance to show what he can do.

To be fair, Kyle is a scared little boy around the podcast guests, freaking out around Aubrey Plaza—satirizing her aloof character on Parks And Recreation in her interview—and Amy Poehler. He can’t handle “nerd goddess royalty,” and basically he’s a standard issue intern on a television show, given no credit for the work he does while earning the ire of his boss. And Kyle touches a nerve that sets Marc off—the offense of not understanding comedy history, shows like Happy Days and M*A*S*H, and trying to break into comedy with a web series catered to zeitgeist content like monsters.

“Jen Moves To L.A.” is only a slight step down from last week to me, because of how the show advances Marc’s relationship with Jen in parallel with Kyle. But the most grating part of the episode is yet again the monologue segment, where Maron rails against entitled youth, booming that “THEY WILL BE HUMBLED.” That’s the bit of hubris that leads to Maron’s complicated predicament. He reconciles with Jen, after several arguments, and has sex with her on Kyle’s bed, which proves to be the last straw for a kid who’s fed up with a job that gets him no closer to even attempting the dream. And though Maron decries Kyle’s inability to keep it professional with guests or show the kind of determination he deems necessary for advancement, Kyle is a capable assistant, and he rationally takes issue with Maron’s demands that their so-called friendship is a one-way street Marc exploits without even dangling the carrot of future assistance (in the form of a recommendation, or a zombie cameo).

A longtime family friend of mine moved out to Los Angeles after college, and in the course of interviewing for entertainment jobs, met with a screenwriter for a possible gig as an assistant. That job would amount to keeping track of all the random scraps of writing the guy got done while whacked out on cocaine during the night, then keeping him from continuing to rage on coke throughout the day and turn the scraps into something usable. The pay was shit, the job amounted to babysitting a creative person who couldn’t take care of themself. Here, Maron is past the completely self-destructive phase, but set in his ways and so stuck on his definition of comedic understanding that anyone who falls outside that purview is ungrateful. But Kyle looks up to him so much,  takes care of little things Maron doesn’t want to do so often, that he can’t help but get fed up when Maron takes and takes without even a miniscule sign of gratitude or indication that he’ll help Kyle amount to anything.

The amazing thing about this episode is how the developments with Jen—Maron’s jealousy that she’s sleeping with another comic, her growing close to Kyle as a platonic friend (after leading him on)—take a backseat to Maron’s narrow taste for comedy. He’s not upset that Jen slept with someone else, but he is angry that the other comic is such a hack (played by James Adomian, for the record). I have a little trouble with Jen being the salve for all of Marc’s problems. She has an answer for everything, and falls into place as his girlfriend in Los Angeles in the span of a few days, and immediately has the answer for how to fix things with Kyle. Maron doesn’t like what he has to do, but he listens after only putting up a small fight.

And it’s hard for me not to read Maron’s occasional podcast ramblings—about his fears of fatherhood, or bringing up the issue with guests as real-life Jen brings up the desire to have a child with any guest who’s a new father—into his relationship to Kyle. He rejects the possibility of being a mentor to Kyle in the same way that he rejects being a father figure, though he seems naturally equipped to deliver tough love with no filter. Maron recently proposed to Jen despite his significant misgivings about having a child, but what this episode gets across is how she simultaneously activates Maron’s frustrations with young people and women, while at the same time challenging him from such a solid position that he can’t do anything but take her advice under consideration.


And that sad, sad, reconciliation with Kyle made me laugh more than almost anything else the show has done. Last week I found myself incredibly interested in what was going on with Marc and Jen because of the fictional representation of his actual relationship, but this week I laughed a lot more at Maron developing into a mentor, who can possibly shape an aimless kid with some work ethic—something that resembles Maron’s early days as a standup—into a grateful protégé. The show is clearly not done mocking Kyle for all his flaws, but he’s not longer simply the butt of every joke about the next generation, and that favors Maron going forward.

Stray observations:

  • Josh Brener may only make a select number of appearances in this season as Kyle, but should Maron get picked up, I hope he gets an upgrade to series regular so he can be on the sidelines to help and pester Marc throughout the show.
  • “By the way that was SUPER quick.”
  • “I got Salmon Fishing In The Yemen!”