After last week’s episode that only had scant connections to Marc Maron’s real life, “Sex Fest” steers Maron back to reality, and close to it. Or almost exactly how Maron described meeting his girlfriend, Jessica, on “Working Out Their Daddy Issues,” from 2011’s This Has To Be Funny.
On the album, he receives an email from a woman he met at a show in San Francisco. She says she’s not going to have her 27-year-old body forever, so why don’t they have a “fuckfest” when he’s at the 2010 Portland Comedy Festival? (“I’m a little too old for fuckfests,” he says. “It was a one-event-a-day festival, but the production values were good.”) Things go well, they say their good-byes, then a week later she sends him a text saying she’s moving to LA, but not to be with him. He calls her and freaks out, she starts crying, he hangs up on her. She sends him a few dozen texts, one of which is a photo of her vagina. “That changed everything,” he says. “I gotta rethink this. That’s thoughtful. That took time. It wasn’t the first shot.”
The setup for “Sex Fest” differs a bit, in that the “pussy picture” starts the ball rolling, the woman is 28, not 27, her name is Jen, and Maron is a little more hesitant to join the fuckfest on TV than he is on the album. With good reason, because this seems like a bad idea. The red flags begin immediately, and not just because Jen (Brick’s Nora Zehetner) sent a picture of her genitalia to a stranger. No, more alarming: She has no web presence. “What kind of 28-year-old abstains from social networking?” asks the great Dave Anthony, who has an amusing role as Marc’s friend. She could very well be crazy, but she could also be “one of those post-feminist, pro-porn, empowered girls,” as Marc notes. Hey, she’s probably cute—she has a nice-looking vagina, at least—and she’s willing, so what else is there?
Knowing how Maron’s story played out in real life, “Sex Fest” feels like the first part of a two-part episode, the “Stage 6: Commitment?” title card at the end teeing up “Jen Moves To L.A.,” which airs next week. That episode shares the same director as “Sex Fest,” Robert Cohen, a writer-producer with a long list of credits that includes The Ben Stiller Show, Funny Or Die Presents…, The Life & Times Of Tim, and The Big Bang Theory.
Cohen deserves at least part of the credit, along with episode writer Zach Robbins (Rescue Me), for toying with Maron’s structure for the first time in the series: It’s told as an episode-length flashback, with scenes partitioned by the six stages of a relationship Marc mentions in the opening podcast segment. Last week, Kevin noted that Maron is essentially “a fictional translation and distillation of his previous work, instead of a chance to explore what he can do with a different form,” an apt summation of the show so far. “Sexfest” doesn’t go all Louie on its structure—and really, people should stop comparing the shows at this point, because they’re such different beasts—but the flashback setup and relationship-stage are different, and welcome, approaches for Maron.
Those stages: courtship, romance, disillusionment, distress, reconciliation, commitment. (In Maron’s experience, there are only three: meet, struggle, destroy—the last offers the best sex.) Courtship began with Jen sending the photo. Romance starts when they meet and get down to business. Disillusionment follows quickly, when Jen seems clingy as Marc checks into his hotel. Distress comes next, as Jen freaks out on the phone over misplacing an earring. Reconciliation happens at a cocktail party for the comedy festival, though that goes a little haywire when Dave Anthony makes the supremely creepy statement to Jen, “Nice to meet you. It really matches.” Meaning she’s as lovely as her vagina. Wait, come back here, can’t you take a compliment? Don’t get clever, y’all: I’m guessing if you said, “It really matches” to Nora Zehetner in real life, you’d get pepper-sprayed, and with good cause.
The episode closes with a sweet scene of Marc and Jen at the bus stop, both of them realizing they may not be cut out for a no-strings-attached sexfest. They’re predisposed to feeling emotional attachment and jumping into a relationship, and that may not be any better.
“Sex Fest” is the strongest Maron thus far, and builds good momentum for the final three episodes of the season. The show is starting to come into its own. I’m rooting for it.
- The structure change was nice, but this episode has some really funny moments, like Maron’s interaction with the host of Tub Time With Tom. “We do it in a claw-foot tub. I’m Tom.” (I love how seriously Dana Gould considers it. “But there is hot water?”) Maron’s interaction with the wake-up call guy made me laugh, too. “Oh, I thought you were a machine…how’s everything?”
- “A bucket of pussy? Where do you come from?” “Bad places.” More Dave Anthony, please. (I also loved his quip, “It’s a fun hole.”)
- If you don’t follow Maron and Dave Anthony on Twitter, you’re missing some top-notch shit-talking between the two of them. You should also listen to Anthony’s podcast, which he co-hosts with Greg Behrendt, Walking The Room. Finally, he has a new comedy album, too, Shame Chamber.
- “So you said you were coming down for air. Is that still happening?”
- “Great minoras.” Seriously, Jen, it’s a compliment!