People make a mess.
Marc Maron was a parent-scarred, angst-filled, drug-dabbling, love-starved comedian who dreamed of a simple life: a wife, a home, a sitcom to call his own. But instead he woke up one day to find himself fired from his radio job, surrounded by feral cats, and emotionally and financially annihilated by a divorce from a woman he thought he loved. He tried to heal his broken heart through whatever means he could find—minor-league hoarding, Viagra addiction, accidental racial profiling, cat fancying, flying airplanes with his mind—but nothing seemed to work. It was only when he was stripped down to nothing that he found his way back.
Attempting Normal is Marc Maron’s journey through the wilderness of his own mind, a collection of explosively, painfully, addictively funny stories that add up to a moving tale of hope and hopelessness, of failing, flailing, and finding a way. From standup to television to his outrageously popular podcast, WTF with Marc Maron, Marc has always been a genuine original, a disarmingly honest, intensely smart, brutally open comic who finds wisdom in the strangest places. This is his story of the winding, potholed road from madness and obsession and failure to something like normal, the thrillingly comic journey of a sympathetic f***up who’s trying really hard to do better without making a bigger mess. Most of us will relate.
Praise for Attempting Normal
“I laughed so hard reading this book.”—David Sedaris
“Funny . . . surprisingly deep . . . laced with revelatory insights.”—Los Angeles Times
“Superb . . . A reason that [it] is a superior example of an overcrowded genre—the comedian memoir—is Mr. Maron’s hardheaded approach to his history, the wisdom of experience.”—The New York Times
“Marc Maron is a legend because he is both a great comic and a brilliant mind. Attempting Normal is a deep, hilarious megashot of feeling and truth as only this man can administer.”—Sam Lipsyte
Praise for Marc Maron and WTF
“The stuff of comedy legend.”—Rolling Stone
“Marc Maron is a startlingly honest, compelling, and hilarious comedian-poet. Truly one of the greatest of all time.”—Louis C.K.
“I’ve known Marc for years and I can tell you first hand that he’s passionate, fearless, honest, self-absorbed, neurotic, and screamingly funny.”—David Cross
“Revered among his peers . . . raw and unflinchingly honest.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Devastatingly funny.”—Los Angeles Times
“For a comedy nerd, this show is nirvana.”—Judd Apatow
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Situation in My Head
I had a bad run-in with myself on a plane recently. I had just flown from Dublin to Chicago and hadn’t slept much. I was strung out. Tired. Tweaky. I changed planes in Chicago to fly to Los Angeles. Things were vibrating and I was edgy. I was in the exhaustion zone, feeling the kind of tired you can’t sleep off because you can’t sleep, because your blood is pumping caffeinated dread and loathing.
I was seated at the front of coach in an aisle seat, directly behind the first-class dividing wall and the flight attendant service area. It’s my favorite seat on a plane. I like watching people get on the plane so I can judge them. I like judging. I didn’t see any real problems among the passengers who awkwardly clumped onto the plane, but I definitely felt like I was in a better place than some of them, which helped take the edge off my mood. Judging works.
We took off. The flight attendants were strapped in almost directly in front of me, facing me. I always scan their faces for fear. I rarely see it. When I do see something dark flicker across their faces, it usually seems like it has nothing to do with the job. More likely something personal that followed them onto the plane. But then again, what do I know. I project. Then I judge.
The crew seemed pleasant. One woman in particular seemed genuinely nice: blond hair, about fifty, pretty in the classic California way. I always wonder when I see older flight attendants if they’ve been at it since the seventies, when things were crazy. Did she ever have sex in a cockpit? Did she survive a crash? Get tied up in a hijacking? Did she ever have sex in a bathroom with a passenger? With the pilot? I like to give my flight attendants a bit of backstory. I decided she was an out-of-control instigator of major in-flight mayhem back in the day. She got through it disease-free and didn’t end up in rehab. She started a family, her husband had a drug problem he couldn’t kick and left her, but she did all right. The husband had a lot of money, so she’s good. Humble and wise. She lives in Topanga with a few big dogs. Her kids are in college. Only a few people know her from her old life and one of them is the pilot on the flight I am on. That’s who I made the flight attendant up to be.
Once we were up in the air I was crawling out of my skin. I couldn’t sleep and had definitely had enough of flying. I needed to walk around and judge. I walked down the aisle toward the back of the plane in hopes of going to the bathroom. I didn’t really have to go but sometimes it’s just nice to lock yourself in the bathroom of a plane and take a few minutes to look in the mirror. I reached the door of the bathroom and the little lock indicator said Vacant, but there was a man standing in front of the door. Hanging out, I guess. He was a Middle Eastern–looking man, olive-skinned with Semitic features—a dubious shade of brown. I looked at him and gave him a raised-eyebrow grunt, asking if he was waiting. He looked me right in the eye but didn’t speak for a moment. Then he shook his head no. It was a simple gesture, but seemed ominous and cryptic. I couldn’t understand why he was standing there. In retrospect he was probably just doing what I was doing. Stretching, moving around. But in that moment, when I looked into his eyes, fear shot through me. I was sure that this guy was up to something. He had that look in his eye. Scheming, driven, full of will and sacrifice. He was clearly Palestinian or Saudi and we were all in trouble. The worst of it was that I was sure I was the only one on the plane who knew that something truly awful was about to happen. I knew and he knew I knew. I could see it in that quick glance he shot me letting me know that he wasn’t going into the bathroom. No, he was going into the cockpit. It was that kind of look.
I didn’t go into the bathroom. I lingered around in the rear flight attendant station thinking, watching, figuring out what had to be done. The suspicious-looking, dubious-shade-of-brown man started making his way down the aisle. I decided to follow him. I found out very quickly that it’s hard to discreetly follow someone on an aircraft. I gave him about ten steps, then I started pacing behind him down the aisle toward the front of the plane. He walked right through the division between the classes, from coach into business. I stopped in the service area, afraid to cross the class line, and watched him disappear behind the curtain. I was completely panicked. I knew he was heading for the cockpit. I hadn’t figured out what his plan was but I knew we were all in trouble and no else knew. I had to save us. I pulled the curtain back and focused intently on the man moving toward the front of the plane. I can only imagine what my face looked like or what kind of panic vibrations were peeling off me as I stood there trying to figure out a plan, my brain working the angles.
“Is everything okay, sir?”
It was the flight attendant, the one who’d been through some shit and come out on the other side. I turned. She looked concerned. Some part of me knew I couldn’t spill everything, that she wouldn’t understand if I just babbled out everything I knew. So this came out of my mouth:
“Uh, well, there’s . . . a situation. In my head.”
“Maybe you should sit down, sir,” she said, concerned, like I was the one with a problem.
“Um. I think we . . . okay. Yeah, okay,” I said, letting go of my horrible knowledge and the impending crisis for a moment. “I’ll sit down. But . . . okay.”
I sat down in my seat, my brain still feverishly running scenarios. I knew what was happening. I saw it in my mind. The dubious-shaded-brown man was already in the cockpit. He had on a pair of rubber gloves that had been soaked in an ancient toxin that he had achieved immunity to by exposing himself to it in small doses over the last year. He had already touched the neck of the pilot and copilot, who were in full cardiac arrest with a pinkish white foam coming out of their mouths as they gasped and writhed in their final throes. The man was moments away from taking control of the plane, plummeting us to a lower altitude, and putting us on a flight path into the target of his choice.
I don’t make pretty pictures. Sometimes I wish my imagination were fueled by something other than panic and dread. But I don’t have control over my gift. It has control over me and I am dragged by it more often than not, away from the idyllic land of normal and onto the jagged shores of self-destruction. Imagining the worst has always been a great comfort to me. If there is turbulence there is an imminent crash. If she doesn’t pick up the phone, she is fucking someone. If there is a lump it is a tumor. By thinking like this I protect myself from disappointment. And if anything other than the worst-case scenario unfolds, what a pleasant surprise! The problem is that I am always walking around preparing for and reacting to the horrors of what my brain is making up, living as if every potential terror and every defeat were already happening—because in my mind, it always is. I think if I could just create a series of characters to enact all the heinous possibilities my brain manufactures to insulate me from joy, then I would be using my creativity in a safer way. I see maybe an animated series or perhaps several epic paintings, large canvases. I’m talking the whole wall of the gallery big.
I don’t like animation and I’m not a painter. All I can do is imagine these horrors and share them with you.
I sat in my seat powerless, waiting for the plunge. I was squinting hard and clutching the armrests when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I opened my eyes to see the entire flight crew standing over me. The one who seemed to be the leader, a hard-looking woman, asked, “Are you all right, sir? Do you need medical attention?” The kind flight attendant had betrayed me and now stood behind the monster in an apron who was interrogating me. I wondered how I became the problem. If they only knew what was about to happen they would be thanking me for being the one person perceptive enough to see it. I was actually hoping that we’d lurch into a sudden descent at that moment. I was hoping that they would all go flying toward the back of the plane, screaming and thumping along the ceiling. Then they’d know I was right.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Garage xiii
Part I Attempting
Chapter 1 The Situation in My Head 5
Chapter 2 Twenty-Six 11
Chapter 3 The First Marriage 18
Chapter 4 Two Prostitutes 29
Chapter 5 Mother's Day Card from Dad 35
Chapter 6 My Grandfathers Mouth 38
Chapter 7 Cats 46
Chapter 8 Petty Lifting 58
Chapter 9 Guitar 63
Chapter 10 Lorne Michaels and Gorillas, 1994 74
Chapter 11 The Clown and the Chair 85
Part II Normal
Chapter 12 Babies 105
Chapter 13 Viagra Diaries 112
Chapter 14 I'm a Good Person 129
Chapter 15 Hummingbirds and the Killer of Mice 134
Chapter 16 Dunk the Clown 142
Chapter 17 I Want to Understand Opera 147
Chapter 18 I Almost Died #1: Cleveland 153
Chapter 19 I Almost Died #2: "Mouth Cancer" 160
Chapter 20 Whole Foods 164
Chapter 21 I Almost Died #3: Prince's Chicken 169
Chapter 22 Xenophobia, Autoerotic Asphyxiation, and the History of Irish Poetry 178
Chapter 23 Googleheimers 188
Chapter 24 Cooking at Thanksgiving 192
Chapter 25 The Montreal Just for Laughs Comedy Festival Keynote Address 195
Epilogue: Boomer Lives! 207