Tackling complex issues isn’t anything new for working comics. Yet ever since the early morning hours of November 9th, 2017, many of America’s top comedians have struggled publicly with how best to handle a delicate and cumbersome subject — the president of the United States. Al Madrigal went the confrontational route in his Showtime special, whereas Sarah Silverman opted for a more discursive one in her Netflix concert film. The Daily Show host Trevor Noah, meanwhile, went so far as to analyze the president-as-performer. “When I see Trump, I see a stand-up comedian,” he told CNN’s Van Jones. “He connects with audiences in the same way.”
2017 has produced plenty of stand-up specials largely devoid of Trump’s name. Whenever a comedian avoids discussing one of the most well-known figures during their set, however, the audience tends to notice. This in a way is what happened to WTF podcaster and GLOW star Marc Maron, whose new Netflix special, Too Real streams today. “I was doing it out of necessity because I was working this hour-plus show since before the election,” he tells Uproxx. “The thing had to evolve and I had to ground it.” So he did, almost as if some cruel prankster decided to add a new clause to Godwin’s Law — the internet adage pinpointing the probability that someone in an online forum will eventually be compared to Hitler.
Even so, the veteran performer devised a simple trick for including the reviled commander-in-chief in his first 10 minutes. Except for one or two brief moments, Maron hardly ever mentions Trump by name. He does talk about the president, of course, and whenever he does, the contemporary viewer will have no doubt in their mind that Trump is the person Maron is talking about. In doing so, he astutely combines the opening segment with a series of subsequent “broad pieces about the fear of what’s going to happen next.” Put differently, Maron has figured out how to get “too real” and make us laugh at the same time.
The first 10 minutes are all about Trump, but you almost never say his name. Once, maybe twice, but that’s it. Was this by design?
I have a hard time saying it. I don’t like saying “President Trump.” I don’t like saying his name. I don’t like really uttering his name that often. Whatever presence he’s holding in terms of my world, and how the fear is manifesting itself or the anger is manifesting itself, I’m just assuming that, if you’re not feeling that, I’m not really talking to you. But if you are, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
I guess by not naming him, you’re finding a way to talk about him and related stories, but without highlighting either.
Right. I think it’s been a long time since I’ve really focused in on politics. I needed the material. I was doing it out of necessity because I was working this hour-plus show since before the election, so the thing had to evolve and I had to ground it in some sort of present thing. But then we ran into a problem, because I shot it at the end of April, and I knew that that stuff was there and I had confidence things were going to stay sadly and relatively the same. Enough for it to still work.
The Trump stuff was not specific. It was not hinged to certain events. I didn’t say his name to broaden it, to tell these broad pieces about the fear of what’s going to happen next — nuclear war, polarization, Nazis. It’s all done fairly broadly. You’re not attached to any specific event. There’s also a lack of irony we can use, especially because of what has actually happened. Those bits about the Grand Canyon and the zoo thing — all of those became strangely more relevant since I first did them. It’s lucky for the special, but unlucky for the world, that these bits I was concerned about using are now really resonant. It’s a sad coincidence.
There’s a brief line about Nazis that immediately recalled Charlottesville, but you say you filmed this in April?
Yeah. April 29th.
Yeah. You felt it coming. As for your first question about not sharing his name, I didn’t do it a lot because I like the idea of that. I think the real feeling of it is he’s playing such a huge part in our lives now. Who else could I be talking about? You know what I mean? So I kept it pretty broad, but I also wanted to address the polarization of it all in an honest way. Like that whole arc about finding common ground with Nazis over bowling and Tom Petty, but then realizing they don’t like Jews. I wanted to try to present some sense of a solution, something that wasn’t completely partisan. I wanted to make it human.