Why we walked out on Marc Maron
It wasn't because he wasn't funny or was politically incorrect. It just got really scary.
I subscribe to the WTF podcast, watch GLOW, and saw Sword of Trust as soon as it came out, so when Marc Maron was coming through my town I bought two tickets right away. I was looking forward to seeing his stand-up live for months. So why did my wife and I walk out? It’s not what you think…
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Read: Actual theater criticism of politicians, the Republicans’ new base voter, Dan Zak’s latest, how Finland has built a resilience to misinformation, how Trump’s numbers have moved in battleground states, what the Business Rountable’s manifesto really means, the creepy thing India did before cracking down on Kashmir, where China is recruiting American spies, how a physicist recommends fighting online hate, how Uber increases traffic congestion, how the American press covered Mussolini and Hitler early on, and how Medicare for All became mainstream.
Watch: This Way Up on Hulu, the methadone to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s heroin
Listen: to Raphael Saadiq break new ground on Jimmy Lee
But first: After the wife and I walked out of Marc Maron’s stand-up show, I sent him an email to explain why.
I want to let you know why we walked out of your show in Austin. It wasn't because you offended us. It was because you made our worst nightmare seem real.
Shortly after Trump was elected, we were having brunch with a columnist friend of ours, and she--the columnist--and I realized that we shared a common fear, that if defeated for re-election he would refuse to vacate the office. There were signals back then that he was the sort to completely ignore the agreed-upon guardrails of our democracy, such as even ceding the popular vote, but back then people were waiting for the pivot. People were expecting him to start acting like a president. Saying out loud the lunatic scenario that a President would ignore an election result and eff our democracy in the Bezos was at once logical and paranoid. It made me feel crazy to hear myself say it and not comforted at all to hear that my friend was thinking the same thing.
Fast forward two-plus years, and Trump is now openly speculating that he would do exactly that, and except for a few pundits on Twitter noting how out of bounds that is, no one is taking special note of it. It's possible that's due to Trump fatigue or that no one takes him literally, which makes sense. He makes it impossible to take him at his word. But I worry that the truth is worse, that we would make do and accommodate him as we have.
Which brings us to your show at the Paramount. You were killing it. My wife was the one who shouted, "We love you, Marc!" Because, I suppose, we actually do. We make time in our lives for you, for your work, and we talk about your life, about how you have processed your SNL audition, how you're exploring acting through your podcast. All of this is to say that we didn't just show up at your show uninvested.
And then you voiced our nightmare, that not only Trump wouldn't recognize an unfavorable election result (as, in fact, he has already done) but that people wouldn't riot or even protest. We would just, as you joked, say, "Well, I guess we're doing this now." People laughed, because it was true. You had moved onto different material by the time my wife left. You joked about her being offended. She wasn't. She left so she could react in private, and I left because she was my ride, not to mention I couldn't possibly enjoy anything when she feels like this.
Yesterday I ran across some research that, horrifyingly, provides evidence to support your joke. I would like to think that millions of Americans would take to the streets to demand a peaceful transfer of power, but apparently studies show that humans have a remarkable capacity to rationalize big changes to the status quo. The social scientist who did the research calls this a "psychological immune system." She said we don't change our minds about things because of new information or experiences. It's just that the status quo changes, and we adjust. She said it's "your brain scrambling to make you feel okay and allow you to get on with your life."
So you're onto something, Marc, though I'm sure you wish you weren't. And of course this isn't a guarantee. Look at Hong Kong. Sometimes enough people speak up loudly enough to snap us out of it. It's possible that enough of us would take to the streets like we did in February 2003 when as many as 11 million protested the Iraq War. And I guess we kinda got used to that war, too, after a while. Maybe this time it'll be different.
That's why we left, not because we priggishly deem this not a laughing matter or can't laugh in the face of ruin but because we've been living with this idea for a while. The thing about living on the edge of the abyss is that you have a great view to almost certain doom. It's hard to laugh at this, and you deserve all the applause for making this as funny as you did for everyone else. Keep flying the flag, Maron. You're really onto something.
What I’m reading
I’m never a fan of political journalists substituting theater criticism for actual reporting, but the Washington Post sending its theater critic to cover presidential campaigns? Yeah, I’m here for that.
Lots to unpack here, but two things jumped out: high-income, low-education voters have become a Republican base vote, and a measure of racial animus is “especially effective in identifying voters who backed Obama in 2012 and switched to Trump in 2016.” This is part of a big realignment of the parties in the post-New Deal era.
A little more than a quarter of Democrats are planning on voting for someone other than their favorite candidate.
Almost two-thirds of Democrats are excited about multiple presidential candidates.
Dan Zak is a genius, and we’re just lucky to be living in a world in which we can enjoy his examination of whether language can save our species from environmental catastrophe.
Most people in every single state support closing the gun show loophole and banning gun sales to people with mental illnesses as well as to people on no-fly lists.
Finland’s critical-thinking curriculum has built a resilience to misinformation.
Shocking, a little, how much Trump’s job approval ratings have tanked in battleground states and that his tweets are getting half as many interactions as they did two years ago. Trump fatigue is setting in.
Great longread about the Business Roundtable manifesto that coaches you up on the history of all of this. For Gen X and younger, this should be taught in schools, and it explains how we ended up here thinking socialism is better than capitalism.
Before India cracked down on Kashmir, authorities “went to every houseboat, hotel and street to force every single tourist out of Kashmir.”
China is recruiting American spies on LinkedIn.
Doritos is doing a huge digital campaign that does not include “any mention of its product,” including the word “Doritos.” You know, for the kids.
This is the most fascinating interview I’ve ever read about online hate and how to stop it in the most hopepunk way.
Recent studies indicate: “[A]ll online hate globally originates from just 1,000 online ‘clusters.’” City crows have higher cholesterol than country crows do, but they see cooler movies. Optimistic people live longer. Half of the increase in traffic congestion in San Francisco 2010-2016 was due to ride hailing companies.
News nerds: This is a terrifying development in the conservative war against the press. The way the American press covered the rise of Mussolini and Hitler seems … familiar. Peter Hamby gets gaffe-focused coverage exactly right.
Last word: My friend R.D. wrote a great story about how Medicare for All became a mainstream Democratic proposal.
What I’m watching
Missing Fleabag? Check out This Way Up on Hulu, but it’s definitely the methadone to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s heroin.
What I’m listening to
Lizzo’s performance at the VMA’s was pretty epic.
Last week we featured Brittany Howard’s solo effort, which she named after a late sibling. Now comes Raphael Saadiq with his own, also named after a late sibling. I promise the sibling death knell won’t become a trend, but featuring music that pushes r&b in new directions will. In the past, you’d be excused if you thought Raphael thought the R in r&b stood for retro, but on Jimmy Lee he plays around with the form. There’s even a spoken word track that’s surprisingly good. Give it a listen.
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