In HBO special, Marc Maron gets laughs from the most somber of subjects

Comedian touches on abortion, dementia and death in contemplative new show ‘From Bleak to Dark.’

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Comedian Marc Maron performs on his special “From Bleak to Dark.”

HBO

Marc Maron is like a disheveled and forever grumbling college professor or eccentric uncle who lives in an apartment lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves — the kind of guy who will tell you that “glass half-full” people are idiots because the glass might once have been full but the arrow is now clearly pointing to empty.

Not that he’s a conspiracy theorist living in an echo chamber and losing his grip on reality; quite the opposite. Maron’s comedic genius lies within his uncanny ability to shoot down the conspiracy-minded, the bigoted, the insanely stupid, to lean into some deadly serious material and mine it for some of the darkest laughs you’ll ever enjoy. Yet he somehow manages to deliver it all with a lightly bemused touch, as if to say: Can you believe we’re even talking about this s---? Now, about the death of my girlfriend …

In the HBO special “Marc Maron: From Bleak to Dark,” the podcaster-actor-writer-producer-comedian indeed does address the 2020 passing of his partner, the filmmaker Lynn Shelton, and also explains the benefits of his father’s dementia diagnosis and outlines his marketing plan for how abortion clinics can win over their opponents. (First step: “Maybe we call them Angel Factories.”)

‘Marc Maron: From Bleak to Dark’

Untitled

A comedy special premiering at 9 p.m. Saturday on HBO and available afterward on HBO Max.

Pacing about the sparse stage (empty save for a black stool and a microphone stand) at New York City’s Town Hall, Maron delivers a performance that is as much a contemplative, no-holds-barred, one-man show as it is a stand-up special. No wacky impersonations or fall-down-funny stories filled with heightened versions of crazy characters from Maron’s childhood here; this is more about the carefully crafted, meticulously honed observations of a smart and cynical man who has us nodding along as often as we laugh.

“My dad is 84 years old,” says Maron, who proceeds to cut off audience members who start to clap. “Hold your applause, ’cause I have to preface this material [by telling you] for most of my life, my father was a very self-centered, bipolar, emotionally abusive narcissistic f---. The only reason I’m telling you that is I because I don’t want you to have the wrong amount of empathy when I do these next few jokes. I don’t want you rooting for the wrong guy.” Maron proceeds to explain how his father has become pleasant to be around, “open and kind of funny and warm,” and concludes, “I know it’s a terrible disease, but don’t miss the sweet spot.” Wow. That’s rough. And hilarious.

Maron discusses Shelton’s death with the same mixture of cringe-inducing yet relatable humor, e.g., wondering if he should do a Ted Talk about losing Shelton: “How hard is a f---ing Ted Talk, I just have to get one of those weird earphone microphones, change my posture a little bit [and start with], ‘Everyone dies. I’m gonna die, you’re gonna die. We all die. I’m Marc Maron. I’m a comedian.’ ”

“From Bleak to Dark” indeed. But shedding light on the human condition every joke along the way.

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