Maron: “Dominatrix”
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Maron: “Dominatrix”

Marc Maron did a bit during one of his many appearances on Conan about how he tends to attract young women. I’m paraphrasing the punchline here, but it was something about handing out business cards that said, “Marc Maron: A phase you’re going through.” In “Dominatrix,” he hints at the kind of women he tends to attract—“Where’s the Broken Daddy box?”—in an episode that’s a pretty damning portrait of a guy who may be incapable of a healthy long-term relationship.

This, again, draws from real life. Maron’s had at least one person on WTF who remains friends with his (second) ex-wife, and in this fictionalized version, it’s Illeana Douglas, who reports that his ex-wife’s baby is adorable. That’s a punch in the gut to Maron, not necessarily because he wanted to have kids, but because it’s an undeniable indication that she has moved on to a presumably happy life. Anyone who’s been dumped knows that while you ostensibly wish the other person nothing but the best, part of you wants him/her to mournfully wander the earth like Jacob Marley for the rest of eternity. It bruises the ego when an ex- moves on, and for Maron, the bruising goes deeper. He can barely muster a kind word about his ex’s baby, for God’s sake.

As he describes to Douglas, he has moved on from his wife only in the most literal sense: He’s slept with a succession of women, generally easy pickins’ from his fans. He doesn’t date. “It’s just so much easier to have sex with fans and see where that goes”—which, not coincidentally, is how Maron met his current, long-term girlfriend in real life.

Douglas, the poor woman, seems to think Maron just needs to meet the right person to move on. And she learns her lesson when he hits it off with her—younger, naturally— friend Megan (Maria Thayer, always nice to see), then drops her for a dominatrix named Justine (Workaholics’ great—and believable—Maribeth Monroe) that he meets at the same event.

This is tricky ground. It’d be facile to portray Justine as damaged goods simply because she’s a sex worker—c’mon, people, we’re deep into the Savage Love era! We should know that’s not necessarily the case. Maron tries to have it both ways; Marc defends Justine to a judgmental Douglas (“Just because her day job involves lube doesn’t make her any less of an artist!”), but the show also makes her out to be an unstable woman with boundary issues. Just in case the “HURT” tattoo on her right knuckle didn’t make that obvious enough.

But Maron also makes her human. When she inappropriately brings Maron in on a session with a client, she recognizes her mistake and tries to make it right with Marc. And here’s where the show nicely pivots into making it about Marc’s problem: When things with Justine start to resemble a real relationship (she makes him banana bread!) and not playtime with a sexually adventurous woman, he shuts it down. He’d defended the whole situation to Douglas, playing the part of the guy who’s supportive of his lady friend’s unconventional life, but the moment the relationship actually seems conventional, he bails. “So you don’t care that I pee on guys, but you’re freaked out right now that I made you banana bread?” Justine asks. Yup.

That message is reinforced when Marc hops in bed with Megan. Unlike Justine, who effusively praised how tender the sex was and how connected she felt to Marc, Megan doesn’t say too much, but Maron pulls the ripcord immediately. She’s too nice. After all, “My dick’s been through wars!”

In the end, it’s the sex worker who takes it harder than the “normal” woman, and she seeks out revenge by hooking up with, shudder, Marc’s dad. “She just used you to piss me off,” Marc tells him. “Yeah I know—that’s why I got a discount,” says Judd Hirsch.

Hirsch returns in this episode, and it’s obvious that he and Marc have reached some kind of détente. But the old man hovering out front of Maron’s house offers a sad peek into his possible future: living with a stranger he met online, whom he calls “The Pineapple,” and in obvious denial about the overwhelming sadness of it all. “I just want you to be as happy as me and The Pineapple,” says his dad. “I don’t know. You guys set a pretty high bar,” Marc responds.

He’s ostensibly too smart to follow in his old man’s footsteps, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to end up any better. The closing scene, with Maron in the garage talking to the mic, helps set up what’s coming: “I don’t know how many more times I can stick my dick in a hurricane and expect something else to happen,” he says. Well, judging by Maron’s real life, at least one more time. He likes the crazy ones, because they’re kindred spirits. In Attempting Normal’s acknowledgements, he thanks girlfriend Jessica Sanchez for “matching my crazy.” Maron’s making its inevitable march toward Marc getting a girlfriend, but it doesn’t ask the audience to expect a happy ending. Maron is a guy who knows the lessons he should learn from all of this, but he ignores them. Those red flags are just slalom markers, after all.

Stray observations:

  • This episode was directed by comedy legend Bobcat Goldthwait; he did three episodes, according to IMDB.
  • The Pineapple is Michi Michaelson, a retired second-grade teacher who likes to craft and is pursuing her dream of being “an actress wanna be!!!!!!!!!!!,” according to her sweetly enthusiastic website. Last summer she was obsessed with “beading  beading beading!”
  • Mari Thayer is 37,  but she’s perpetually 22 in my mind for some reason.
  • Justine mentions she read the first five pages of Maron’s first book, The Jerusalem Syndrome. I have as well, only I bought a copy for a couple bucks from Amazon. It’s an interesting contrast; it came out in 2001, when Maron was still married and living in Queens, practically a lifetime ago from the guy who’s doing this show.
  • I loved the exchange when Maron and Douglas find Hirsch digging through his garbage. “Are you two bangin’?” was nice, but Douglas’ “Don’t tell him my name” won.
  • “M is for magnificent, A is for autonomous, R is for radiant, K is for knowledge… C is for cunnilingus.”
  • “She reads the Bible and listens to him talk all day. She has an amazing tolerance for bullshit.”
  • “You’re a frightened little man.” “Yes, I am.”

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