Brother Marc explains it all for you
And Marc Maron begat "Jerusalem Syndrome," a one-man show that puts a camcorder in the hands of a clumsy American tourist with a standup comic's instincts and asks him to find the meaning of life.
By JOSHUA TANZER
(Originally reviewed at Nada 45 in October 1999.)
The real "Jerusalem syndrome" refers to a psychological complex that besets
visitors to the holy land and makes them think they've suddenly been given special wisdom or a direct
connection to God, and perhaps Marc Maron is one of these windfall prophets. But while biblical prophets unleashed warnings of doom and were generally thrown to the lions or flung into a cave for their trouble, Maron has unleashed a hilarious one-man show and has merely been cast out onto local stages to
perform it for you.
Maron starts with a joke-filled neo-Catskills summary of his life, from his upbringing by East
Coast Jewish parents who relocated to New Mexico as part of "the first
generation of Jews to move as far away from their parents as possible for reasons other than fleeing the country." An addled youth takes him eventually
to the grave of his idol (mine too!), Jack Kerouac, where he finds
novel ways to commune with the Beat writer's spirit. Perhaps it's this
inspiration that sets him off on a lifelong road trip touching down in Hollywood,
Phillip Morris headquarters in Richmond, Va., Maron's current home in
Queens, a memorably slimy electronics chain in Manhattan, and on to a
revelatory experience in Israel. Kerouac would have titled it "Satori in
|Written and performed by: Marc Maron.|
Directed by: Kirsten Ames.
Music by: Mark Nilsen.
With video by Kevin Scott.
Related links: Official site
Gradually, the show becomes more than a collection of jokes, as Maron explores questions of spirituality and materialism which we Americans have merged conveniently into one mass-market iconography. How do we know instinctively that Coke is good and Nike is evil? Marc has the answer. Where do we worship our modern gods? How about the Phillip Morris tobacco temple, where he gleefully discovers that the maker of his favorite coffin nails has also given unto us such all-American, life-affirming products as Miller beer and Kraft macaroni and cheese. Who knew?
But even having achieved this degree of enlightenment, Maron does a very American thing when it comes time to make a potentially spiritual journey to Israel he takes in the entire country
through his brand-new video camera. His wife nags him, but he explains that he doesn't need to see Israel in Israel he's going to see it at home on TV. This plan goes awry, however, when the camera goes on the blink and he is jolted back and forth between the safely virtual square-inch image in his viewfinder and the sudden no-tech reality of his surroundings. The show's most
potent moments are these times when Maron offers his heartfelt insights about the responsibility for religious violence, why the rest of us need the Orthodox, and the simple ancient-world pleasures that can reconnect us with our humanity.
Maron's funny but often touching show became a casualty of the closing of the Nada 45 theater in its original run, but fortunately it is back at the Westbeth Theatre this summer after a stint at the prestigious Aspen Comedy Festival, during which Maron narrowly avoided being fed to the lions.
|NOVEMBER 4, 1999|
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