Marc Maron’s End-of-the-World Anxiety

It’s not that Marc Maron predicted this moment, per se. It’s extremely unlikely that when he posits in his new Netflix stand-up special, End Times Fun, that “something terrible” might be coming, he specifically foresaw the coronavirus pandemic, a black-swan event threatening to dismantle the global economy and sicken the world. If he had, he might have touched his face less—every time Maron wearily rubs his eyes during End Times, I shuddered.

And yet. If End Times lands aptly during a week in which more and more people are confined to their homes, newly reliant on Netflix for company, is it really surprising? Maron—acerbically cranky, perennially fretful, and, it turns out, appropriately cynical—reveals himself in the show to be something of an anxiety prophet. End Times, which runs a little over an hour, was recorded late last year, but its spirit is branded with some of the symptoms of early-stage apocalypse that have characterized 2020 thus far. Certainly, Maron tells his audience, the world is ending, at least from an environmental standpoint. “I think all of us in our hearts really know we did everything we could.” He pauses, as the audience laughs nervously. “I mean, think about it, we brought all our own bags to the supermarket. Yeah, that’s about it.”

One of the surprises of the coronavirus outbreak thus far has been that so many people have responded to it by watching Contagion, or reading Station Eleven, or revisiting Severance, all bleak fantasias about disease-ridden worlds. Watching End Times, though, I got it—there’s something inordinately soothing about seeing people responding appropriately to panic-inducing events, or at least radiating palpable anxiety in a way that makes one feel less lonely. This is Maron’s moment to shine. The comedian, actor, podcast host, and oddly empathetic interviewer of people from Brad Pitt to Barack Obama is, for the chronically angsty, a surly priest of powerlessness. “I just don’t know anymore,” he says over and over during End Times, a mantra that becomes its own strange benediction. “I don’t know. I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I don’t know what we do. I don’t know.”

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