Standup comic Marc Maron doesn't think he's the best Jew, despite a trip to Israel a few years ago. As he explains in his dark and provocative memoir, The Jerusalem Syndrome: My Life As a Reluctant Messiah, "We didn't go to Israel to get Jewy. We went because a friend of mine invited us." In spite of committing such blasphemous acts as confessing his love for pork -- "I know it's wrong but come on, bacon?" -- the rabble-rouser admits to a severe case of the Jerusalem Syndrome. This psychological condition afflicts some visitors to the Holy Land, who suffer from delusions of grandeur, convinced they're biblical figures or prophets. It's a burden he bemoaned in his acclaimed off-Broadway show of the same title.
A mainstay in the New York alternative comedy scene, with his own specials on HBO and Comedy Central, the sardonic storyteller has lots of chutzpah, challenging audiences to think rather than chasing the cheap laugh. At first, it's hard to discern whether Maron's tale of his lifelong spiritual journey is a genuine quest for enlightenment or merely a comic device to let him bitch about his neuroses. But the wild ride is so amusing that in the end it doesn't matter.
Maron's eclectic search for the meaning of life involved Beat culture, Hollywood, cocaine, Sam Kinison, international corporations, and finally Jerusalem -- a trip he claims was ordained by God, as was a directive to buy a Sony camcorder. He's at his best when riffing on the power of brand loyalty. Before settling into an uneasy acceptance of his true religion -- materialism -- Maron bares his soul: "My relationship with God was tenuous at best, but my relationship with the Philip Morris company and Marlboro cigarettes was really the core of my spirituality." In an attempt to quit smoking, he pays a visit to the cigarette company, but he's awed by the supremacy of the corporate machinery and leaves smoking filterless.
Readings are free
He performs stand-up Thursday night at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 and 10 p.m., and Sunday at 8 p.m. at Cobb's Comedy Club, 2801 Leavenworth (at Beach), S.F.
Admission is $10-$15
In Jerusalem Syndrome, Maron expands upon his show material. He does his best to translate his manic delivery -- he's been compared to Robin Williams -- onto paper, but he's best seen live. Regardless, the memoir is packed with intelligent, cutting observations. Though Maron no longer thinks he's the chosen one -- "the cure was essentially living life" -- he's still got plenty to say. His next show, tentatively named Coming Clean, is about sex, technology, marriage, and conspiracy.