It's all about bouncing back

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Success Lottery

I'm a huge fan of meritocracy. So it's always disappointing to realize what a huge role luck plays in success. I used to see it constantly in my law practice. Brilliant, hard-working attorneys were stunted in their climb up the ladder because they weren't born into a social circle that brought big-name clients into the firm. So they had to watch silently as the well-connected but intellectually klutzy advanced ahead of them. I'm sure Al Gore feels their pain.

It always seems most glaring, however, in the world of entertainment. There is no logic or justice in a world that showers wealth and opportunity on Dane Cook while leaving honest, thoughtful comics like Marc Maron to struggle in (relative) obscurity. There isn't much we can do to fix it, I suppose, other than continue to tell each other when we see work that is impressive -- and yet somehow overlooked. When I find it, I'll share it here.

Since I mentioned Maron, he is probably an excellent example to start with. When he was younger, his material was fun, sexy and well-structured -- somewhat political with fun stories of youth and exploration thrown in for good measure. Entertaining, but not challenging. As he has gotten older, however, (and, to be completely fair, sober),his material has involved more self examination - and that's when I was most impressed. It takes insight and honesty to make aging and sobriety humorous; but he succeeds gracefully. He was at Giggles last month discussing how to move your life forward to Plan B after age 40. Insanely funny. He's at the top of his game, IMHO.

If you want to check out some of it yourself, here are some of my favorite clips -- and you can find more at

Edited to add fun bit from a recent interview in LA Weekly: "More so than most comedians walking a fine line of self-realization through self-deprecation, Maron has been treating his gigs as therapy, with lacerating romance requiems and fourth-wall destroyers that seem to have a lot in common with your run-of-the-mill emo bands hell-bent on sharing their catharsis.

Fortunately, Maron doesn't see it that way.

"It's not that therapeutic. I'm still not entirely well," he says. "Entertaining is subjective. I have always been entertaining to some people. The more 'therapeutic' sets have been the most entertaining to people who were/are wrestling with the same monsters as I am. These are common monsters that need to be taken out for a walk. Those who want to walk their monsters dig these sets and need the entertaining deeply."

So maybe I can understand why his work doesn't necessarily appeal to everyone. :-)

"In most cases, the only difference between depression and disappointment is your level of commitment." M. Maron.

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