Tagged: Marc Maron

Marc Alan Fishman: Missed Opportunities

Final CrisisBarely a week ago, WWE World Champion Seth Rollins turned his knee into goo after botching a routine move. The Internet Wrestling Community was set on fire with speculation to the immediate future of the flagship of professional wrestling. And a few days later, the fire was doused with the reality of predictable corporate future endeavors. A tournament to crown the new king of the ring was announced (no, not the King of the Ring™… I’m being poetic, damnit), and the brackets were filled to the brim with rehashed match-ups.

To any savvy fan, the winner is already clear-cut. Worse than that, the obvious feuds they were building to were pre-populated into the tourney. It was the worst possible outcome following the worst possible injury to happen to the roster at the worst time.

What sucks the most though is what brings me here to my personal rant this week: the missed opportunities.

Too often, we fans of Geek Culture can’t see the forest for the trees. It’s inherent in our very nature to forget to enjoy the journey, not simply skip to – and then quickly judge – the outcome. Typically, I would have reached that catharsis after lambasting you, my cherished fans, with several iterations on that theme. Like This American Life, but less maudlin. To take a bit of my own medicine though, I’m going to play devil’s advocate; I’ll argue in favor of screwing the well-worn journey in lieu of an unguessable ending. Someone cue some lighting or something.

I listened to Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast this week, wherein he was able to confront Lorne Michaels as to why he didn’t get hired on at SNL back in 1996. Rather than dance around the subject for an hour or so and reach the eventual bittersweet climax as I’d anticipated, Maron flipped his own typical script to change the predictable outcome. Within seconds Maron let slip his big finale, and covered his missed opportunity so many years ago. The answer, predictable perhaps more to his audience to then himself, was a complicated mélange of half-explanations. Somewhere between network notes, the right stuff, or the right timing, Maron simply wasn’t the proper fit. Michaels danced around it a few times more throughout their nearly two-hour talk, but the larger arc to their conversation held true. With the predictable ending out of the way, the two men connected on a much deeper level. As a listener, I wasn’t on the edge of my seat awaiting the answer. Instead, I was relaxed as they were, and I thoroughly enjoyed their banter in the moment. For the first time in listening to his podcast (which I’ve been a fan of for about four years now), I truly felt the connection brewing between Maron and his guest. It was riveting.

So it was disappointing to come home to Vince McMahon’s machine, chugging to the same destination it was headed in, when the universe handed him the ability to remove the predictability his product has been plagued with for the last five years – save only for the time when Seth Rollins himself turned heel. Missing the opportunity to even fill a tournament bracket with a few honest-to-Rao underdogs could have been the shot to the arm the wrestling community has sought after since the conception of Stone Cold Steve Austin. It’s been over nearly two decades since we’ve heard “Austin 3:16 just whipped your ass!” and we’ve not seen a better moment since.

And don’t think I’ve forgotten our dearly beloved comic books, my friends. You see, part of my longstanding feud with purchasing weekly books has been inherently tied to the continual delivery of the same beats over and over. The missed opportunities for originality. When Swamp Thing crossed over with its sister title Animal Man, we got yet-another-epic where nothing-would-be-the-same-again, when in fact it’d been beat-for-beat the same crap I’d read in a million other books.

To make it worse, it forced extra issues into my subscription box, under the auspices of being a completest. Call me – like so many others in our brood – a completest. Fearing forever that the one issue we’ll miss will end up being Wonder Woman #219. Don’t get the reference? Google it.

Suffice to say that in the information age it’s hard to put one over on an audience. When BitTorrents, Wikipedia, and a DVR exist, fast-forwarding to the end is easier than ever. The only way to fight it then, is to stop taking us from point A to B. Start instead at C, backtrack to A, and end somewhere on Q. So long as it makes sense for the characters to have ended up where they needed to be in a believable way – under whatever accepted rules exist in their respective universe – then everyone wins in the end. If not? Well, you’ll end up like so many Matrix sequels, and back issues of Countdown to Final Crisis.

At the bottom of the discount bin, along side an unending ocean of missed opportunity.

Marc Alan Fishman: Stand Up For Integrity

This past week, Marc Maron interviewed Mike Myers on his WTF Podcast. Myers, a consummate pro very much at peace with the world, had only one itch to scratch with Maron: His infamy in being known as hard to work with. His response was direct. If he was hard to work with, it was only because he was standing up for his creations. And if that in turn caused people to be irked by him, well, so be it. Had I not been driving at the time, I would have stood up an applauded. And to the couple on I-294 I accidentally cut off because I attempted it… I’m really sorry about that.

It got me thinking about creative endeavors, and how Myers’ ideology is the ideal that would make the world that much more of an amazing place to live. It’s a crazy notion that I’ll happily back with a litany of examples. If I may be so bold:

Louie, on FX, is an astoundingly brilliant, genre-challenging show that simply could not be made any other time than right now. Because Louis C.K. had the wherewithal to stick to his guns and demand complete creative control over his end-product, every episode is appointment-worthy TV. By comparison, IFC’s Maron is so tragically focus-grouped, it took two seasons to reach any worthy catharsis. And even then, it was a barely-there conceit that Maron should appreciate life more. To compare the two shows is perhaps a bit mean-spirited – Louis C.K. is a filmmaker, and Maron a podcaster – bit the reality remains the same. What makes Marc Maron an amazing figure is his ability to touch on the humanity within nearly any subject in front of him. IFC sought no gravitas with their adaptation of his life. They wanted a hip, edgy comic to bring some Louie-esque cred to their backlog of Portlandia repeats. And for the quasi-fame and cash, Maron went all in.

The silver screen aside, we need only look to the cinema for even better examples. While we know, no doubt, that it takes a village to raise a child – a child being a movie in this case – very few films are wholly a singular vision given their relative cost. But when a creative team that clearly anguishes over every minute detail together as a team and makes the movie they truly wish to make, the results represent art over commerce. Take folks I love like Quentin Tarantino, Stephen Chow, or the infamous Kevin Smith. Each man’s films are intrinsically connected to their source creator. That is to say nearly all of them. Let’s try to forget Cop Out, shall we? But in the best of cases, movies as diverse as the original Clerks, Pulp Fiction, or Kung Fu Hustle were built on houses of cards. No financier could look at any of those preliminary spec-scripts and say without falter that they’d be commercially viable. Even with each man’s pedigree in tow, it took integrity of self and one’s creation in order to complete their respective films. And because of it, I’d say in each of those cases the world was treated to amazing art. Yes, Clerks included.

And where would my op-ed be without touching on our medium of choice here at ComicMix. I’ll be frank: I just don’t know how to defend my point whole-heartedly here. Whereas in my examples above, the end-product – damning the man who would try to control it – ended up both a critical as well as a commercial darling. In contrast, comic books simply don’t sit at the same table. The most profitable comics seem to swirl around character regardless of how the fanboys are reviewing it that week. Per my recent columns, I’ve pontificated that in most cases as well the parent publishers must keep the rags on the racks for no better financial reason beyond being able to control the licenses that live between the pulp. With all that said, I’m still adamant in my original conceit. Removed from the external control of governing bodies that care more about latent data points, letting an artist make the art they want will always yield a better finished product in my mind. It’s the difference between Revival and whatever crossover-of-the-month is raging on. And lest we not find a silver lining to this all, we need look only to The Walking Dead – a book built and maintained by a singular vision, not a corporate marketing report. And certainly that turned out pretty well, all things considered… no?

Ultimately Mike Myers’ feeling that his vision was best, gave the world the rebirth of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in lieu of a Guns N’ Roses single. And because of it, Queen hit the top of the charts again, nearly two decades later. More importantly, you can’t hear the song at 4:07 and not bang your head accordingly. As artists we are often pawns to the masters of the finances. In order to see our visions given birth, we are challenged by those not in the know to concede to another opinion. Beyond simple collaboration, there exists a conflict of interest when those who can pull the trigger choose to question the viability of a given creation.

It is up to us, the creators, to then hold steadfast. It is far better to be proud to put your name on something because it truly represents your vision, then to compromise for the sake of a paycheck.