Why Are These Hip Male Comedians All Talking About Their Weight?

Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 7 2011 4:15 PM

Why Are These Hip Male Comedians All Talking About Their Weight?

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Marc Maron attends the 2011 New York Television Festival premiere of 'WTF' at the SVA Theater on September 20, 2011 in New York City.

Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

Before Marc Maron launched into his interview with Jon Hamm on the October 3 edition of his WTF podcast, he went on an extended, self-flagellating rant about the 10 pounds he gained on the road. “I thought I was cool with this—I was ready to go change pants sizes,” Maron said. “I was ready to grow the fuck up and man up to just being comfortable, enjoying my fucking food and living my life, but it’s apparently not going to happen.” Instead, Maron vowed to go on the lunatic 4-Hour Body diet and indulge his “inner 15 or 16-year-old girl.”

Jessica Grose Jessica Grose

Jessica Grose is a frequent Slate contributor and the author of the novel Sad Desk Salad. Follow her on Twitter.

Maron’s not the only male comedian who’s been talking about his food issues lately—a topic that’s culturally associated with, well, teenage girls. Louis C.K. talks constantly about his weight. (If you haven’t heard his hilarious, shame-filled bit about eating at Cinnabon, let me fix that right up for you.) When he went on The Daily Show to promote the second season of his show Louie, he told Jon Stewart, “I’m big… I’m going to be that guy with the second belly, the crotch belly. It’s like a pumpkin top… When I pee it will glisten like a fountain.”

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Patton Oswalt talks about his struggles with weight on his latest album, Finest Hour—and on this recent appearance on Conan. Oswalt jokes about getting out of breath when he dances with his toddler daughter—and about joining, then leaving, Weight Watchers, because the meetings didn’t have the same frisson as AA gatherings. “They're very helpful, but all my friends who are drug addicts and drunks, their meetings are awesome—they have all these dark stories: ‘I T-boned a school bus.’” Meanwhile, the stories at Weight Watchers are about being embarrassed in a bathing suit and trying to avoid pie.

I spoke to Marc Maron about why food issues seem to be coming up among this coterie of male comedians. Like Oswalt on Conan, he drew the parallel to drug and alcohol addiction:

The nature of this certain school of comedy that I come from and Louis and Patton come from—we’re going to talk about our lives. And as we become less concerned with relating to a mainstream audience, [we’re] being honest about things because we know an audience will find us. I grew up in a time when you talked about partying and being self-destructive—it used to be with drugs and whatever. But now as we get older, we’re limited to something a little more innocuous, like ice cream and masturbating. It’s just the reward for surviving to this age which we all are… Waking up next to an empty tub of Ben and Jerry’s is better than waking up to someone you don’t know and can’t remember.

Though Maron is the only one of the three who struggled with drugs and alcohol in the past, he said the common thread among them is that they have the comedic personality type: compulsive, self-obsessed, drawn to excess, and full of shame. It’s still at least somewhat taboo for men to be seen as obsessing about their weight, so talking about this publicly is their way of pushing the envelope. When they were younger, rebelling meant challenging the ruling paradigm or the trappings of middle-class life. “Now the enemy is really ourselves, and the struggle between accepting ourselves or hating ourselves,” Maron said.

It’s an ongoing struggle for Maron—which is obvious to anyone who listens to his podcast on a regular basis. I asked him if the weight issues that he and Oswalt and C.K. talk about were influenced at all by a culture that has put greater emphasis on male looks than it used to, but Maron said he’s lived with food issues all his life. The day I spoke to him happened to be his 48th birthday. “I was going to start my new leaf, my diet, my 48th year alive,” Maron said.  “Then I ate a large piece of cake and ice cream for breakfast. I’m just going to have to live with that.”

(Further viewing: Below, Marc Maron talks about food, among other subjects, with Amy Sedaris.)

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