Marc Maron can talk. The caffeinated comic has been earning stand-up badges of honor since the late ’80s with an act that’s brutally self-aware, relentlessly self-obsessed and emotionally bare-ass naked. At times he’s political (he was an Air America host for a time), but mostly, it’s personal. Yep, Marc Maron can talk – about divorce, despair and dirty texts. But as his riveting podcast, WTF, approaches 200 episodes, it turns out Marc Maron can do more than just talk; he’s also no slouch at two-way conversations.
Most episodes of WTF are recorded at his home (the Cat Ranch, he calls it) in the garage where the likes of Conan O’Brien, Amy Poehler, Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, Judd Apatow, Aubrey Plaza and more drop by not to plug their work, but to talk openly about what it’s like to be funny, famous and flawed all at the same time.
WTF is getting a boost via Public Radio Exchange, which has recently begun broadcasting repackaged versions of some prime episodes. And if his good fortune keeps up, this whole podcasting in his garage just might turn into a TV show.
It sounds like you’re having a lot of fun talking to all these funny people.
It’s just a blast. In a way the comedy community has saved my life after everything I’ve been through in the past couple of years. Doing the podcast functions as a way for me to get out of myself and to talk to people and to listen to other people’s stories and to learn how to laugh again. I had Richard Lewis the garage the other day and it’s pretty thrilling to be sitting there talking to Richard and connecting with him on an emotional level. I remember seeing him on Letterman for the first time. I mean, when I was in college and Richard Lewis came out I said, “who the fuck is this guy!?” There was this intensity of pace and timing and neuroticism… to have him in my house, it felt very warm. And to make him laugh… it was very rewarding and very sweet. I’d like to hang out with him as a friend.
It seems like you’re able to get your guests to open up quite a bit. Is it because you’re always so open and un-filtered?
I tend to make myself pretty emotionally available on stage and in the garage and in my life. For most of my life it’s been an aggressive availability – which is a nice way to say “neediness.” But it’s by no genuine design that my guests are forced into a dynamic that’s not just about them talking – instead it becomes a conversation. What I’m after in these interviews is some real conversation about anything as long as were engaged. So I assume people who are listening will be engaged as well.
This morning I noticed you were basically doing customer service on Twitter for a listener. Can you talk a little about what the relationship is like with your fans?
The interesting thing about what I’m doing is that if they listen to the podcast, many of them have never seen my stand-up. They may not know me as a stand-up, but they know me intimately because I offer a lot of myself and they have a relationship with me and it’s very genuine. I have this desire to be equally myself onstage and off. So I find myself asking fans “Was I myself?” after a show. And I do appreciate the fact that I have a fairly intimate relationship with them even though I don’t know them. I try to be as present and as gracious as my emotions will allow. When they bring me stuff and want to spend time and take pictures, I will do that until everyone is gone.
I guess when you’re really being yourself on stage, it’s harder for someone else to steal your material.
Hey, it’s hard for me to do my material.
Well Marc, sometimes it’s sometimes hard to watch!
Yeah, that’s what I hear. I remember Time Out New York, years ago when I was workshopping during my divorce and they reviewed it – the one line I’ll never forget is they said “the great thing about this show is that Maron has no hindsight; you really feel like you’re going through what he’s talking about.” I thought, well that’s pretty honest. There’s a thrill to that you know, but it’s not always hilarious.
You sometimes bring up stuff from the past with comics you’ve known for a while, like Louis C.K., where it seems like you’re trying to figure out how much of a dick you might have been back then.
Because of this common thread of comedy – and because the people I know in comedy remain in the public eye and in my periphery – even if it was just a 15 minute conversation 20 years ago, I feel emotionally connected to them. I have these deeply emotional connections with people I don’t know at all and my conception of them doesn’t really match up at all with who they are or what they’ve been through. But still I assume that we’re connected. I’ll do something that’ll stick in my head and I know how I behaved around people and I think that I’m so important that I had this major impact on them that they’re carrying this grudge. And a lot of times I ask and they’re like, “yeah you were kind of a dick, but I don’t really remember.” But, in my mind, I thought I had a tremendous impact on them.
So the podcast is now a pilot with you and Ed Asner and Ken Joeng?
In a very unorthodox way, we put together a top-notch crew of actors and a director (Oscar winner Luke Matheny). The pilot came about from doing the podcast and a lot of people in the industry enjoying it. You can talk about fictionalizing the idea, but the concept is that I talk to celebrities in my garage and I’m not lying. The truth is that my arc in this business has landed me in my garage and Ben Stiller comes to the garage and that’s the reality. We got some momentum around it – shot in like two days and four or five locations – a few in my house and a veterinarian’s office…
So this means your cats are involved?
They sorta have to be involved, but unfortunately they aren’t actors so we had to bring in a cast. I had to break it to my cats and one of them shit on my bed because I locked them in my room during a shoot, so… I got mine.