Comedian Marc Maron knows a thing or two about making a comeback. In 2009, fresh off a devastating divorce and being fired for the third time by radio network Air America, Maron was completely broke and had the last-ditch idea to start interviewing his peers for a series of podcasts. With nothing to lose, he started recording brutally honest conversations about the craft of comedy, relationships, family, and oftentimes the difficulties and pain of life that we all go through. Four years later, his “WTF With Marc Maron” podcast now reaches up to 700,000 downloads a week. Riding the wave of his recent success, Maron is now selling out clubs, coming out with his second book, and premiering a new TV show based on his life. W caught up with Marc to discuss his whirlwind of new projects.
When did you know that you wanted to be a comedian? I knew I wanted to be a comedian from a very young age, I’d say about ten or 11 years old. I thought comedy was a very noble and impressive thing to do. I’d watch comics on TV and think to myself, these guys really have a handle on things, they’re on top of it. I finally went on stage for the first time during my sophomore year of college.
And how did things evolve from there? In 1984, I spent the summer in Boston doing open mics and drinking, it was pretty brutal. After that summer, I was pretty annihilated by the heartbreak of the whole thing—the insanity of the lifestyle—so when I went back to school in 1985, I put comedy on the shelf for a while. And then when I graduated in ’87, I moved to Los Angeles and became a doorman at The Comedy Store in LA. From ’87 on, that was it. The whole point of life was comedy.
Your life has changed profoundly since you started “WTF With Marc Maron,” what has your podcast meant to you? I’ve found that this is a medium that affords me a lot of freedom. It allows me to speak my mind and move through feelings and thoughts without anybody monitoring me. The show is also not about getting laughs which adds another element of freedom. It’s nice to see the effects that these conversations seem to have on others, the help and company it provides for people. And of course it’s raised people’s awareness of me and given me a bit of a career.
What are some of your favorite episodes? I find most of them to be surprising and good. But the ones in which something was really dealt with are always fulfilling. Norm McDonald, Judd Apatow, and Conan O’Brien were all big ones. Mel Brooks was a very exciting one.
Who would you like to have on the show that you haven’t yet? There’s an ever-evolving list, but, Iggy Pop, Bob Newhart, Will Ferrell, David O’Russell…
Because you’re so forthcoming about your own issues (drug addiction, career anxieties, relationships, etc.), it seems like you can always get to deeper places with your guests than they expect, even if they know you. Have you always been this open and vulnerable? I have always been sensitive and a bit needy even as a kid. I wanted to be seen and heard. But I used to be a lot more aggravated and bitter. I frame my conversations from a different place now. I’ve grown. I wasn’t always like I am now, but I pretty much always needed attention.
You’ve become a sort of paternal figure in the ever-expanding podcast community, but does it ever annoy you that everybody has a podcast now since you were one of the original guys? I mean I carved a place out, but I didn’t invent people talking to each other on microphones. It’s just like anything else – there’s a million comics out there and a million podcasts, is it a personal attack on me? No. Do you want to feel special? Yeah. Am I one of many now as opposed to one of a few? Yeah. But just because another podcast shows up doesn’t mean anyone is going to listen to mine less.
Your book of personal essays, Attempting Normal, comes out on April 30th. You reveal so much in your podcast, are there things in the book that your fans will still be surprised to learn about you? There are some things that people will kind of have an idea about and other things that I haven’t talked about before. But writing is a different animal. The medium changes the way the stories are told.
Your new TV show, Maron, premieres on May 3rd on IFC. What will it be like? It’s a slightly heightened and fictionalized version of the life I am living now. Every element of my life is involved in the show. Celebrities will be playing themselves as guests on the podcast, there will be stories about my dad, the business, household problems, dating, everything. We got a lot of great people to come on the show. We’re going to have Mark Duplass, Dave Foley, Jeff Garlin, Bobcat Goldthwait, Ken Jeong, Andy Kindler, Dennis Leary, Aubrey Plaza.
How does it feel after all of the ups and downs to be finally getting your own show at 49? By the time I started the podcast, I’d really given up on the idea of ever having these opportunities. The podcast was a hail mary pass, it was a desperate act to continue working and being viable. I thought I was washed up and that my career was done. The fact that this has all happened and happened in the way that it has feels great and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to act and write in the way that I get to now. I would like to do it more, and continue to make better and better things. It’s all really exciting, who knows what will happen, but I think what we did is pretty astounding and I feel good about it.
What does a typical day look like for you? It never stops really. I try to interview for the podcast as often as I can. I gotta prep for those, and then I gotta talk to people like you. This morning I went and met with directors, then I went to therapy, I have two interviews later, I am going to look at a new house I might buy, then I have to set aside time for things like Twitter. It never ends.
Photo: Max S. Gerber