MARC MARON

Meet the man who has in­ter­viewed ev­ery­body, plus 12 pod­casts you’re go­ing to love

Albuquerque Journal - Parade - - Front Page - BY M.B. ROBERTS COVER AND OPEN­ING PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY ARI MICHELSON

You wouldn’t ex­pect Bruce Spring­steen, Will Fer­rell, Dick Van Dyke, Amy Poehler—or Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, for that mat­ter—to pop into some­body’s garage to be in­ter­viewed. But that’s ex­actly what they—and hun­dreds of other guests, from Al Franken to Al Gore—do when they’re on WTF With Marc Maron, a twice-weekly 90-minute pod­cast.

The pop­u­lar pod­cast is recorded in Marc Maron’s garage on a res­i­den­tial street in Los An­ge­les. Guests sit on a sim­ple or­ange chair across the desk from the actor/comic who, with his shaggy hair and big mus­tache, looks more like a mem­ber of a garage band than an ace in­ter­viewer.

“I don’t re­ally have planned ques­tions,” ad­mits Maron, 54. “I just want to have con­ver­sa­tions.”

His con­ver­sa­tions—852 and count­ing since 2009—have put him at the top of the pod­cast­ing heap. Af­ter his much-buzzed-about con­ver­sa­tion with Pres­i­dent Obama in 2015, WTF With Marc Maron gained 300,000 lis­ten­ers per episode and is now down­loaded 6 mil­lion times each month. The show has charted in the pod­cast top 100 on iTunes in nine coun­tries and en­joys sup­port from a ro­tat­ing cast of spon­sors such as Squares­pace and Stamps.com. It has come a long way from the early days when the pod­cast op­er­ated on a shoe­string and lis­ten­ers sent in do­na­tions of $10 per month.

SO WHY ARE SO MANY PEO­PLE LIS­TEN­ING TO THIS GUY?

One rea­son WTF is pop­u­lar is that Maron’s guests— in­clud­ing peo­ple not known for re­veal­ing things about their per­sonal lives as well as fel­low in­ter­view­ers such as Terry Gross and John Oliver—open up to him. That may be be­cause he is so forth­com­ing him­self.

Ev­ery episode be­gins with Maron shar­ing per­sonal opin­ions and rev­e­la­tions. Fans know that he’s been di­vorced twice, that he isn’t close with his fa­ther, that he’s a one-day-at-a-time re­cov­er­ing al­co­holic, that de­spite his some­times-grumpy de­meanor he’s a softie for cats and that he’s strug­gled with jeal­ousy

to­ward co­me­di­ans he came up with who then eclipsed him in their suc­cess (like Louis C.K., the for­merly es­tranged friend and room­mate he fa­mously made up with on one of his pod­casts in 2010).

“Peo­ple who come into his garage feel like they can un­bur­den them­selves,” says Bren­dan McDon­ald, Maron’s pro­ducer and co-au­thor of their new book of pod­cast ex­cerpts called Wait­ing for the Punch: Words to Live by From the WTF Pod­cast (avail­able Oct. 10). “Marc is able to get mo­ments of in­sight and clar­ity from peo­ple. He re­ally con­nects with them.”

“I en­joy lis­ten­ing,” Maron says. “The skill for that grew, not so much be­cause I was a bad lis­tener in the be­gin­ning, but I al­ways wanted to in­ter­ject.” He ad­mits that his pod­casts in the early days were a lit­tle like ther­apy. “I think the first hun­dred episodes are me ask­ing celebri­ties to come over and help me with my prob­lems. I have grown as a per­son over the time I’ve done this.” Now he’s more em­pa­thetic and is able to let peo­ple go on and just guide them. “Al­most ev­ery time I’m sur­prised by some­thing in the con­ver­sa­tion.”

Maron and McDon­ald have been strate­gic about how they want their pod­cast to be­come a part of peo­ple’s lives. They cre­ated a reg­u­lar twicea-week ’cast that’s long enough to al­low con­ver­sa­tions to un­fold. “A lot of peo­ple de­serve time to talk, and they do bet­ter with a long-form in­ter­view,” Maron says. “Es­pe­cially some­body who’s been in some­thing for decades, like [mu­si­cian] Randy New­man. And [doc­u­men­tar­i­ans] Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Talk­ing with them about Viet­nam needed to be a big con­ver­sa­tion. There aren’t a lot of places to have those longer con­ver­sa­tions any­more.”

NO, HE’S STILL NOT A HOUSE­HOLD NAME

In spite of his pod­cast­ing pop­u­lar­ity and the sure suc­cess of his new book, Maron is still one of those guys you might think you don’t know un­til you see him. He’s been do­ing stand-up com­edy for more than 30 years—at clubs, on late-night TV (more than 40 times alone on Co­nan O’Brien’s shows as well as on Let­ter­man,

Leno, Fal­lon, Kim­mel, Cor­den and Fer­gu­son) and on his own largely au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal IFC sit­com, Maron, from 2013 to 2016. And he now stars in the hit Net­flix se­ries GLOW, about the real-life 1980s women’s wrestling league. Maron plays washed-up Bmovie di­rec­tor Sam Sylvia along­side an al­most all-fe­male cast led by Ali­son Brie.

“I al­ways wanted to act in some­thing where I wasn’t play­ing my­self,” he says.

Al­though Maron no longer smokes like his char­ac­ter (thanks to nico­tine

lozenges), doesn’t drink or do drugs (he’s 18 years sober) and his per­sonal life is good (credit his girl­friend, L.A.-based ab­stract painter Sarah Cain, he says), he com­pletely re­lates to his scrappy, neu­rotic, druggy, boozy, ro­man­ti­cally and pro­fes­sion­ally chal­lenged, bit­ingly funny char­ac­ter on the show.

“I get this guy,” he says. “Not only that, I al­ready had some La­coste shirts to wear. I thought they were time­less.”

So why does this suc­cess­ful actor, stand-up co­me­dian (check out his spe­cial Marc Maron: Too Real on Net­flix) and soon-to-be-best-sell­ing au­thor keep invit­ing folks to sit in the or­ange chair? Why does he keep ask­ing the hard ques­tions on WTF?

“In this for­mat, I can be funny, I can be se­ri­ous, I can be emo­tional,” says Maron. “I can do any­thing.”

And that’s why we’re lis­ten­ing.

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