I learned about the WTF podcast the way most people did. Word of mouth. A talented musician friend of mine told me about this comedian out in L.A. who interviews celebrities in his garage. “He has this great interview with Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad. Everyone seems to go to his garage for an interview,” my friend said. “Just listen.”
Not one to take suggestions from talented people lightly, I started listening. In the first couple episodes, I got it. A year and a half later, I’ve listened to every podcast he’s put out since I started listening.
The Marc Maron formula is thus: open up with a five to ten minute monologue where he tells you about his struggles with anger and anxiety, his girlfriend wanting to have a baby, his addiction to nicotine lozenges, his missing cat Boomer, and his upcoming road schedule. It’s a manic opening, and I love it.
Following the monologue, he cuts to his interview. Unbeknownst to his own self for forty something years, Maron is a brilliant interviewer. You know why? He listens. Also, he doesn’t allow guests to gloss over an interesting part of their story. When Tom Green mentions Drew Barrymore, then tries to talk about his new web-show, Maron stops him and says, “Tell me more about that.” He knows where the goods are.
He conducts a biographical, Howard Stern-esque interview, pushing his guests to dig deep in their pasts. He starts a lot of interviews by asking, “What was your old man’s racket” and works out from there, stopping at the goods. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “I’ve never told anyone this before.” It’s like listening to famous people go through therapy. By that, I mean it’s riveting.
What I’m most drawn to is the artist’s struggle Maron urges his guests to share. After covering the early life of a guest, he’ll often say, “Tell us about the struggle.” It’s not the success that is most interesting about these people, it’s the failures they worked through to get where they are that is of intrigue. And these people have struggled. Even the ones you think were just handed a sweet gig with great pay. As an artist struggling to find my voice and an audience, Maron’s podcast is an absolute godsend. All artists should listen to this podcast.
There’s a commonality to the stories of all his guests. A message they seem to be conveying: respect your craft and work your ass off, and when (not if) you fail, keep working your ass off.
If you’re on the fence, listen to the Louis CK two-part episode. That guy went through the artist’s struggle. This episode made me want to work harder at my craft and even convinced me that I should have a child soon.
(But know it’s not the interviews of the famous people that have kept me listening. Often it’s the conversation with a mid-level comic that moves me most.)
Right now, Maron is having a big moment. Attempting Normal, his new book, is receiving great acclaim, and a show based on his life debuted last Friday on IFC. He was on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Jimmy Fallon had him as a guest. I heard a commercial for his show on NPR’s Morning Edition. He seems to be everywhere. And you know what? The guy deserves it. To date, he’s done 384 podcasts. That’s serious content. He’s been doing comedy since the 80’s, working his ass off. The guy has real-deal content to share with the world, and all of it’s great.
That’s my biggest argument for Marc Maron deserving the success he’s in the midst of right now. We live in a world where you can go on a reality television show, sing a few songs proficiently, and become a millionare, even if you have no bonafide gravitas. Marc Maron’s story is of a smart, talented guy who’s gone through the artist’s struggle, kept at it, and landed fame by conducting raw, hilarious, human interviews in his garage.
Marc, if you’re reading this, I hope you too feel that you deserve what you’re experiencing.