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WTF: An Interview With Marc Maron

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 1, 2012 4:30PM

Marc Maron (Photo Credit: Brian Kelly)

Comedian and writer Marc Maron is riding high these days. His popular and successful WTF podcast, long a bookmark in our media players, has remained unchanged since he launched it in his garage in September 2009. It’s still emotionally raw and revealing as we learn as much about Maron as we do his guests.

The success of WTF has led to new opportunities for Maron including a book to be released next year and a television series set to debut on IFC. The single-camera comedy shows Maron not far removed from who he is in real life: taking in cats; having a younger girlfriend and an overbearing father (played by Ed Asner); and running a podcast out of his garage.

Chicagoist spoke with Maron on the occasion of his 300th podcast about how his interview style has grown, how he’s changed over the length of the series, and how he gets everyone he interviews to open up.

Chicagoist: First, congratulations on reaching 300 episodes. As you’ve been re-airing the milestone podcasts have you taken a reflective look back at the series or looked at these episodes and asked what you would do differently?

Marc Maron: I think everything has evolved into a pretty good place. I don’t ever look back with too many regrets about anything; that’s the big challenge of a person who makes a big mess of his life. I think the podcast has evolved beautifully. Of course there are some conversations I would have liked to have gone deeper into. All in all, I don’t think there’s anything I would have done differently. I just hope we keep evolving the podcast creatively. And I’ve grown, which is good.

C: Have you noticed a change in your interview style over the course of the podcasts? Has there been a change in your interview preparation? Or do you still bring people in and let it rip?

MM: I don’t listen to my shows, unless I need to for a reason, so my recollection of how these conversations go is really just within my own memory. I feel like I’m more comfortable with talking to people than I was originally. I feel that I listen to people better. I let things sit a little longer if I feel they need to. I’m not as aggravated or nervously intense as I was. Any changes aren’t centered on preparation. I do a little skimming on the general life of somebody and take notes on their monumental achievements; I don’t want to deny anyone their Nobel prize or Oscar or Emmy.

C: So there was no advance prep to, as an example, get Carlos Mencia to admit that he may steal jokes from other comics?

MM: No. That just happened organically in the course of conversation. I think the notion of (Mencia) copping to stealing jokes is still up for debate. I think he was wrestling with himself and that had its own implications. He kind of said it, but there was no real moment. That came out of necessity: I had done a previous interview with him where he emailed me but didn’t give me much of anything and I didn’t go deep enough because I didn’t know enough about some stuff. I just wanted to talk to him about what it was like to be so hated. I wasn’t trying to indict him on anything and was approaching him empathetically. The second interview I had to do because the first one was so bad. In the second interview I kept pressing him and what happened was he came unraveled.

C: The success of the podcast has offered you some new opportunities. Have you taken them with a grain of salt or are you trying to embrace the opportunities as best as you can.

MM: Well, look, I’ve been working hard for a long time. I feel like I’m ready for these opportunities and I’m approaching them with some excitement and focus. I wouldn’t say “grain of salt” because we’re in it; we’re writing the show. It’s happening and I’m excited about that and the book. I’m more relaxed than I have been in the past because I feel better about myself.

C: Will there ever be a point where you feel that the podcast as a form of therapy will run its course? Do you think you’ll reach a point where you’ll be fully comfortable in your own skin?

MM: Feeling comfortable in my own skin doesn’t mean my brain is that much different. It’s still my brain in my head. I don’t like the therapy thing. I feel that how you express yourself is a creative endeavor. It should evolve and have some resonance in your life; I don’t think people do what they do creatively to feel worse. Hopefully the evolution continues, but life continues, as well. That’s the great surprise and I hope I can handle it.

C: Has doing the podcast expanded your view of what’s out there in the world of comedy?

MM: Absolutely. More than that, it’s enabled me to respect my fellow performers in a way that I hadn’t, along with my listening. It’s made me more accepting and appreciative of other people’s work as I get to know them. The more I understand show business the more I let go of my own spite. It’s really opened my mind to a lot of other people’s work and I’m certainly not as critical as I used to be. I feel like there’s a community of performers now as opposed to “That Guy” or “I’m not sure I like that guy.”

C: In your interviews you remind your guests of how you originally met and seem to work out prior affronts and transgressions before diving into the interview. Is there anything about those prefaces that you feel is important to the listeners?

MM: The listeners already know. It isn’t in every interview; some of the bigger interviews are about bigger resolutions over my 25-year career and being who I was back then. I had some business that needed to be taken care of with certain people. And there are certain people I still have tensions with. I mean, the way I enter an interview is to have some real conversations and emotional engagement. So when an interview starts the best I can hope for is to have real conversations and if there’s emotional business to tend to, you put that up front because you want to get into it and past it.

C: Who’s on your wish list for guests you want in your garage

MM: The wish list keeps growing. I just received an email from one of my favorite writers, Nick Tosches. I would love to sit down and talk to him for an hour. I just did an interview with Todd Solondz and I never thought that would happen. There are comics I would love to interview. Will Ferrell would be fun. I’d love to talk to Iggy Pop and Bob Newhart and Cameron Crowe. All of these people have made an impact in my life that I would love to talk to. There’s never a shortage of people.

Marc Maron performs at Mayne Stage Aug. 2-5, all of the performances are 18+. Tickets and more information are available at Mayne Stage's website. Maron is also the special guest at Saturday's installment of The Paper Machete at Green Mill (4802 N. Broadway Ave.) 3 p.m. Aug. 4.