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Marc Maron

Marc Maron: Getting out of the Garage

May 03, 2013 Web Exclusive
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In the first scene of the first episode of Maron, his IFC series debuting tonight (Friday, May 3), comedian Marc Maronplaying himselfexplains that things are going pretty well for him these days. The only problem is the voices in his head telling him that he is going to screw it up. Hell, one of those voices is even telling him he should screw it up. This is a man clearly uncomfortable with success, but he wants it all the same.

Like his TV persona, things are going pretty great for the real Marc Maron. He has a new TV show based on his life; Attempting Normal, a book of hilarious and heartfelt personal essays; and a rejuvenated stand-up comedy career. But things weren’t always so rosy. Following a career plagued by bad luck, missed opportunities, substance abuse and two divorces, Maron found himself out of a job as a radio personality at Air America. He was broke, broken, and depressed. In an act of desperation, he started interviewing fellow comedians and putting those interviews online.

Known for Maron’s trademark rants and his conversational interview style, WTF quickly became one of the Internet’s most talked-about podcasts and now, nearly four years later, easily one of its best. Working out of his Los Angeles garagewhere the likes of Conan O’Brien, Ben Stiller, Judd Apatow, and Jon Hamm have all sat down to be interviewedhe has mended friendships, cracked tough exteriors, caused trouble, and more than anything, connected. Now he is getting the attention his peers, his fans and, frankly, he always thought he deserved.

Earlier this week Maron spoke to Under the Radar about success, show business, and being happy.

Charlie Duerr (Under the Radar): Considering the ups and downs of your career, do you feel vindicated by the amount of success you are having now?

Mark Maron: I’ve worked hard to get the opportunity to do this stuff, and yeah, it definitely feels like an accomplishment on all levels, between the book and the podcast and the TV show. I’ve worked a long time and it’s nice for it to come to fruition with these things.

Did you find any of the projects more enjoyable or challenging than the others?

They’re all very different and take a different type of focus. The podcast is my job. Standup is my job. Doing a TV show and writing a book are things that happen in a certain time frame, and a lot of things have to converge to make them happen. It is just a different thing altogether. Focusing on them is something I don’t get to do all the time, and it is all very exciting. They are both very engaging in their own way.

How did the book come together?

The writing took place over about a year and a half. It was sort of in fits and starts. I think choosing the right essays instead of a long-form memoir was a good choice for me. It made me able to compartmentalize and focus.

On Maron, the episodes are rooted in actual events of your life, correct?

Yeah. The episodes are rooted in events that have happened in my life and then are sort of built out from there. Some of them are sort of extended or amplified or reconfigured, or just kind of used as a foundation.

So what was the experience like when you had to shoot and watch scenes like the one where you run into your ex-wife and her fiancé?

It is definitely weird. That was always a fear of mine, but it never actually happened. So playing out these things that were actually fears of mine. Same with some of the conversations with my father. They are definitely a bit emotional and interesting to watch. I’m also sort of happy that they didn’t happen, you know.

The series has a lot of great cameos throughout. Who are some of the people you were most excited to work with?

I know some of these guys a little bit, but none of them are [my] best buddies and it was really a privilege to have them on there. It was great working with everybody. Working with Judd Hirsch was amazing and working with Denis [Leary] was amazing. Everybody that did cameos, like Mark Duplass, Adam Scott, Aubrey Plaza, Ken Jeong, and Jeff Garlin. It was an honor that they wanted to be a part of it and that we got to act. Eric Stoltz plays an old buddy of mine in one episode. That was cool because he’s a great actor. Gina Gershon was in it. I haven’t had a lot of experience acting, so it was a real thrill to work with these people.

Did you enjoy acting?

Yeah I did, I did a lot. You know, it’s a role I’ve been working on my whole life.

What drew me, and obviously a lot of others, to your work is your almost brutal openness about your life and who you are. Do you ever step back and think, “Wow, people out there know a lot about me?”

Of course I do, but that’s sort of the world I’ve chosen. It can get dicey. I know I put a lot out there and I know that some people do know a lot about me, but I try to keep a couple of things inside. I try to hold back. It’s a very little bit, but there might be one or two things.

You talk a lot on the podcast about the fact that you always wanted to be a stand-up comedian and that you are a comic first and foremost. With all these other things happening, is that still the case?

Yeah, sure it is. That’s what I always was and when everything falls apart, that’s what I end up being. It’s in my heart. I’ve certainly been doing a hell of a lot of standup lately. That’s what got me here. That’s what possessed me and that’s what drives me still. I think I’m doing the best material of my life right now as a comic. I still see it that way. Even if people see me as more of an interviewer, that’s fine, I can accept that. But for me, I’m still a stand-up.

In an episode of Maron, you take on an intern who wants you to mentor him in his pursuit of a career in comedy. Did you have anyone you looked to as a mentor during you career? I know you talk about Sam Kinison a lot.

I’ve had a lot of people mentor me in my career. I’ve had a lot of people I’ve looked up to and respected for different reasons, a lot of different father figures of a sort. There is no one in particular that hands-on mentored me, but there are definitely guys I looked up to. Some of I’ve spent time with, some I don’t know at all. I was always sort of taken with William Burroughs as a character, he informed some [of my] stuff. Later, as time went on, I came to respect a lot of my friends and their comedy. I wouldn’t call them mentors, but a lot of my peers are very impressive. And Kinison was not a great guy to hang around, but I certainly learned a lot from him. I’ve always been open to being educated by people I considered wise, whether they were dangerous or not is another story.

So knowing what you know now, what would you tell a kid looking at a career in comedy?

I would say take your time, find your voice, and figure out what your particular talent is. Then nurture it and don’t let it destroy you. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

You have been sober for years. How key was that to getting where you are now?

I’m really not sure that I would have survived the life I was leading and was heading into, so it was very important.

You often speak of a complex relationship with your parents. How are they handling your success?

My mom is dealing with it pretty well, but my father, I don’t know. The jury is still out on that. On some level I think he is happy about my success and on another level he wants to make it all about him, for better or for worse, so we’ll see how that all pans out. I made choices to talk about our relationship in a candid way because it was my life and I don’t know how he is going to react to that in the big picture. We’ll see.

The podcast is known for pretty personal, often emotional interviews. Do you get something out of it on a personal level?

Yeah, absolutely. I think the real initial momentum of the podcast was that I needed to reconnect with my peers and learn how to laugh again and be part of something. I had gotten very bitter and very marginalized. I was not in a good place. I think a lot of the initial episodes were me needing to talk for a lot of personal reasons. I think some of that still carries, only I’ve learned how to enjoy conversations again and just listening and sort of lending an empathetic ear and trying to connect in a genuine way. I get a lot out of it.

I know you said you really wanted to get Iggy Pop on the show.

Yeah, that may happen.

That would be amazing. Are there others like that? People you are really pushing to get on the show?

There are a lot of people I haven’t talked to that I’m interested in. Bob Newheart. Will Ferrell I’ve never talked to; David O. Russell would be interesting. There’s a long list of people I would enjoy talking to.

You are a music guy. Anything new that you’re listening to and enjoying?

Yes, I’m getting a lot of vinyl now. I just got that Low album that Jeff Tweedy produced; I think that’s a pretty sweet record. Someone turned me on to Titus Andronicus and I actually play those guys a lot. I don’t know if I’m too old for that, but I like it a lot. DFA just sent me a box of records and I had missed that whole thing. I listened to LCD Soundsytem for the first time recently, and I dug it. It’s not the kind of stuff I would think I’d be into, but it’s solid. I kind of like that band YACHT. I’m pretty open and I’ve been dumping a lot of new music in my head.

For a guy that says he is driven by fear and dread, are you able to enjoy all of this?

Yeah, I think I am. I feel pretty proud. I feel like I’ve achieved something and I feel a certain self-esteem that I don’t think I’ve ever really felt before, and it’s nice.

[Maron airs Fridays at 10/9 Central on IFC.]


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