We may or may not be living in the golden age of the podcast, but the medium is certainly gilded enough for the comedian Marc Maron. His popular podcast, WTF With Marc Maron, which launched in 2009, led to a television sitcom – the third season of Maron premieres in May on IFC – and boosted his stand-up career. In advance of Maronation tour shows in Toronto and Vancouver, we spoke to the comedian from Los Angeles.
Your podcast is seen as the springboard for your rise, to use your words, to mid-celebrity status. Did your style fit the medium, or was it that the medium affected your style?
Through the course of doing some radio in my career, I found that I enjoyed the format. I enjoyed the intimacy of radio. And then once I got out on my own and learned how to man the microphone in a solo way, it was a very liberating feeling as far as what I could do improvisationally and how I could explore my thoughts and where my stream of consciousness could go.
Don't you have that freedom as a stand-up comedian?
Occasionally I would have that onstage, but there is a context to comedy. And that is that you should be funny. You're being paid to be a comedian. So, ultimately, what the podcast medium gave me was that I was able to embrace all facets of my emotions and my mind. And what happens from there is that you get a confidence. You find subjects and connections that I wouldn't find onstage, or even on paper.
So, the podcast afforded me this amazing open format where I could be raw about anything and talk about anything I wanted, and my listeners sort of got to know me on a much different, deeper level.
Has that intimacy affected your stand-up act?
It's something I was always looking for, through stand-up. And now what you're getting is a much more realized, self-actualized and somewhat more comfortable – at least in my skin – Marc Maron.
When you interviewed the actress and poet Amber Tamblyn recently, you mentioned you had been a poet for a time yourself, and that you once felt that poetry was the clearest way to the truth. Where does comedy fit in for you now, as far as a vehicle for truth?
For me, coming to those moments of personal truth, it happens onstage in moments in between larger bits. The purest moments of joy or expression that I can have as a comic are the things I don't know are going to happen and that the audience doesn't know are going to happen. There's an immediacy to those moments, and the way I put together my show, I really encourage them to happen within me. I leave enough room for that stuff. So, that becomes the poetry.
When you were speaking with Tamblyn, you touched on the subject of suicide. It's something you've thought about?
The riff that I used to do was that I don't think I really want to kill myself, but that it makes me feel better to know that I can, if I have to. You're typing and you think 'My life sucks, but hey, I could always kill myself.'You sigh, and then you get back to work. I realized I wasn't really depressed, but I was expressing a selfish self-pity, which is a useless, childish and completely self-centred experience emotionally. And it was really about my understanding of that, that got me through to the joke.
And the line about suicidal thoughts being the spiritual reprieve of the faithless. Very elegant, I must say.
I'm very proud of that line. That's the poetry. But it's not a big laugh line, though, you know?
MAKING A LIVING
Rolling in Stones and podcast money
"It's become very lucrative, Marc Maron says. "I could do only my podcast and make a fine living." When podcasts first began happening, the medium was seen as fringe and hard to monetize. But now the ad revenue is growing and respect for the podcast is as well. Look no further than WTF With Marc Maron, a financially viable two-man operation that landed interviews recently with Mick Jagger one week and Keith Richards the next. The Rolling Stones, who don't do a lot of interviews, chose Maron's podcast to chat up their Sticky Fingers reissue and forthcoming tour. Then again, for his own Maronation tour, Maron's publicists booked only traditional (print and radio) media. B.W.
Marc Maron plays Toronto's Bluma Appel Theatre, April 19 (two shows), and Vancouver's Vogue Theatre, May 9.