By Vish KhannaIn a relatively short period, WTF with Marc Maron has become one of the most highly-rated and downloaded podcasts in the world. A well-respected comedian, writer, radio host, and occasional actor for more than 20 years, Maron's profile has risen significantly since WTF launched as an interview podcast in 2009. Some of the brightest comedic minds of our time continue to join him, usually in his garage in the outskirts of Los Angeles, for candid conversations about their working lives. Exclaim! caught up with him for a wide-ranging chat.
I've been really eager to speak with you because, as someone who's been interviewing people for 15 years, your show has really messed with my head. Oh yeah?
Yeah, I've been talking to some friends about this. I think it's because in a lot of ways, WTF really comes across as a personal journey for you ― that you're having discussions with people about their thing in an effort to gain insights about your own thing. Does that make any sense to you? Sure, but don't tell anybody. It's really all about me and working through my problems with celebrities and other comedians. That's the whole idea of the show. It was only so I could become a better person.
Right, and that has never occurred to me, as an interviewer myself ― that maybe I could be better. I thought I was just fine. I thought, "Let's just let these people have their time in the sun." But for you, it's not quite the same thing. Well, is anyone really "just fine"? I mean isn't "just fine" the enemy? Do you ever really wanna be "just fine"? The best you can hope for is some peace of mind and self-acceptance and then you move through the exciting things that are in your life and you experience feelings and those kinds of things. "Just fine" to me is, I dunno, it sounds like you got a lot of walls up. You wanna work through some stuff? What's going on?
Well, I dunno. I actually don't know. But I've had a little crisis. After hearing your show, I just felt like maybe everything I was doing was wrong. You have these nice, informal conversations with people who reveal so much about themselves and then you end up learning so much about yourself. I can't tell you if I've ever learned anything about myself from anyone I've interviewed. Maybe today will be the difference and I'll learn something. Well, maybe? I think you probably have. It really depends. I think when you do interviews and you set them up and you're interviewing someone for a reason, you get caught up in the agenda of the interview, and getting to what you think they wanna talk about or what you want them to talk about. Whereas on my show, the best that can happen is, there are extended periods within any hour of genuine conversation where there's an engagement, listening on both sides, and you transcend the microphones. I don't really have an agenda other than to have that kind of conversation. Some people are different than others and have things they wanna talk about, but that moment where you both forget yourself and are just talking is what I'm looking for.
Yeah, I think that's exactly it. You bring some heavy people on WTF who, when they appear on other shows or do interviews, they do so with more of an agenda, where they're plugging something or whatever. But with you, you could be talking for 45 minutes about their parents or their neuroses, before even mentioning their new sitcom, or movie, or comedy special. Was that a conscious move in any way, to get away from being a promotional tool for someone? No, it was just, I had done radio before and I knew we were not held to that context. It was not a daily show, a live show, and we're not moving towards breaks to sell things. So, really, I'd come to a point in my life where I was interested in what other people were going through in their life and how my peers in comedy were moving through their professional life and how they got to where they got to. It sort of evolved like that. I don't need to talk about neuroses or their parents; people can just be funny revealing what they wanna reveal. It's really just how the conversation goes. Now, some people might not have things to plug but, because of the show, they get nervous that they're not gonna have those kind of stories and they feel bad if they're not screwed up, or don't have any kind of dark past. I've now literally had to comfort people for being okay!