WTF, Bonnaroo and Beyond with Marc Maron
JPG: I’m sure I do the same with people because if you were to follow me (@johnpgatta) much of what I tweet has a lot to do with music and film but it also includes a certain amount of political content and information I don’t think gets enough attention plus some life-affirming, spiritual stuff. And I’m that the political tweets can get some folks worked up.
MM: If you want to run in that world, that’s part of the game. The game of that world is taking, inciting flack and engaging in the small boxes of words with opposing idiots. So, that’s part of that game. And I don’t want to trivialize it. Obviously, there are people that are out there doing important things and speaking truth to power but sometimes power will come back atcha. (slight laugh)
JPG: That’s something you used to do when you were on the radio with Air America and with your stand up. Not that you totally ignore that side now.
MM: I don’t do it much. It’s not in my wheelhouse anymore. I’ve gotten more self-involved. Whether it was a period I was going through…Look, I did my time in a way. Air America was a noble experiment run by fools. When I got into that I wasn’t even…I’m progressive. I’m lefty to a degree. It’s just the nature of my politics but I was not a wonky sort of person. I was a pretty classic fairly shallow politically. I certainly was anti-authoritarian and definitely wanted to help in any way to dismantle Bush or work against that Machine. So, I got into that in earnest but not really knowing much about politics other than “Fuck that guy!” That was a helluva education.
Certain things piss me off but…with the podcasts I just started to think about myself and what is making me angry at the core. Is it politics or is it some thorn stuck in my soul from some other time? I was just a pretty angry guy so I had to push that stuff aside to get down to the nuts and bolts of who I am, and speak from that place – the day-to-day frustrations of…just existential issues and being alive on the planet right now and trying to get by in your life with a job and a relationship, dealing with disappointment, shattered dreams, my own disposition which is slightly self-centered and neurotic. I just found that that was my Truth. And it seems to be a lot of other people’s. Not millions but certainly thousands.
JPG: Another reason I bring up Air America is did the idea of doing the podcast come about as a result of realizing that you were comfortable in a radio setting; being in front of a microphone as an interviewer rather than it all being about yourself?
MM: That really evolved. There’s an argument to be made that if I talk more about social issues in my monologue (which begins each WTF), some people get annoyed with my monologue. The criticism I always love is, “Hey, Maron’s podcast is genius if you just forward past his monologue. The interviews are great.” There are people who the only thing’s that difficult about the show is Maron. Well, those interviews aren’t going to happen without me but…
The interview thing evolved. It really evolved I think out of an earnest need to connect with other people for my own well being. I think that’s really at the heart of this thing. I’m not doing the interviews to plug shows or anything else. I needed to, at the point in my life I was at when I started it, I felt very alienated, very alone, marginalized by my community, by the business. Some of that is definitely true and some of it I made up, but I think it was me genuinely trying to connect with people and trying to connect with the community that I was working in. So, that interview thing was really, at its heart, at the beginning, was me sort of needing help. And I think that’s how that evolved.
JPG: It almost sounds like at that time maybe you needed someone to talk to as in therapy or did you flip that and rather than go see a therapist you used the WTF podcast as your therapy?
MM: Yeah, I guess. I generally have a difficult time when people frame it that way because I don’t know why it needs to be classified as therapy. I mean, I can see it as being therapeutic but no more than anyone having an hourlong conversation with anybody about anything. I just think that very rarely do people sit down and talk for an hour in a general way about themselves about how they see the world about what they do.
You’re doing an interview, where there’s context. I’m doing interviews as a context but all I’m trying to do is have a conversation. That connection is an authentic thing. As human beings this is real organic nourishment to what people are capable of doing. It’s the way we see ourselves.
So, I generally, outside of the things I talk about, which are sometimes in the realm of therapy, I just think that conversation in and of itself is a lost past time and has always been therapy.
JPG: When you brought up such things as needing to connect with others and feeling “marginalized,” it sounds like stuff that needs to be worked out within yourself?
MM: But also, it’s sort of like, “God, I wish I was hanging out with those people. How come I’m not hanging out with those people?” “Well, maybe you should just go over there Marc and see if they’ll hang out with you.” (slight laugh)
JPG: And it works. Saying I’m going to interview you is as good excuse as any to force them to do that.
MM: Yeah, but it’s weird. I rarely say that. I can’t remember the last time I’ve said “interview” in any way. In my memory it’s like, “Do you want to do a WTF? Do you want to come over and do the podcast? Do you wanna do the podcast?” I never say, “Can we set up an interview? Do you want to be interviewed?” It’s always been, “You know, I do this thing in my garage. Do you want to come over and do the podcast? Hangout? We’ll just talk.”
I rarely used that word [interview]. I don’t think I see them that way.
JPG: I agree. What we’re doing right now, I don’t like to see it as an interview unless it’s a real business-like type of thing where there’s only 10 minutes available to talk and I need to get specific answers to fill up a story. I’d rather have a lengthy conversation with someone because I’m just someone who needs to win the lottery and just be able to do nothing more than hang out and talk with people.
MM: Right. Exactly. That was exactly the life I chose for myself. Takes me back, as a comic I’ve never been a workhorse. When I was younger you just kinda wander around. When I lived in New York or San Francisco or anywhere I would have these rounds I would make where I would just go hang out places and talk to people. You build a relationship with the guy at the bookstore, with the dude at the record store. Go to the guitar shop for an hour. Mess up a couple of their guitars with your filthy hands with the dude over there. Go to the coffee place.
I always had these rounds that I made to fill my day with conversation. That was life at its best for me in my mind. You get up, get baked and then just head out with your notebook in New York City or San Francisco or Boston, all the places that I started out. It was sort of like, “I’m going to hang out with so-and-so. I got to go by the guitar store.” And you just fuckin’ sit around and talk about Jimmy Page for an hour. Who cares? That was the best life could be for me for a lot of years. (slight laugh) Then, try to get onstage at night…and ruin it all. (laughs)
JPG: That makes me think of what you always hear musicians talk about, the idea of how difficult it is being on the road, the traveling sucks and hotels night after night, but that hour or two onstage makes it all worth it. Is it the same thing in the comic’s world?
MM: I don’t know, I’m not traveling with a lot of gear. I’ve grown to really enjoy…oh hold on a minute. Your question is, it’s not a big drag for me. At this point in my career, dude, I’m so thrilled to get work that I don’t mind traveling, really. I don’t mind being on planes. I like sleeping at hotels. I wish I was exercising a little more. That’s about the only thing that isn’t happening.
I’m just fuckin’ grateful that I can get work and go to comedy clubs and do what I do and get paid reasonably well for what I’m doing. I’ve waited 25 years for this shit, dude. There was a period, a lot years, where I couldn’t get booked. I was going out to hardly any money. I couldn’t get work in comedy clubs, you know? Now, I’m doing a lot of comedy clubs. I’ve got people saying, “You should do small theaters” and this and that. I’ve earned these comedy clubs (slight laugh). Most comics are like, “Why would you want to go there when you can do a rock club or a place that seats 4 or 500 people?” I’m like, “Because I’m a comedian. I’ve been waiting to get work at these places for my entire career.” So I’m pretty…It’s a lot of work, I’m not a musician. I’m going to do in a weekend, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, I’ll do five shows. I’m a 48 year old guy. So, that’s a lot but I’m not complaining. It’s all good.