WTF, Bonnaroo and Beyond with Marc Maron
JPG: Well, you are branching out in many directions. You have the podcast. You’re working a scripted series and a memoir. Is the most important thing for you still stand up? If one of these other things took off in a major way would you be like, “Oh thank God! I don’t have to step on a stage again!”
MM: Oh no, no, I love doing stand up and this is really the first time in my life where I’m dealing with audiences that are familiar with me. It’s very new to me. And to have that kind of freedom onstage, at least to have the identification thing, these people know me very well if they’re podcast fans. A lot of them have never seen me do stand up. Many of them have never seen a live stand up show at all. There’s that weird thing where they’re almost too familiar with me but a lot of them experience me very one-on-one. It’s their own thing. They’re listening to me in their head at work or on the train or on the treadmill or whatever, but then they’re being in the crowd, I don’t know how it feels for them to be in a crowd with a bunch of other WTF people. But it must be kind of fun. And if I can get my brain open and make some new things happen for them up there. It’s great. I’ve never experienced it. In the last year or so it’s the first time I’ve actually performed for people that want to see me as opposed to just want to see whoever the guy is and hope that they’re good.
JPG: Do you still get hecklers at this point?
MM: Sure. A little bit.
MM: Well generally, people heckle me just to be part of the conversation. I haven’t had a real, sometimes people get drunk. Usually, it’s still about wanting to talk more than wanting to fuck me up. I don’t get a lot of, “Fuck You. You Suck.” I haven’t had that in a long time. It’s more like, “Yeah, definitely man, like that thing at the place.” I’m like, “I know it’s intimate here but I’m talking to a group of people.”
JPG: You always hear about comedians dealing with hecklers and I’m thinking how could somebody pay money, especially if it’s for someone that’s known, and then attempt to screw up the performance? Unless it’s just a matter that they’re too drunk and they’re thinking that they’re helping somehow. It’s kind of like people talking nonstop at a concert or I recall someone heckling the band even though their seat was 50 yards away from the stage.
MM:I don’t know where that comes from or why people do that. I don’t know. At my shows sometimes if people are into listening to me and they’ve had a couple drinks they just feel like they can have a dialogue, which I don’t mind. I don’t mind engaging with audience members. I’m pretty quick on my feet and it makes the show interesting if it’s not somebody who’s being unmanageable. A conversation in that context can be pretty exciting. It can really take you to a different place. And I don’t mind that. But people who need all that attention or who are spinning out on their own in the middle of your show, I don’t know where that comes from.
JPG: Yes, I agree. Back to the internet. There was a comedy boom in the ‘80s, has the internet brought about another resurgence?
MM: Yeah, definitely but it’s different. What it is now is that artists or comics or in a general sense anybody who performs has the ability to build their own audience, very specifically, if they can. The tools are there because if you think about it, like right now I’m posting as we talk. I apologize but I haven’t done it yet. I’m posting today’s show on Twitter. It’s not a guarantee but the truth of the matter is any sort of old-timey means of bringing people to shows are ineffective. What’s happened now, on some level you can complain about it. On another level there’s a freedom to it in that no one’s going to promote you but you. So, when you do a comedy club how are people going to know you’re at that comedy club if you don’t build the social network for yourself or at least have some presence in that world? Is the weekly alt-paper gonna do it? Who cares? Are they gonna post it on the club’s website? Who the fuck goes to that? Really, to maximize the possibility of people, that know who you are coming, you better have your tendrils out there. It’s just a reality.
So, in a sense how that ties in with a comedy boom is that if a comic who has some presence media wise, even if it’s small, starts to maximize their presence in a social network way they’ve got a better shot at building an audience for themselves. I think that there has been a little resurgence in attention on comedy because of the comedy nerd world and because of certain TV shows and that there seems to be a community around a certain type of comedy. There’s a little bit of a bump up in the general appetite for comedy, stand up in general, because things have been so bad. But I think that the boom has been riding on the back of comedians who have built their own audience, which is a relatively new thing. Perhaps, there’s plenty of comics that you may not have even heard of that can do alright with their people because they built that diligently through these resources that we now have.
JPG: Chris Gethard did something like that where he made Youtube videos that followed his travels from Los Angeles to Bonnaroo without money, car or phone. Speaking of Bonnaroo, did you play festivals prior to it?
MM: Yeah, a bit.
JPG: Has it worked out for you? Was it a pleasing experience?
MM: It’s alright, man. I did a live WTF at a festival. I did Sasquatch. I did the one that was in LA, the music festival.
MM: No, no, no. The smaller one in the city. It was pretty good. I forget what it’s called. I’ve done a few. It’s tricky, and it makes me a little nervous because you’re dealing with a tent. You’re dealing with a lot of sweaty, mid or post-tripping kids (laughs) that are trying to get laid and see a band and not vomit.
It is what it is. I’ve had good experiences and I’ve had bad experiences. I don’t know how they’re set up over there. If it’s set up nicely and we have our own space and the music’s not too loud, it’ll work out, man. It’s a show like any other show. You’ve got to forgo a little intimacy and step up to a level of that type of performing situation.
JPG: Last question: what I was originally bringing up is that you’ve been a fairly consistent comic as far as, over the years that I’ve known your work, how you deal with it. Some people maybe have changed along the way from punch lines to more stories or vice versa but you’ve always been pretty consistent in that realm. Did you develop that right away or is it just such an ingrained part of you that that’s what you’re going to do?
MM: I think that’s just the way I do it but it’s evolved. I’ve always thought about it as things I talked about. There are things I talk about it and then there are new things I talk about. So, it was just an evolution of a conversation. There are many bits that have grown over the years that I’ve added things on to. These are just ongoing conversations that I seem to be involved in.
Now, more so than ever, I just don’t have any fear anymore of the stage or of myself or of comedy. All those years where I was angrily pretending not to be afraid, that I’ve opened my heart a lot more and I think I probably talked about myself a little more but I’m more true to myself, which is important. In terms of long-form [comedy], I’ve been working hard on evolving long-form bits that I have a lot of faith in. It’s always been sort of the same. You’re right in terms of stylistically, which is a good thing. I think finally now it’s happening in a more organic way and with a lot more comfort.