It's been a big year for Marc Maron. The lifelong comedian who struggled in show business for decades has moved increasingly into the spotlight since 2009 when he launched WTF with Marc Maron -- a biweekly podcast recorded in his garage tackling raw, intimate, and unfiltered interviews with some of the most interesting names in entertainment including, Louis C.K., Patton Oswalt, Conan O'Brian, Chelsea Handler, and more.
With almost 400 WTF episodes under his belt, Maron has just released a new autobiography, Attempting Normal, as well as his pilot series, Maron, on IFC.
Now the comedian is headed back on the road with new material.
Before his upcoming show at Stand Up Live on Thursday, June 6, we caught up with Maron to discuss his comedy, criticism, and the people who make him laugh out loud today.
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You've talked a lot about anxiety, panic, and about comedy being an outlet for those emotions. When did you first discover this connection? I think innately I was always sort of a smart ass. I think when I was in college I just really wanted to try stand up and when I tried it I don't know if it really helped any of those things because it caused me more panic and dread it was just a bit much -- when you start out, and you're freaking out over a 5 minute set 3 weeks away.
But I started doing it in college and couldn't really hack it and then I started it again when I got out.
A lot of comedians have adopted that same self-deprecating style in their act, Why do you think that is? You know I don't know how many are that calculating about those choices. I think the best comics sort of find their voice. I don't know that anybody basically says, "Well this is the point of view I'm going to have." You evolve your point of view and usually the better comics are pretty true to who they are.
Do you think it helps the audience relate better to the performer? I think the guy who is sort of like Rodney Dangerfield, "I don't get no respect," the guy who life takes a shit on -- I think that point of view is not so much self-deprecating as much as it's sort of characterizing yourself as the underdog. I think it's very popular because it is very relatable, because everyone's got problems. And really I think a lot of comedy is about release, about putting things into some sort of perspective that gives you some sort of peace or validation or release around it. But you've got to be careful because you don't want to come off as "poor me," instead of , "well aren't we kind of all screwed?"
Do you still see yourself as an underdog? Along with the podcast, this year alone has been pretty successful with the new book (Attempting Normal) and the new IFC show (Maron). I don't know if I ever saw myself as an underdog, I think I struggled. The underdog thing is the way I got framed because of how long I had been out there plugging away.
The show is done and the book is done and now I'm back to my life and my life still revolves around going to my garage to interview people and trying to build new stand up material and it's not like the financial payoff has made my life so easy that I get to retire or anything. I've still got to work and I want to continue working. In that way I don't feel like my life has changed that much. I feel validated. I feel like my work has paid off but I'm not sure that I necessary have changed dramatically in my point of view.
In the first episode of Maron you confront an online hater -- an internet troll named "dragonmaster" who really gets under your skin. At this point in your career, does that type of online criticism really still get to you? Yeah of course it does. I know now that some people just do it for attention and that when you engage them, they got what they wanted. And I know that lots of them aren't necessarily really who they present themselves to be -- some of them are just dicks because that's what they do online, but a lot of them are not necessarily like that as people. A lot of them are just trying to get a rise of you. But the ones that are hostile and are abusive-- yeah, it affects me. But I've just got to try to stay strong and not engage in that shit.
[But] sometimes I can't. Sometimes I do and it never ends well.
Which person were you the most anxious to interview? I'm always anxious. It kind of depends on how big of a fan of somebody I am. If I have a lot of respect for someone, I get nervous. And also if someone had a tremendously big career, I get nervous because it's like how do I even approach them? And some people, I don't even know if they can have a conversation and that makes me nervous... I can always find something to get nervous about.
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What comedians make you laugh out loud these days? Maria Bamford, Nate Bargatze, and Al Madrigal -- his stand up is very funny.
You've talked about a very dark point in your life just before you started the podcast, where you had hit your 40's and you were still struggling as a comedian... At any point did you ever consider changing careers, maybe pursuing a more secure life? That all sounds good but obviously I spent more than half my life in this. You get to a certain age where you don't really have any Plan B's left. You just think, "I could always just do...," and then you just come up blank. So I mean what am I going to do? What jobs am I prepared for? The last job I had in the real world I was making sandwiches, so it really doesn't become an option. There is no "more secure life."