Marc Maron on WTF Podcast: "I'm Not Hung Up on It Being Hilarious All the Time"

To interview the king of all interviewers is a daunting task. And comedian and podcast host Marc Maron is just that. 

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Twice weekly, Maron is joined in his garage by noteworthy personalities to chat about nothing and everything. With nearly 350 episodes behind him, there have been no shortage of laughs, tears, and controversy to captivate comedy fanatics and the rest of us alike. With a new book on the horizon, and an upcoming show on IFC, it's clear there is no end in sight for the veteran jokester.

Maron is heading back on the road with his Out of the Garage tour, a perfect excuse for us to put him in the hot seat. He revealed his first record purchase, defining moments for the WTF podcast, and why he chose comedy.

New Times: On Twitter you're constantly sharing photos of records that you've recently purchased. What was the first record that you bought? 

Marc Maron: In my life? I think it might have been the Beatles second album. I remember having that. I remember going out with my grandmother and buying it. I believe I had the Beatles second album and the best of Mountain. And for some reason I also think I had Aqualung by Jethro Tull. I don't know when that came out, but I was obsessed with the song "Roll Over Beethoven" by Chuck Berry. And Mountain covered it and the Beatles covered it. It took me awhile to get to Chuck Berry, I guess. 

Beatles or the Rolling Stones?

Well I...[pause] Yeah. Ya know, I've been both. I would say, I'm probably, as I get older more so. In tone, I'll take the Stones, but in depth and craft, I'll take the Beatles. They're the perfect yin and yang.

What album or albums would you say changed your life? Like for me, I'd say Grateful Dead's Workingman's Dead really changed my life. It's what got me into the band and rock and roll.

I just bought that on vinyl. That was a pretty important one. A couple of those Dead records like American Beauty and the live album Skull and Roses. That was pretty important stuff.

Buddy Holly's greatest hits, my dad played that in the car. That was a pretty important record to me. And then I kinda started where my father led me. Chuck Berry was pretty important. I don't know when the blues thing started. There was someone, I'm trying to remember who, turned me onto those blues records. Like, there was a time when some dude... There was a record shop next to where I worked in high school. There was this one older white dude who worked there, and the guy who owned it was this black guy and his wife and all they wanted to do was sell R&B records. But, there was these couple other dudes that worked there that wanted to do other things with the records. They gave me a bunch of records because they didn't play them in there.

But the one dude, Jim, took me to his house once, he wasn't a predator or anything. He sat there with me for two days, three or four hours a day, making me these cassettes of his best soul records in his collection. That was pretty life changing. Then there was the other guy who worked there, Steve, he was an experimental musician. He turned me onto the Residents, Brian Eno, some of the Bowie stuff, he was all out there with that shit. Just by virtue of going to that record store, that changed my life. And in that box of records they gave me, at the time which was the late '70s, in it was Elvis Costello's first record, just all these records, and I still have that copy of Elvis's first record.

At some point, I'm just trying to remember when I started listening to the blues records and which one it was because that stayed with me forever. I'm pretty sure I got to the blues through the Stones probably. But by the time I listened to more recent blues, it might have been some of the stuff at the Fillmore that kind of changed the way I looked at everything. 

In regards to your career and comedy, you've mentioned before that you're driven by fear and anxiety. Would you say that's still the case? 

I still have fear and anxiety. But, I don't think that I honor them or make decisions as much because of them. I've sort of got them in a cage for the most part. I don't let them consume my life. I'm a little more driven now by more creativity. I'm still sort of driven by fear and anxiety, but they have collars on. 

What inspires you creatively?

Usually if I can put something together, like if something happens to me in my life, and it resonates somehow. Like, "That was fucking weird." or "I can't believe that just happened." So, exploring those type of things and what they mean, and making them bigger is what drives me. This need to kind of figure out, comedically, why these moments, whatever they may be, effected me.

Since staring WTF, do you think, at this point in your life, you're the most honest with yourself than ever before?

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It's out there. I mean, there are some things that I keep to myself. But, for the most part, it's definitely the most honest or rather the most of me. Now, if people listen to the podcast it's not always hilarious. I talk a lot, I talk about everything. I'm not hung up on it being hilarious all the time. I just like to make connections and have a dialogue. Ya know. I know that people listening to it get a pretty good sense of who I am and it's real. It's not like they just saw me do ten minutes on Conan.

The issue has always been what's in the full package. Before the podcast, people would watch me, even when I would do a longer set or 15 minutes on television, I don't know if you get a sense of what I do. You can get a sense of what my jokes are, how I act on television. But, I think if people listen to the podcast they know me in a fairly genuine way, which is good.

Which episode would you consider a turning point for the show?

There are a lot of different turning points for different reasons. I mean, there is no simple answer. There is never just one thing is there? [laughs] I think the Robin Williams episode put us on the map in a pretty big way with the general population. Early on the Zach Galifianakis episode put us on the map with the alt comedy nerd population. The Mencia episode really sort of solidified  the popularity of the show within the comic community. And I think the two Louie episodes were fairly important for me. And also in terms of bringing people people in, as was the Judd Apatow. 

What about for you personally?

Well, the Louie episodes were big and the Todd Hanson episode was fairly important, Jonathan Winters. There's a lot. I've got through a lot of feelings and things on my way to becoming a better listener.

At the end of the day, why comedy?

If I was to look back on it, and why were comics so important to me. I was an anxious and frightened, awkward kid in a lot of ways. So, I used to love watching comics because they seemed to have a handle on things. They stood there alone with something to say about everything and they got a laugh. Which I think, in my mind, meant they had a handle on things. They could take life and manage it, ya know, and put it into a perspective.

I really think it was about having a place to sort of be funny, and have a handle on it. You've conquered it. Look, I can make you laugh, I've got that thing tamed. I've got that under control.

And also they had a point of the view. They were defined people. They stood alone, they talked and they were their own people and had their own angle. It's one of the only places that you can really do that. Music is this other thing and acting is this other thing. But, you get up there on stage by yourself and you say, "Alright, I'm here. This is who I am and this is my point of view on stuff. And I made it funny for you, because this is my job."

Marc Maron. Friday, January 4 through Sunday, January 6 at Fort Lauderdale Improv, 5700 Seminole Way, Hollywood. Tickets cost $22 plus two drink minimum. For more info and to purchase tickets click here

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Betsey Denberg