Marc Maron has one distinct thing in common with Frank Sinatra. Though the two blazed different trails in different eras, the podcast-hosting renaissance man and ol' blue eyes both did it their way. And make no mistake about it, Maron, a veteran comic who's dipped his toes in just about every entertainment industry pool at this point, truly is a renaissance man. He first entered the stand-up world back in the '80s, alongside friend and brother-in-debauchery, the late Sam Kinison. But throughout his impressive career, Maron has continuously found a way to reinvent himself, to remain not only relevant, but also cool.
Though Maron's long list of accolades includes comic, radio host, and author, his legacy is largely based on the incomparable WTF, the podcast that, once launched, helped breathe new life into a career that at that point had already spanned decades. Now, WTF attracts over one-million listeners a month. To put it simply, if there were a Mount Rushmore of podcasting, Marc Maron's face would undoubtedly be etched onto it. When it comes to the increasingly lost art of actually talking to people, you know, with our mouths, Maron says, "These days there's a limited appreciation for candid conversation about real things. And I don’t know what people are doing in place of that, but I can guarantee it's not as satisfying or helpful."
These days there's a limited appreciation for candid conversation about real things. And I don’t know what people are doing in place of that, but I can guarantee it's not as satisfying or helpful.
Ever since it's inception back in 2009, WTF has consistently featured simply massive names: Zach Galifianakis, Dave Grohl, Robin Williams, Fiona Apple, Ben Stiller, Jimmy Fallon, Jonah Hill, Iggy Pop, Louis C.K., Amy Schumer. Some of the biggest names in the business have walked into Maron's garage-turned-studio and sat across from one of the best interviewers of this or any other generation.
Make no mistake about it, that's exactly what Marc Maron is.
Longtime fans have been able to track his progress as a host, something Maron acknowledges has evolved over the years. "As time went on, and I became more emotionally grounded myself, I've been better able to engage with people's stories," says the comic. "I'm not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse, but I get invested emotionally very quickly in passing interactions. And I also look to other people for answers about my own shit. I usually assume that other people have it together better than I do, mentally speaking, and that they have something to offer me, advice wise."
Maron's relaxed style is so disarming that, whether it’s intended or not, his guests regularly wind up letting it all out. As far as interviews go, an hour-long WTF sit-down is an entirely different beast. While promoting his latest book on, say, The Tonight Show, Artie Lange might tell a few anecdotes intended to charm the casual viewer. But on WTF, Lange not only tells in depth stories of copping heroin, but he and Maron, both recovering addicts, swap old war stories of depravity. If you're an Artie Lange fan, which interview sounds more appealing?
If you've yet to embrace the podcast revolution, WTF should be on the very top of your list when you inevitably do so. It's required listening. With a back catalog of nearly 500 episodes, certainly many of your favorite people in entertainment are in there. Subscribe. Listen.
Maron has a drive that's enviable. After defying the odds and creating a buzz in the podcast world before most people knew what a podcast was, the comic began looking for the next step. After kicking in Hollywood's door with his biweekly audible series, Maron decided to turn that inch into a metaphorical mile. That next step: TV. Currently, Maron's in the middle of his eponymous television series' second season. Maron is now a cornerstone of IFC's new alternative comedy-heavy primetime lineup.
And if you were to ask Maron just a few years ago if he saw this happening, he'd likely have said no. When speaking of the leap to TV, the comic says, "You know, I had given up on the idea of doing something on TV. As a comedian, of course I wanted to give it a try, but I really didn't see it happening. Then certain things just seemed to align for me. The network, the production company, they were crazy supportive. And at this point I've built up a certain amount of good will in the comedy community." The stars did indeed align. Maron was not only greenlit, but also quickly renewed for another season.
On the show, Maron plays, well, himself: a podcast-hosting, cat-owning, stand-up comic with admitted intimacy issues. In theory, from a fan's perspective, a hypothetical reality show might share the same exact premise. Although, in the comic's own words, his on-screen representation is only "a narrow version" of the real life Marc Maron.
But that skewed version of the genuine article is largely satisfying to the viewer. When comedians make the leap to TV, historically speaking, some seem to compromise a bit of who they really are in the process, almost like one selling their soul to reach a certain level within the entertainment industry. Without naming names, there are countless comics who've ditched their existing on-stage persona for their name to appear in TV Guide.
Marc Maron isn't one of those comics. Remember, he did it his way.
When it comes to Maron, the show comes across as if the comic's genuine vision is upheld, creatively speaking. And the reason for that may be that the New Jersey native wears many hats, not only as the star, but also both as writer and executive producer of the series. Of protecting the integrity of his own skewed televised world, Maron says, "Ultimately, I'm the last word on everything. I have an amazing team of writers, but if there's a debate about whether or not something is funny, or whether a story is good for me, I'm always the last word."
Names to appear on this season of Maron include Ray Romano, Sarah Silverman, David Cross, and CM Punk.
If you've slept on this show up until now, fear not, the entire first season is available for your binge-watching pleasure on Netflix, something Maron refers to as "the greatest thing in the world." Of people retroactively discovering his show via the streaming service, Maron enthusiastically says, "I think what Netflix did is it raised the awareness of people who kinda knew me, but it also introduced me, and everything I do, to a lot of people whose radar I just wasn't on. I'm not Louie. I'm not a household name. I'm still very discoverable."
If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and discover Marc Maron. Adjust your radar.
Peter Hoare is a contributing writer who wrote a movie about killing David Hasselhoff. He tweets here.