It's so easy to feel an intimate bond with a radio personality. I couldn't begin to count how many times I've laid in bed at night with Terry Gross, taken endless drives across desolate highways with George Noory or made breakfast with Dan Savage in the kitchen. Without a face to attach to the voice, something very pure happens in these relationships. Mostly fictional, of course, but pure nonetheless.
Well now Ive been listening to Marc Maron's podcast WTF for the last year and he and I are tight as hell. Like blood brother tight. WW1 trench warfare sharing our only pair of dry socks tight.
Marc makes it no secret that WTF was born out of hard times, a bottoming out more or less. A few years ago, with Maron in his mid forties and two decades of performing standup under his belt, he began interviewing his friends, and other comics, out of his garage. Well, first it was anywhere he could find a space to conduct the interviews until he settled into what he now calls his “cat ranch” (is my affection for him simply that he's as obsessed and worried about the welfare of his cats as i am with mine??).
Within a few years his show has become a total hit. Rumors have him possibly hosting a late night TV talk show, he's selling out major comedy clubs across the country and WTF is downloaded by a a quarter of a million listeners weekly. The success is nothing sudden, of course. He's been around long enough to have been drug buddies with Sam Kinnison, shared stages with Mitch Hedberg and worked the door at LA's famed Comedy Store in the mid eighties.
His success and the way he's dealing with something once so elusive (mainstream acceptance, respect from peers, sovereignty over his career enabled by internet distribution of WTF) is fascinating to be witness to as a fan of the podcast. Maron's a comic who made a name for himself as a pissed off outlaw and bitter social critic. So now when the same high powered show biz industry magnates who've overlooked him for the past two decades are suddenly all up in his grill, how does he keep his head and not “lose his edge”?
After binging on WTF those initial months, I briefly fell off the Maron train. Nothing serious, just overdosed. I checked back in a few months later to listen to the keynote speech he delivered at the Montreal Comedy Festival. The speech he gave perfectly blended all that I love about the dude. His trademark vitriol gave way to an overarching empathy which in the end served to highlight his commitment to and fraternization with all stand up comics working today. The same comics whom he was only a few years ago so jealous and envious of elicited from him his warmest words of the night.
Marc's somewhat of an elder statesman now of alternative comedy, a role he may not be so resistant to…who knows. I guess it's an appropriate title because although he's straight up a funny guy, this bond I'd formed with him truly fortified with his speech in montreal. Push comes to shove and I just want to hear the guy talk, jokes are secondary.
After the speech, when his voice went away and my phone fell silent, I wanted to hoist him up on my shoulders and declare some sort of momentous victory. Either that or drink myself blind drunk, shaking my head wishing that the good ones in the world could all get the breaks they so deserve.
What I intended to do here was examine how a guy like Marc Maron can exist, artistically, within american capitalist structures, yada yada. However, there's a real enigma to WTF, not felt by everyone but certainly by a large cult following (like those who shower him with baked goods at his live shows). It's making it hard now to zoom out and make any point bigger than Marc Maron himself. Ultimately, he's a rad uncompromising guy who's unflinchingly honest and candid about his life.
And he's funny, very funny.