I’ve come to the party several years late and am now obsessively listening to past episodes of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. It’s fantastic. For those of you who are late to the party also, he’s a comedian who rants about something for ten minutes and then spends 50 minutes talking to a comedian, usually about how they became a who they are. It’s so good, I’m even considering paying for premium episodes and buying better headphones to cancel out train noise.
I’d listened to a couple before—Ira Glass, Anthony Bourdain—but never consistently. My late onset motion sickness means less reading on the train, so I’ve downloaded like seven episodes in the past week or so. Donald Glover, Adam Scott, Diablo Cody, Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman…(Megan Mullally, by the way, has one of the most sensual voices I’ve ever heard—a surprise, considering she made her career off if Karen Walker’s high-pitched whine on Will & Grace.)
It’s always great to hear people get real about how they came to be. People know that it’s going to get real on Maron’s show, too, so they don’t come on the defensive. He says he “interviews the comedians,” but that doesn’t give the podcast enough credit. It really does feel like a pure, honest conversation.
I like that Marc Maron does not hide his admiration for these people. I like that Marc Maron is not shy about talking about himself. I like that he’s honest but also human in that he doesn’t really want to hurt the person’s feelings. Take the Adam Scott podcast for example. Scott is the straight-man of comedy, the person set up to make everyone else funny. He clearly felt that he just isn’t as funny as his co-workers (and with co-workers like his, I can’t blame him). Maron responded that Scott was funny, and that his reactions often made a joke. Scott was tepid. Maron: “Wow, you have some real self-esteem issues there.”
What Marc Maron does is journalistic but not necessarily journalism. His interview style might break ethic rules for some people. The best material comes out of interviews that feel less like interviews and more like a conversation, but in my experience, there’s still a certain wall when both people know that the journalist needs something. It’s an awkwardness that journalism students spend the bulk of their time in school trying to overcome. “I’m going to be nice to you. Then, ideally, you will tell me your deepest fears, joys, and dirty secrets. I will then make a judgment about them, call it the truth, and publish them for friend and foe to read. Then I will never speak to you again.”
The journalist is not a real friend—almost not even a real person, more of a conduit for information—and both people know that, no matter how many quips and laughter is had. Marc Maron can be a friend. I guess I’m a little jealous of that.