‘Podfather’ Marc Maron on the ‘act of desperation’ that changed his life

Marc Maron had nothing left to lose.

A stand-up comic and recovering addict in 2009, Maron was out of a job and in his mid-40s. He was compulsive, bitter, and depressed.

That's when Maron launched his twice-weekly WTF podcast out of his garage.

"The podcast was just an act of desperation that came during a period of financial and emotional strain," Maron tells Metro Times during an interview from his California home. "We just made a promise to do a new show every Monday and Thursday, and it sort of evolved from there."

A decade later, Maron has aired more than 1,000 episodes featuring remarkably candid, often soul-baring conversations with notable guests ranging from Jane Fonda and Iggy Pop to Stephen Colbert and President Barack Obama. With more than 5 million downloads a month, Maron has earned the nickname "podfather."

Sincere, empathetic, and neurotically self-reflective, Maron is a master of conversations. He speaks frankly about his insecurities, anger, divorces, depression, and past addictions. His vulnerability is infectious, eliciting the same emotionally raw honesty from his guests.

"I never set out to be an interviewer," Maron says. "I like talking to people. I really try to connect with people on the show."

In a remarkably revealing interview with Robin Williams, the comedy legend opened up about depression and addiction four years before he hanged himself. Standup comedian Todd Glass publicly came out as gay on Maron's podcast. In June, Stephen Colbert candidly talked about his Catholic faith and the death of his father and two brothers in a 1974 plane crash.

"The battle is always sadness," Colbert said. "It frightens me — the awful truth about how sweet life can be, and the preciousness and fleetingness of life. Having lost those people in my life when I was young made everything fleeting to me."

The wild success of Maron's podcast revived his comedy career. Maron starred in his own television show, Maron, from 2013 to 2016 and recently played a significant role in the Netflix comedy GLOW. Maron also got a part in Todd Phillips' upcoming Joker and a role in the David Bowie biopic Stardust.

Maron is also selling out coast-to-coast standup comedy shows and will be performing Saturday at the Detroit Masonic Temple.

In 2013, Maron's first hour-long comedy special, Marc Maron: Thinky Pain, was released by Netflix. Another comedy special, More Later, aired on Epix.

"Through the podcast, I was able to broaden my audience in standup and get some opportunities to do other creative endeavors, like acting," Maron says. "I set out to be a standup comedian. And now I have an audience, which is exciting, and I'm doing some of the best comedy I've ever done."

For Maron, the podcast was therapeutic — a way for him to confront his past mistakes and become more mindful.

"The podcast enabled me to kind of engage a good deal in who I am mentally and emotionally," Maron says. "It gave me a certain amount of confidence and self-esteem about who I am. That makes a bit of difference in your perception of yourself, and where you stand in the world and at some point you become successful at doing what you really want to be doing."

Maron gained a broader audience when he interviewed Obama in his garage in 2015. The interview, which came just days after a gunman killed nine black churchgoers in South Carolina, made headlines because the president talked frankly about race and even dropped the n-word.

"Racism — we are not cured of it," Obama said. "And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say 'nigger' in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's just a matter of overt discrmination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior."

Maron described the experience as "surreal."

"I thought I'd go to him, but he wanted to come to the garage. And I thought that was ridiculous, that couldn't possibly happen," Maron recalls. "I had asked my neighbor if they could put snipers on his roof, and he was excited."

After recording nearly 900 interviews in his garage in Highland Park, Calif., Maron and his three cats moved to a new home 10 minutes away. For now, he's running his podcast "in a cozy little room" on the second floor of his new home.

"My cats love this fucking place," Maron says. "It's a bigger house. They have a lot more room."

Maron also feels like he's in an emotionally new place. He's happier. He quit smoking and is three weeks free of nicotine.

"I don't feel as existentially angry as I used to," Maron says. "I'm just trying to process what's really happening in my life. I'm glad I'm getting new opportunities."

In his new comedy tour, "Hey, There's More," Maron says he'll delve into authoritarianism, the end of the world, nostalgia, religion, and "what's real and what isn't."

"It's more a practical reaction to what's happening around me," Maron says. "I've definitely done heavier material. But I think it's pretty visceral."

He adds, "I'm excited to be playing in Detroit. It'll be a lot of fun."

Marc Maron performs on Saturday, Sept. 21 at the Masonic Temple, 500 Temple Ave., Detroit; 313-638-2724; themasonic.com. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $35-$45.

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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