Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Comedian and ‘WTF’ Host, Marc Maron

Marc Maron talks the art of interviewing, being Jewish, stand up comedy, and Toronto JFL42 festival.

By: Anthony Marcusa

Published: September 3rd, 2013 in Culture » Society » Interviews

It’s an ongoing conversation for Marc Maron; ongoing in terms of his popular podcast, his intimate standup, and his rejuvenated career. At 49-years-old, the Jewish comic Maron has reinvented himself over the last few years, finding new ways to attract and engage an audience, and continuing to explore the lives of celebrities and comics, as well as his own life.

Maron will be joining an array of comedians performing in Toronto from September 19-28 for Just for Laughs 42. He is listed as Act 22 out of the nearly four dozen performances, but to be sure, Maron is different. He will be performing at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre at Exhibition Place, and while it’s perhaps not the ideal venue for a comedian who prefers a more intimate setting, stand up is what he loves to do.

“It’s the best experience,” he begins to explain during a phone interview. “I have a framework of things at the moment to talk about, but I like things to happen that will not happen again anywhere else. You hope for something raw and engaging, and a few surprises.”

Curiously, fans who have discovered Maron over the last few years probably know him better for interviewing than performing stand up. In 2009, Maron started up a podcast called WTF, a twice-weekly hour-plus show that features Maron chatting with celebrities and comedians. Maron isn’t a journalist as such, and insists that it’s more casual than it seems.

“I don’t really think of them as interviews. There is a detachment that is necessary or assumed with journalism or investigative stuff,” he says, pointing out that he always does his podcast in person, and loathes talking to someone at length on the phone (alas). “I just figure out a way to have a conversation. I make a list of questions and have varying results. Sometimes it works out, and you just follow the lead of the conversation; I go with what I’m curious about.”

Surely part of Maron’s success with the podcast – earlier this summer he recorded his 400th episode – is due to his ability to seemingly genuinely connect with the person with whom he is chatting. Maron, who was twice married and has battled with drug and alcohol in his past (openly chatting about it all), too has plenty of personal history from which to draw.

“I am good at approaching from life experience and just listening. Sometimes I don’t know well the person I’m interviewing, but I immerse myself in their work and try to figure out where they are coming from.”

“You want to connect with them emotionally, and my own emotional lead tends to make a difference in the conversation.”

He has definitely found a way for people to open up. In January 2012, guest Todd Glass announced he was gay on the podcast, discussing life as a comic in the closet and why he finally decided to come out. A two-part podcast with comedian Louis C.K. is also quite memorable, as the pair shares rather personal stories and discuss a past together that is less than rosy. Perhaps it’s because Maron is part of this comic world that he can get people to divulge information to him, and to engage him in his line of questioning; in May 2010, he probed guest Carlos Mencia about accusations of joke stealing.

Maron hosted a radio show on Air America Radio network in the mid-2000’s, but unceremoniously departed from the venture and was left to ponder what was next in his life. It was in his garage that he invited over friends and colleagues to have a conversation, and record it, promising to himself that he would do so twice a week.

“It was something about needing to connect with my community, relating to the people,” said Maron. “People started to like it; I finally found something that people liked, I had that feeling I was actually doing something.”

Born in New Jersey, Maron was brought up a conservative middle class Jew and found himself especially influenced by Jewish comedians. While he is not religious now, he still maintains he is a cultural Jew, explaining that a forthcoming special has a fair amount about Judaism, and describing himself as ‘compulsive, neurotic, and argumentative.’

Maron continues to grow as an interviewer – or conversationalist – and he finds joy in talking to people, whether it’s one on one in his garage, or in front of an audience up on stage.

Check out Marc Maron at JFL42.


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