Marc Maron, comedian and the iconic voice from the WTF podcast, called me from his home in Northeast Los Angeles, and after just four minutes, he seems to already be considering retirement following his next tour. "Then I'm finished. That's it. It's all done," he says. WTF?
Of course, it takes all of two seconds for him to recant after questioning his own ability to ever actually hang it up. "Yeah… I don’t think I will," he admits. The statement is probably more a simple knee-jerk reaction to the daunting laundry list of obligations he has in front of him. His life is planned from now through Spring 2015, the consequence of his late-blooming popularity that seems to build every year. This is what he wanted though, right? This is why he started a podcast from his modest garage about five years ago, after his Air America radio show was cancelled, isn't it?
Fans of Maron are familiar with the self-analytical thought processes that are peppered throughout his often intense, in-depth podcast interviews with legends of comedy and pop culture. This is what he is known for, that transparency and rampant honesty that seems nearly impossible to find elsewhere in the entertainment landscape, where reality television is farther from reality than the latest episode of Law & Order. This is why he would be hopelessly missed if he ever did in fact stop sharing his thoughts weekly with the world. Especially if he did it before he had a chat with Lorne Michaels [see below].
So relax. Marc isn't retiring yet. In fact, he’s full in production on his popular IFC television series Maron, based on his life of course, and preparing to perform at the New York Comedy Festival, where he’ll be unveiling a brand new hour of stand-up comedy.
Are you excited to perform in New York and visit the old stomping grounds?
You know what, I was just there and I'm still thrilled to go back. The fall is my favorite season in the city. I love the crisp weather. I’ve been missing New York a lot lately. I used to live on 2nd Street, between avenues A and B.
Do you have any places that you like to visit when you’re back?
I find myself at Veselka in the East Village a lot. There’s something about that pierogi. That place has been part of my life more than most places.
Does it also remind you why you left?
When I left New York I was ready to leave. When you live there for years, you find that you have your geography allocated and you don’t get out of it often. Rarely did I go above 14th Street. I had a little radius that I would work in. It’s kind of interesting for me to see right before the real estate changed rapidly. I remember it in the '70s and '80s Lower East Side just had a few bars. It seems to be pretty gone. It's not unpleasant though. There were benefits to when it was more wild and dicey. But it's nice now with the little stores. It doesn’t seem like the same city that I knew.
How has it changed?
You know New York seems like a weekend resort for people from Europe. Is everything just a weekend home here in the city? Does anyone actually live here? I can’t get a handle on the profile. The one great thing about New York is it's falling apart always. There’s always a dude in a hole, with equipment, doing something. That’s the reminder of who the New Yorkers really are. There will always be a guy yelling something over a jackhammer.
You did a podcast walking around New York and you mentioned you stood right where you used to get drugs, which you’ve kicked since. Was it hard to go back?
I was fine. I think I forgot about how fun it was. We had some good times though.
You also met a lot of comedians here that you still work with to this day.
There was a core group of people there when I was working in the 80s. There was a crappy restaurant that we all went to on 2nd Avenue, called Café Kiev. I just specifically remember sitting there with Louis CK, Jeff Ross, Sarah Silverman, and Dave Attell after doing sets for a dozen or so people. Then just a few months ago we were doing the Oddball Tour and all there performing for thousands of people. It’s surreal.
Did anyone point out how crazy that was?
Backstage at Red Rocks, Demetri Martin, who was there when we all started turned to me and said, "It’s that weird that we’re performing for 11,000 people and we used to do free sets at Luna Lounge?" Yeah. It is weird.
What’s the idea behind the Marc Maron style?
I like to break in my own pants, I like to break in my own shoes. Sometimes it will come from the wardrobe department for my show, and I’ll to commit to them. I like plaid western shirts seem to work for me and as far as jeans are concerned it’s all about selvedge denim. When I’m in Nashville I’ll buy a pair of jeans at imogen + willie and take a few years to get them to the right point.
You have the next season of Maron coming up, right? Have you started writing it? Are you still basing it for the most part on your life?
Yes. It’s still mainly borrowing from my experiences, but at some point you have to start to fictionalize. Emotionally, I’m mining from my life and there are moments that find their way in. Some of the exact stories are made up but the true story is also there under the surface. Who knows where we will go with it later on though, perhaps we can start a storyline of what could have happened and not so much exactly taken from the headlines.
I feel like when Maron came on Netflix, it introduced you to a whole new crowd.
That was the greatest thing in the world. I’m a still pretty unknown entity and then Netflix went and released that season and I’m get approached by a whole new audience, coming out of the woodwork, asking me who I am and what this is. All I can say is I’ve been doing this for half of my life, but glad they’re on board now. If they see the show and like it I think they're usually pleasantly surprised that there are 500 episodes of a podcast and my stand-up available for them to discover.
Do you still get in trouble with friends and family when they see an episode that may be based on them?
There are characters that are similar to people I have in my real life. I’ve gotten into some real trouble with my girlfriends and with my father. But there is a lot that is made up, so I can always say that.
Are there any secrets in your life? Or is it all out there?
Oh, sure. There is only so much that will fit on a TV show, or in an hour of stand-up. There are some things people don’t know. That's probably for the best. But I've kind of arrived in a medium that I'm allowed to be true to myself. I don't want to feel like I'm holding back. I'm generating the best material that I ever have at this point.
Is there anyone that you haven’t been able to get on the podcast that has been your White Whale?
Lorne Michaels. We have a bit of a history and I have a few questions it’s be great to ask him on the show.
Has he heard that you want to talk to him?
Yes. He’s heard about it. I called his office once to kind of feel it out. I haven’t heard back.
Well. You are coming to New York…
That’s true. Maybe I’ll give them another call.