Marc Maron on the "Most Emotionally Available Exchanges" of His Life

Apr 6, 2016

Marc Maron, comic and host of the popular podcast WTF, is coming to Iowa as part of the Mission Creek festival. He'll be performing at the Englert Theatre on Friday night. In this hour of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe spoke with him about vulnerability, the impact success has on creation, and the quality of his phone line.

On the beginning of WTF

“I never really saw what I was doing as interviewing people. It really more was a conversation. I was in really dire straits at the beginning of WTF. I was not mentally well, I was not emotionally well, I was not financially well. So it really became a way to reintegrate myself into the world and into my community of comedians. I really think if you listen to the first 100 episodes, it’s me inviting relatively famous people to my house to help me with my problems."

[…]

"The best thing that can happen is that you sort of forget you’re on the mics. Obviously, I’ve done close to 700 of these, so I do have a good sense of how a conversation is going, or when to shut up or when not to shut up and all that stuff. But you’re just really hoping for some authentic engagement, and to answer the question, I think that’s happened pretty much since I started doing the one-on-one interviews.”

On vulnerability

“The most emotionally available exchanges I have in my life are with these guests and also on stage as a stand-up. I don’t know why that is. It’s not necessarily the safest thing or the smartest thing, but it just seems to be how I landed after everything I’ve been through. I can understand on some level why being emotionally available for someone in my garage who is going to leave in an hour is a fairly safe relationship to take those risks, on stage, I don’t always know why that is. But I think it makes for something very real can happen in that zone, when you’re not running off a paper full of questions, or you’re not necessarily adhering to material you prepared. I find that those type of moments in life if they happen generally go unappreciated." 

"I think most people are so caught up in whatever patterns of their life that they’ve established—how they wake up, when they check their phone, how they engage with the people in their lives, where they go for work, what they’re going to eat—I think that because of the way culture is sort of settled right now into this technologically interfaced, emotionally misdirected world that we all live in, real moments of emotion and excitement and genuine interaction are so rare, it’s sad that that’s the case, but that’s the case. So where I find that it happens is with these generally strangers in my garage that many people know from movies or comedy or whatever or on stage in front of a roomful of strangers." 

"So my timing is right on doing that kind of thing but it was never a plan. I don’t think about it. When I read people’s either criticism or assessment of what I do, I’m also sort of like, ‘Oh yea, I do do that, I wish I had thought of that.’ I’m happy when people assess me in a way that not only is favorable but I can actually go, ‘Oh interesting that is what I do, now I know that.’"

On interviewing Obama

"It came down to the few months before and they were like, ‘Yea we’re scheduling it,’ and he calls me, and I’m like, ‘Well that’s crazy, what, am I going to go to the White House?’ And Brendan [Maron’s producer] said, ‘No he wants to come to the garage. And I’m like, ‘That’s ridiculous. The president is just going to come over to my house? That’s crazy.’ And it happened, you know? It was not a casual visit. It seemed casual, the conversation was casual, but when the president drops by your house it’s not a surprise.”

[…]

“Doing political talk radio had helped me, because, I respect the office and I like this president, but I also know that he’s a politician. And I talk to a lot of politicians and I know how politicians operate. And granted, he was the president but on some level that just makes him, like, a really good politician. So what I needed to do in preparation for that was honor myself and what I do and get around that type of talking. because they all talk a certain way and they all sort of have an agenda. So that was really the challenge for me. So I was nervous that that wouldn’t happen. It was very exciting to see the president and to see him walking up my driveway and to get in the zone where I could not completely freak out. But I didn’t feel that freaked out. I felt more comfortable in terms of nervousness than I did, say, interviewing Keith Richards.”