One of my recent discoveries has been the Marc Maron podcast. Little did I know what a lifeline it would be for me as I logged in miles on America’s highways. I heard about Maron through my brother-in-law, Jeff, who is a fan and, coupled with a recent article I read in Entertainment Weekly, I was curious to check him out. Who is Marc Maron? He’s a stand-up comedian and writer who has worked regularly and successfully throughout his career but hasn’t quite achieved the widespread recognition of his contemporaries such as Robin Williams, Sam Kinison, and Louie C.K.. That may change. A couple of years ago, he started a podcast called “WTF with Marc Maron” which features him interviewing comedians and funny people twice a week from his garage in glamorous Silver Lake, California. It’s been the #1 podcast on iTunes numerous times.
What I love about his interviews is that they’re thorough and frank – no publicist is reviewing questions beforehand to edit what topics can be tackled. It’s simply honest, reflective, and FUNNY discussion. Because Maron targets comedy people, he and his guest speak a similar language and can laugh and commiserate over the simultaneously soul-crushing and satisfying world of making people laugh. And laugh I did. Maron’s interview with the sweet and surprisingly humble Robin Williams reminded me of why Williams has had such a monumental impact on comedy. And Maron’s own self-admitted foibles and insecurities generate lively exchanges, especially evident when he interviewed a favorite writer of mine, Jill Soloway, who happens to be close friends with his ex-wife.
You can find his podcast on iTunes and his own website: http://www.wtfpod.com/. Most of the interviews are free, but a few are considered “premium” so you have to pay a couple of bucks for them. They are well worth it, though. One of these premium interviews is the Robin Williams one and in addition to the aforementioned funniness, you also hear Williams reveal in chilling detail the moment a few years ago when he fell off the wagon after decades of sobriety. Another favorite is Louie C.K.’s interview (a two-parter); Louie’s description of the birth of his eldest daughter and the epiphany he experienced over his new role as a parent is surprisingly poignant. I appreciated Amy Poehler laughingly calling Maron condescending for trivializing her brand of improv comedy to simply being about “wigs and hats.” And Andy Dick’s total candor over his sexuality, battles with alcohol, and encounters with his biological parents is also fascinating…and refreshing. You don’t see these kind of uncensored interviews on any late night talk shows. And you come away from them feeling like you have a much better sense of what makes the person tick.
But I am especially grateful for Maron’s interview with one of my favorite comic actors, Ed Helms. Ed Helms deserves his own post, but I’ll keep this mention to the point for now. On my way back to Los Angeles, I was driving through Arkansas and taking in the surprisingly gorgeous scenery (who knew?) on a particularly beautiful, sunny day. As I made my way down the interstate, with wonder-dog Lucy snoozing in the back seat, I passed a pick-up truck that featured a bumper sticker that read: I’M NOT PREJUDICED. I THINK THE WHITE HALF OF OBAMA SUCKS, TOO!
Now, the purpose of this blog is not to get into political discourse, but I have to say that I was stunned to see such blatant racism and disrespect for our President. What a sorry, shameful display. A melancholic cloud settled over me. I tried to remind myself that I can’t lump all Southerners into one box and there are Dixie democrats out there, and, hey, Bill Clinton was born in Hope, Arkansas, right?!? And as my friend Doug later pointed out, at least we live in a country where were have the freedom to express our opinions. True. But I still was bummed out.
So I turned on the Marc Maron podcast where he interviews Ed Helms, who happened to bring his banjo with him to Marc’s garage. (If you watch THE OFFICE, you already know that Helms is a pretty talented musician.) Marc Maron plays the guitar, so the two of them opened the podcast with a brief jam session on their respective instruments. And there I was, cruising along the roadway listening to two guys make entertaining music on the fly. You know what? The banjo is a really happy instrument. I think it’s incapable of making a gloomy sound. So I instantly felt better. My faith in humanity was restored.
Thanks, Marc and Ed!