Marc Maron gets real on IFC’s “Maron”

Friday, May 3
IFC, 10pm ET

Marc Maron is in a good place.

Such a simple sentence, but it’s taken so much to make it a reality. A few years ago, the acerbic comedian was reeling financially and emotionally from his second divorce and a floundering career. That’s when almost on a lark he started inviting fellow comedians — many of whom he’d been friends with, and in some cases he had become jealous of for their success — over to his garage for interviews that he recorded for a modest podcast.

WTF With Marc Maron eventually became an online sensation, and has regularly made news for its raw, candid interviews that sometimes feel more like two-way confessionals.

Now, Maron is interweaving his podcast gig within a new IFC series, Maron, that has him playing a version of himself in stories that compare favorably to shows like Louie and Curb Your Enthusiasm. In one episode he obsessively tracks down an anonymous critic who insults him on Twitter, dragging podcast guest Dave Foley along with him. In another he has to come to terms with his lack of traditional masculinity as tough-guy guest Denis Leary (also an executive producer) looks on in mild disgust. Oh, and there’s a lot of stuff about his cats.

In addition to Foley and Leary, the guest list for Maron is quite impressive, also notching Adam Scott, Ken Jeong, Jeff Garlin, Aubrey Plaza, Bobcat Goldthwait, Gina Gershon, Judd Hirsch, Eric Stoltz, Danny Trejo, Illeana Douglas and Mark Duplass.

Channel Guide Magazine: What went into the decision to make this a fictional show as opposed to just filing the podcast?

Marc Maron: Well, you know, as a comedian, you hope that your life becomes interesting. You’ve only got so much life. Every few years if you want to do a show that’s built around you, you go in and pitch your life. This is the life that I think I could see myself living, because I sort of really play everything pretty close to the bone. Yet I’ve had deals in the past where this is the life I was living and the story of my life was I felt compelling. Fortunately, Apostle Productions and IFC felt that way as well. That’s sort of what happened. I think if I would’ve pitched a show 10 years ago who interviews celebrities in his garage, they would’ve been like, “Yeah, that’s not going to happen.” And now it is happening. It’s what I’m doing, and my life is still fairly complicated, so I think it was compelling and that’s why it came together.

CGM: So since you’re pretty much your own worst critic, what do you think of the show?

MM: I’ve watched a couple. I’m really happy with the way it looks. I don’t think it looks like anything else. It feels original. It doesn’t feel hacky. It feels true to me. It feels true to my life, but heightened enough to where it has story, it has emotion and comedy and some great acting in it. I was surrounded by some very talented people, and I feel like I did a good job, so I’m pretty thrilled with the whole thing.

CGM: How have you found the acting part of it?

MM: I don’t know, how’d I do? You watched it.

CGM: I thought you did just fine.

MM: I’ve always been pretty comfortable with it. I haven’t done a lot of it, but when I have done it people seem to be OK with it. They think I do a good job. That was definitely a challenge that I was excited about but nervous about, but I think I did all right. I think I did good. I’d like to work on that more, to see where we can take the character. When you look at the first season — and this is the first time I’ve done anything like this at all in my entire life — you’re kind of like, “Well, that’s interesting.” And you look at things and like, “Well, I wonder if we can push that” or make him do this. There’s a little of that going on. So hopefully we’ll get to do more.

CGM: OK, how about acting in love scenes?

MM: It’s definitely tricky, because my real girlfriend had to be part of choosing from people we were looking at who best had her vibe. I let her be part of that, and she wanted to be part of that. She hasn’t seen any of the romance scenes, so I guess I’m just going to have to take that hit when it happens.

CGM: Are the podcast scenes in the show scripted, and if so, is it a strange feeling to try to recreate something like that?

MM: Well, some of the podcast stuff where we are actually engaging with people on the show, a lot of that was more loosely scripted than some of the other stuff. There are definitely genuine moments in all of those encounters with podcast guests. You know, with Ken Jeong, or Adam Scott or Leary where they were definitely happening in that moment. I mean, we knew where we needed to get, but if there’s anyplace on the show where it’s a bit looser, it’s that. I felt with all of those that the engagement felt very real to me.

CGM: How close is this version of yourself to the real thing? 

MM: It’s the part of me that’s going to live in this medium. I felt it was true to a fictionalized portrait of my life. Yeah, a lot of the stories have elements of truth in them, but a lot of stories in life don’t have the same type of closure or arc to them. That’s the same with the character of me or anything like this, in order for it to work out you’ve got to give it some structure. A lot of the stories are based on true stories, but maybe part of it to make the stories better or temper them a little bit, because sometimes reality is not as interesting as a story based on reality.

CGM: A lot of the intrigue with your character is that even though you have all these celebrity connections, it’s such a struggle for you just to get by. 

MM: I think if you pay close attention to this stuff, I don’t assume to be close friends with anybody. What happened was is once podcasting started taking off a little bit and people started acknowledging that this was part of the media landscape now, people were attracted to my show. My booking policy has always been sort of a friend of a friend, could you reach out to so-and-so for me? Many times these are people I’ve met. Many times even with people I’ve known for 20 years, these are the first real conversations I’ve had with them. I guess what I’m saying is I’m not going to Jon Hamm’s house for dinner or traveling with Conan and his family. I’m a pretty solitary guy, my social world is small, so there’s no real issue around a glamorous life I’m really living and the one that’s portrayed. The one that’s portrayed is kind of the one I’m living.

CGM: You’ve said that the podcast was not about your career as much as just your need to talk with people. Do you feel anything like that with the TV show, or do you see it more as a career vehicle?

MM: Unfortunately, I’m not that big of a careerist thinker, otherwise I probably would have chosen another one or been further along. I mean, I feel that as a comedian, and as somebody who’s been doing comedy and been in this business for as long as I have, I always wanted to do a TV show. I wanted to have that opportunity, and when the opportunity turned into a reality I was thrilled. It was just exciting for me to do it and to finally live the dream of being part of that, of my own show. I hope people like it. Obviously, I made a TV show and I hope people like the TV show. I don’t know what my thinking was behind it other than I pitched it and we had an opportunity and now it’s a reality. So I guess on some level, is this a career move? Yeah, I made a TV show.

CGM: You’ve got this show, you’re still doing the podcast, and you’re going out on tour. Do you foresee keeping up all these facets of your  job, or would you care to narrow it down eventually?

MM: I’d love for everything to keep going. I want to stay busy and keep creating and taking chances and putting things out there into the world. I’m hoping that we can keep doing as many of them as we can. Obviously the podcast is within my control, but yeah, I’d love to do more TV and continue to tour as a comic. I plan to. I’d like them all to continue if that’s OK.

CGM: As the podcast got bigger, was it difficult to keep it the way it was, the way you want it to be?

MM: It evolved with me. It’s still exactly what I want it to be. I think I’m probably in a better place, but you know the podcast is still just me talking to somebody in my garage, and I leave it at that. I don’t listen to them much afterward, they’re just conversations I had. I think it remains vital to what it was in that way. I don’t pay much attention to numbers, I don’t pay much attention to how many numbers, and I really don’t listen to them once they’re out. They’re all in my mind mostly memories — even vague memories — of people I’ve talked to for an hour or two in my garage. I think because of that it remains true to myself.

CGM: What’s it like then to have to watch yourself on the TV show?

MM: I was nervous at first, but I’m really pretty happy with it. I’m excited that I am, because you don’t want to put something out into the world that you don’t feel comfortable with. But I feel good about this, and I was part of it on all levels. So my experience watching it, some of it was a little too real for me. There’s stuff with my father, and some of the stuff with my girlfriend. I mean, it was like wow, this is really it. There’s something here emotionally that’s very real, and I felt it. I don’t know if other people will feel it, but I felt it, and I think that’s a good thing.

Marc Maron IFC

Photo: © 2013 IFC Credit: Katrina Marcinowski