For those that know him, or know of him, the mentioning of Marc Maron elicits a lot of different reactions. He’s hilarious, he’s grating, he’s emotionally needy, he’s shockingly open and honest (sometimes to the detriment of himself and those close to him), he’s a comedy legend or a washup, he helped revolutionize podcasting, he’s draining to those who come in contact with him, etc.
I love Marc Maron. I find his brand of comedy to be refreshing in its openness and introspection, even after having been at it for decades. When you laugh at his jokes, you’re laughing at the troubled insecurities he has about himself, his relationships, his family, his cats, his hypochondria, and his rage issues. But you’re also laughing at yourself: when his jokes and bits land and the crowd breaks out in laughter, you’re asked, even if not directly, to look inside and recognize those same issues in yourself, and then laugh at them because of how clearly stupid they are. When I saw him perform at the Comedy Attic in Bloomington, IN on June 26th, he asked us to recognize these things in ourselves, looking in the eyes of the crowd members as we laughed, as if to say, “Yeah, you’re crazy too you assholes, and it’s hilarious.”
I more so enjoy Maron in one of his other formats: his podcast, WTF with Marc Maron. Twice weekly, Marc invites fellow comedians, actors, writers, artists, musicians, and other people of influence into his garage/studio for a sit down conversation. The topics range from the places of their birth, their upbringing, their influences on their craft, and their first guitar or comedy album. It is a deep conversation that will touch on light- and heavy-hearted moments both, from Maron confronting Carlos Mencia with accusations of him stealing jokes in episodes 75 and 76, to Mel Brooks talking about his years in the 1104 Engineer Combat Battalion defusing land mines for the Army during World War II in episode 358, to Louis CK recounting the cause behind the two’s falling out many years ago over two full episodes in numbers 111 and 112 (seriously – just shell out the $9.99 for the WTF app. It’s worth it for some really amazing stories).
What has resonated with me about Maron’s podcast from the first episode I listened to nearly 18 months ago (episode 391 with British folk icon Billy Bragg) is the near-brutal honesty Maron shares with his listeners and his guests. There is no bush to beat around; he is open, he does not speak in metaphors to keep himself guarded, and he works to get that same level of communication from his guests. In just that short hour twice a week, Maron opens up about himself and what he’s going through, from his issues with the women in his life, his on-again-off-again relationship with his father, the neurosis revolving around a pair of Levi’s jackets that are one size too large, and even his past substance abuse, and his guests offer the same return.
That is a large part of the draw to Maron’s podcast: he is able to engage his guests on such a personal level that is not really present in our conversations (save for anytime alcohol is involved. Sometimes you just gotta grease the wheels, ya know?). Listening to WTF with Marc Maron has definitely changed the way I converse with other people. I try and talk about things on a similar level. It’s not enough to ask our friends and families how they are feeling; we need to also be asking why, while listening to responses instead of just hearing them.
I’m not talking about our normal “good morning” to our coworkers each day, or the “Hi, how’s it going?” to our baristas. I’m talking about about how we engage our friends and family members on a deeper and more personal level, how difficult it has become to share our true selves and feelings with each other when we’ve surrounded ourselves with digital and emotional walls.
Maron breaks down those walls, and when guests resist he just tries even harder, striving without pause to get to some sort of truth at the base of his guest’s or even his own life. He’s persistent in getting his interviewees to open themselves up because of how open he is. And we can start their in our own conversations. By being open about ourselves to ourselves and those close to us, we begin to reach deeper levels of trust and understanding with each other. And you know what? It’s therapeutic. It’s cathartic, being able to open up and just freely talk and make a real human connection through what scares us or brings us joy.
If you haven’t, I highly recommend trying out an episode of WTF. Any of the above mentioned are great places to start. Maybe you’ll start to open up to yourself a bit more like I have.