Marc Maron worked as a comedian for years before he became the internet's favorite podcaster. A regular figure in the alt comedy scene as it came into ascendance in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, a repeated guest on Conan and Letterman and a personality on the late Air America Radio, his career had stalled out by 2009, when he found a new outlet for his sui generis voice. Maron's still a comedian, one whose stand-up shows take him around the country, but he's also the host of one of the best and most influential podcasts around -- the semi-weekly "WTF with Marc Maron," centered around in-depth interviews with Maron's friends, colleagues and sometimes-rivals, most of them recorded in the garage of his Los Angeles house, which he's nicknamed "the Cat Ranch."
The ferocious honesty and neurotic openness of Maron's approach to his own life, as seen in each episode's monologued intro, fuel the free-form discussions that follow, ones that find the likes of Sarah Silverman, Louis C.K., Robin Williams and a ever-expanding list of comedy's best and brightest speaking about their lives and careers with astonishing frankness. The podcast is the inspiration for IFC's new scripted comedy "Maron," in which the comedian plays a lightly fictionalized version of himself, hosting interviews, fretting about his cats, and dealing with his family, his love life and his personal baggage. Luke Matheny, who won an Oscar for his short "God of Love," directs the series, which features appearances from former "WTF" guests Mark Duplass, Dave Foley, Jeff Garlin, Denis Leary, Aubrey Plaza, Adam Scott and others.
Indiewire caught up with Maron by phone to talk about turning his life into a TV show, which premieres on IFC on Friday, May 3 at 10pm.
Tell me about the process of building a fictionalized version of yourself. How would you describe the Maron on screen as different from you?
I don't know how it is different necessarily, but I think you're seeing a Maron (and I don't want to talk of myself in the third person) that has a fairly broad personality. I'm not really a caricature, that I know of -- I think the best thing that can happen is that I become one and I don't know it. The situations we put me in on the show highlight different aspects of my personality. You see me engaging with women on dates, with an assistant, at the mic alone, and in conversation with guests. There may be one or two differences, but we were holding pretty true with the script with the bulk of the stories.
I am not a trained actor. I think I'm okay at it. My approach was really to go there, to be present for every scene as best I could -- I just reacted. There wasn't a lot of thought on my part about what is this Marc character, other than what I do every day of my life off-screen. I didn't necessarily do it to be a character that is me on a TV show. Given the pace we created all of this stuff at, I didn't have a lot of time to think of that. But now we do, and if we do go into a second season it would be exciting to sit down with the writers and work on each episode and really make some decisions around that character and how we can more effectively use it for stories, seeing how people respond and what the character is really about. I'm looking forward to figuring that out.
What was the writing process like? You worked with other writers?
There was a small staff. It was me, Duncan Birmingham, Michael Jamin, Sivert Glarum. Sivert and Michael were brought on as the showrunners and Duncan was the guy I wrote the pilot with. I basically came in with nine of the 10 stories and we only had a couple months to break them down. We sat there for days and built them out, made outlines, then everybody was assigned two or three scripts. You get those out to the production companies, the network, the studio, then you all sit there and rework them. It's a very collaborative effort.
You've spoken on the podcast about finding it challenging sometimes to write in a voice that's not yours -- on material, say, for other people. Did you feel this was your voice in this case, even if it is a fictionalized you?
I definitely think we were able to find some area where yes, it was my own voice. I watch some things and think this is almost uncomfortably me, which is a good thing. When I'm watching this episode where me and my dad [played by Judd Hirsch] are having this loaded exchange, it's all very layered and real to the point where it's making me uncomfortable. I'm thinking, "Well, this guy ought to grow up." But that's a good reaction to have.
Your father doesn't listen to the podcast. Do you think he'll watch the show?
Yes, I think he’ll figure out how to get IFC.
What do you think the reaction will be with people in your life as they're watching this?
I think I was fairly generous and respectful of both of my parents, and that they'll be okay with it. As to how people are going to react -- I don't know. It’s definitely a character that’s rooted in my father, but there are plenty of elements of it that aren't quite my father. Judd made it his own, but the character is still there. I think the emotions of that relationship are pretty genuine and relatable, I hope. I spent a long time thinking about if anyone has the same struggles I do, but after doing the podcast for a few years I thought that yes, there are a few out there.
I love the fact that the podcast is such a central element of the show. It's still a relatively new phenomenon -- was there ever a discussion of whether what as podcast is needed to be explained to people?
There definitely was that discussion -- I think many of the events in the show around that point did happen a few years ago. When I first started doing it, this stuff with my manager [in which he has no idea what to do with or how to monetize the podcast], that's real stuff. And that stuff with my father is real too. As much as everybody on the inside, people that are hip to it know about it, to the point where some are like "enough, alright with the podcast," there are exponentially more people who have no fucking idea of what it is. That's still the reality -- I think we explain it enough.
So is it fair to say the Maron in the show is a few years behind where you are now?
I think that is fair to say. A lot of the events in the show are a little back there, but that's helpful, I think, to build the basis, to be able to root through stories. It was important to go back.