Marc Maron’s podcast has the most appropriate of all cover art. Maron always seems to baffled or astounded by some aspect of his life, followed by a period of neurosis which is resolved by some kind of coping mechanism. This podcast is one such coping mechanism. It’s talk therapy, but one that pays him. For those of us who listen, we feel close to him. Intimate, even. He tears his heart open and empties it out, whereupon it is absorbed by the windsock on his mic. I feel sorry for anybody who has approached him in public, feeling that they could establish some equilibrium in a relationship that, for his audience, is completely lop-sided. He’s not interested in our problems and he rejected a fan’s invitation to their wedding. He’s not there for us. But hey, it’s his show and we don’t have to listen.
But many do. WTF frequently makes the Top Ten chart in iTunes. Marc Maron’s first WTF interview of Louis CK will go down in history as the podcast equivalent of Orson Welles’ War of The Worlds. Granted, Maron’s interview with CK didn’t make claims about an alien invasion that stoked pandemonium in the streets. Rather, the pandemonium manifests within Maron as the inner-turmoil that leaves him disquieted with far more regularity than he can stand.
I gave Maron the top rating of 5 Ms because of Barack Obama’s appearance on the program. If you are a sitting president and you decide to be the pioneer in chief to appear on a podcast before all other presidents, you are going to choose wisely, and he went with the gold standard. Perhaps it was the roster of guests that impressed Obama. Top figures in show business, including A-list actors and legends of music, comedy and filmmaking visit Maron’s studio routinely. Undoubtedly Maron’s download statistics play a role, since these public figures primarily stop by to promote their latest work.
But why Maron? He’s not the only podcaster to bring in such numbers. The Joe Rogan Experience and The Adam Corolla Show also make the top ten iTunes chart on a regular basis.
It must have to do with Maron himself. He’s more of a threat to his own self-esteem than he is to anybody else in any way. Simply put, he’s just a nice guy. You would feel safe with him. I can picture a man introducing Maron to his daughter as what the old-timers referred to as a “gentleman caller”. I can also envision a Secret Service Agent listening to several episodes of WTF to ensure that Maron is not some kind of right-wing Ted Nugent-type who has built a bomb into Obama’s mic. No way: Marc Maron is like Mr. Rogers for adults…minus the confidence and inner-peace. He’s our friend, even if he doesn’t feel as much love for himself as he does for us.
We’ll never have to worry that Maron will develop a huge ego and become insufferably pompous and smug. Even with all of his success in podcasting, standup comedy specials, acting roles in GLOW and his own series Maron, he is still as neurotic as ever. He is as dumbfounded by his success in 2018 as he was by his failures in the late 1980s when he was a club comic doing blow with Sam Kinison backstage. They say you can’t love somebody if you don’t love yourself. Whether that’s true or not, you can’t deny that it’s hard not to like a guy who doesn’t see what all the fuss is about.
Unlike most podcasters, Maron typically doesn’t do live episodes. The only one I’m aware of is Paul McCartney’s latest appearance. Onstage, any kind of performer, even a musician, is under pressure to dazzle the crowd with laughter and spectacle, even if they’re not a comedian. Most of WTF’s episodes are recorded on a one-on-one basis in Maron’s garage. It is an intimate circumstance that enables his guests to feel more comfortable, and because of the lack of prying eyes, they often open up more than they otherwise might. Given that Maron is honest and open with his own emotions, they frequently follow suit, like when Louis CK became choked up describing the birth of his first child.
This is what is so great about WTF: it’s the humanity of the show that keeps his fans listening. Maron is interested in feelings, not box office statistics and record sales. People will be reading about this show in history books about podcasting in decades to come. How fortunate we are: we can listen to history in the making right now. What a privilege that is. I hope we can convince Marc Maron of that because he deserves a boost.