Marc Maron reaches new comedic heights

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When we last checked in with Marc Maron, he had just passed the one-year, 100-episode mark on his seminal semiweekly podcast and was already the talk of the comedy community. A year and a half later, WTF With Marc Maron has only picked up steam, and listeners—to the tune of 300,000-plus per episode, with around 700,000 downloads a week.

His deeply conversational long-form interviews with comedians, musicians, and authors have won him fans all over the world, so much so that this work has eclipsed his quarter-century performing some of the most honest and raw standup comedy you’ll ever hear.

It’s clear listening to him that he is first and foremost a performer, but many of his newfound fans have never heard him do what he loves best. Does it ever cross his mind that he might be remembered more as a broadcast journalist than as a standup comic?

“I’ve had to think about that,” he says from his home in Los Angeles. “And, you know, I gotta live with that. It doesn’t always go the way you think it’s going to go, you know? It’s just a surprise turn of events that it is what I’ve become, what’s been the most significant accomplishment. It’s not that it bothers me… Well, maybe it does a little, but what are you going to do, you know? It’s like I’m doing something that’s uniquely mine and it involves other people. That’s not so hard. I can live with that.”

And it’s not like he’s given up performing. Thanks to his podcast, he’s in demand everywhere. He does his act out on the road, then often records a live episode of WTF while there, as he will be doing at the Vancouver ComedyFest this week. Tickets for his podcast recording (Friday [February 24] at the Rio Theatre) were gone in minutes, but you can catch his comedy at the Comedy Mix on Thursday (February 23) and the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts on Saturday (February 25).

With all the focus and effort he puts into WTF, not to mention a forthcoming book of essays he’s working on, it’s a wonder he has time to create any new standup material. Rather than taking away from his art, as you might suspect, he says the podcast helps him reach new comedic heights on-stage.

“My standup really has never been better. I feel better on-stage, I don’t have any real fear,” he says. “Having the support has enabled me to take new chances, to open my heart a little more, go new places with the comedy. It’s an amazing thing. I know I’m doing good standup right now. And I know that either way, I think I’ve done something with interviews in a public forum that is unique.”

There is no doubt about that. Maron infuses his own personality, neuroses, and hang-ups into each interview, which in turn brings out the best (and sometimes worst) in his subjects. To label the show a comedy podcast is not quite accurate. It’s a show that’s often about comedy, but it’s not played for laughs. You feel like you’re eavesdropping on a therapy session: Marc Maron as the real-life Dr. Katz, from the ’90s Squigglevision cartoon he guested on that featured comedians in counselling.

“An hour of direct, connected conversation—authentic conversation—is a risky but very nourishing thing for the human heart,” he says. “I think people underestimate the power and significance of just connected conversation. You live in a world where you’re isolated by technology, by your career path, by your fears, and that’s a real loneliness that you have among other people. Just the fact of talking to somebody for even 20 minutes, it does something to the heart. So I think a lot of times it’s not really about asking questions, it’s about having an authentic conversation.”

Dr. Katz? With that nourishing-the-heart talk, maybe he’s more like a funny and totally captivating Dr. Phil without the bullshit. Monologue or dialogue, just get the man a microphone. Dr. Marc’s worth listening to.

 

Marc Maron appears as part of the Vancouver ComedyFest Thursday through Saturday (February 23 to 25), at various locations.

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