Larry Hirshowitz

IF YOU DIDN'T KNOW who Marc Maron was before June 22, you do now. That was the day he interviewed President Barack Obama in a long, seemingly freewheelin' episode of his podcast, WTF with Marc Maron—a chat that included some very necessary conversation on race, and an almost casual confirmation from our commander-in-chief that black helicopters are real. That episode was downloaded more than 1.7 million times, Maron was (presumably) taken into the hearts of many a conspiracy theorist, and his name showed up everywhere from Politico to the Root for delivering an interview with the president that sounded anything but canned.

But I doubt WTF listeners were surprised. Like many comedians, Maron's at his best when he isn't trying too hard to be funny. Onstage—unpopular opinion!—you could swap him out with any other shoutymouth angry liberal dude, and I don't think I'd know the difference (with all due respect, angry dudes!). But it's with WTF that Maron signals—to the president and everyone else—that he's doing something different. Maron doesn't overcomplicate things, and he doesn't waste time: The show always sounds like a particularly fascinating conversation between two strangers, nothing more and nothing less. In the relatively anything-goes digital hinterland of podcasting, this is all too rare. And given that podcasts have become ubiquitous in comedy, that isn't faint praise.

Like a less politically correct Terry Gross with a beard and a bad-yet-welcoming attitude, Maron gets people to open up. From discussing the implications of liking art by bad people with Lena Dunham, to asking John Oliver about the British educational system, to—yes—getting Obama to talk popular conspiracy theories, Maron's a skilled if unorthodox interviewer. So it's no surprise that both his shows are sold out. If you need a comedy fix, the very British, very charming Russell Howard and Canada's delightful DeAnne Smith, both in town this week, are worthy alternatives. But if your life needs more Marc Maron, look no further than his latest interview—he talked to Against Me!'s Laura Jane Grace about being transgender in punk rock, about as timely a topic as ever, no conspiracy theories needed.