MARC MARON IS FUCKED. A frantic ball of fear, insecurity, and spite, he's in recovery. Three wives have come and gone. There were coke problems, rotten prostitutes, and irrational resentments against more successful friends like David Cross and Louis C.K.
Yet these days, the 47-year-old comedian is happy as ever. A podcast nearly saved his life.
It was the mid-2000s. The touring comic of two decades found audiences growing slimmer. Needing to pay for his second divorce, Maron took a job hosting at Air America. But as liberal radio's grand experiment nose-dived, Maron was thrown overboard. His manager arranged a meeting: Audiences at the comedy clubs had dried up. Maron was at the end of his rope.
"I would lay in bed saying, 'I got no kids. I got no wife. If I've got no career, it seems inevitable that I'm going to have to end my own life," Maron remembers. "I don't want to do it right now. But I should just plan for that reality because essentially I don't know what else to do. Which on one level is cowardly, but that's how I found relief in those moments."
Fired from Air America, Maron kept his keycard and began recording a podcast late at night in the studio. He and his former producer snuck guests up the freight elevator. The show, titled What the Fuck, bounced around at first, but two things stuck: Maron's probing introspection, and his conversations with other comics, many of whom shared similar tales of fear, anxiety, and excess.
Indeed, many stand-ups are strange, twisted, and needy individuals. And because they talk for a living, comics tell stories as well as anyone. But Maron, through his own forthrightness, opens his subjects to an almost primal honesty—he kept Robin Williams from doing schtick and saw Louis C.K. tear up.
Every bit as compelling are the cock-eyed, distressed personal rants with which Maron opens every show. They track a comedian's life, from tour stories to struggles with smoking, to sexual habits, relationships, and more. It's like a corkscrewed one-man take on therapy—analysis New York Jew style (New Jersey, really). And at two shows a week, listeners get to know Maron intently, finding solace in a fellow bleeding-heart neurotic.
"I'm finding with the fans and specifically the podcast, there's a lot of us out there who live pretty isolated lives," Maron says from his home in Los Angeles. "It's a common thing with most people that we've become more isolated with this incredible advent of technology.
"Most of the feedback I get," Maron continues, "is sort of, 'I thought I was crazy. I thought I was the only one who thought like this. You make me feel better.'"
Averaging some 200,000-plus listeners and growing, What the Fuck has created a community of its own—one that's revitalized Maron's stand-up career as well. "After 20-some-odd years out there standing in front of brick walls and putting myself on television with different haircuts and pants, this thing that I do sitting in my garage seems to raise the awareness of me in a way that I could never have imagined."
More importantly, the format has allowed Maron to reach full creative capacity. "I've never felt more grounded and comfortable in my craft and in my voice than I do now," he says. That boon from the podcast goes for Maron's life as well. I know because he says so. Find What the Fuck on iTunes or at wtfpod.com.