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Friday, March 1, 2013

Multi-Media, March 1, 2013

Talking Under
Marc Maron doesn't lose his own voice in WTF
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Marc Maron is a comic you may know. He's put out several CDs, all available as downloads on iTunes, is a regular on Conan, and until recently was most known as a standup who presented a heady mix of rage, post-divorce simmering, Jewish angst and ex-addiction.

But Maron did a serious reinvention. After his shows on the left-leaning Air America were cancelled, he talked and studied the art of podcasting (and don't kid yourself - good ones are an art) and over the nearly four hundred airings since, has mastered it with his WTF.

What's important to mention here, to those unfamiliar with podcasting (and I'm not talking about radio shows reformatted for podcasts like the brilliant This American Life), is that podcasts which are most popular represent - in all their rawness - the personalities and interests (however eclectic or even amateur) of the podcasters. I listen to several - Analog Hole Gaming, Keith and the Girl, World of Warcast - and they are all, first and foremost, about the people talking. If I don't care for the people nearly as much as I care about the information, I don't listen long. (It's why I don't listen to The Nerdist anymore - I don't like Chris Hardwick). 

He almost always asks the question you would ask, he almost always shows the giddiness you would feel if the star was in your garage, and he doesn't shy away from assholes.

Maron, for his grating voice, nicotine lozenge sucking, and lippiness brings his weirdly fascinating life to his show. (Recently the disappearance of one of his feral cats - perhaps prey to a coyote - was a long and ultimately heart-breaking drama.) 

All this before we get to his interviews. He has such a huge following, now, that he can get anyone to come into his garage where he records his show. (He only leaves the garage for the odd live show or when one of his subjects is old or a huge star...more on a couple of those later.) Maron has managed to keep me glued to my earbuds as he talks to artists, musicians, actors and - especially - comics. He almost always asks the question you would ask, he almost always shows the giddiness you would feel if the star was in your garage, and he doesn't shy away from assholes. I have never heard his interview with prop-comic Gallagher but apparently it was a scream-fest. He interviewed an LA comic whose schtick was pretending he was the late Andy Kaufman's character, Tony Clifton, and Maron pretty much made it clear he didn't have time for him. (All of Maron's interviews are available for purchase, the latest interviews are free at iTunes.)

I love Maron as an interviewer, but when I listened to two recent interviews - with Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner - I realized he had come of age. He was clearly excited to be with the two legends (the first for two hours, the second for one) but he listened, let the questions rise from tangents, and make you understand the longevity of these two still-brilliant men (the former 86, the latter 91). Maron, simply, over his podcast career is creating an oral history of American comedy and these two interviews (and one other, his talk with Molly Shannon) are the summits. 

And through it all, Maron never disappears. And for that I am grateful - every week, twice a week.

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