It’s been 5 years now I’ve been listening to Marc Maron’s podcast, WTF. I remember discovering stand up with Louis CK and thinking this guy was a pure genius and wanting to know more about this craft, this art of talking shit while making people think deep and laugh hard.
I listened to as much WTF episodes as I could, wanting to know more about the psyche of comedians, the behind, and that's when WTF became my source of knowledge.
I would go running with music when I was younger, I’d put some motivational tunes in my ears and I’d be really tired because I’d get pumped up on the rhythm and the sound, picturing myself as a good looking young dude running in slow motion in a movie, with rap music playing in the background. The reality was that after one lap around the small lake, I’d be willing to die and wanting to kill every single runner that would pass me, especially the 50 year old ones. That was when I started listening to podcasts for my run: it was a great thing, walking fast like an old man but at my own pace, not overdoing it, just listening to people talk, slowly. Now I do two laps.
I continued listening to the podcast on any given occasion, painting the family home or riding the lawn mower.
I realised the success this podcast had when a few years ago Obama went in Maron’s garage to record one episode. It opened my eyes on the number of listeners that Marc had and the quality of his show. The way he doesn't like to prepare too much and just goes on with a fascinating talk. Another big step between WTF and I was when Robin Williams killed himself in 2014. This guy was the clown of my youth, the funny guy, Jumanji, no the "Kurt Cobain kill yourself" man, no, not Jack. And so I realised the darkness that even (or especially ?), a comedic genius like him had, the struggles, the addictions and the pain. And this tragedy made me feel good, just to know that Williams was also subject to this pit of despair, this black panther that you need to get tame. That it strikes everyone, everywhere and that you are not alone, especially when your idols share your struggles.
That’s why after numerous WTF episodes, I started to watch one of Marc Maron's stand up on Netflix. I have to admit something first: I tend to not listen to the preliminary rants of Maron before and after his radio shows. He usually speaks for 10 minutes about his life, his fears, what happened this week, etc… and I have to say that I fast-forward this part of the podcast most of the time. I just go straight to the talk because I want Marc to speak with someone I am interested in. I am used to the way he talks about his problems and I am not a fan of this, don’t know why. I know it’s a big part of comedy and Louis does the same but I appreciate Louis' vision and twist where I just see anger in most of Marc’s, even if the guy has a real skills for analysing himself, people and his demons. He is definitely a self aware man and knows how he works, or how he doesn't, but maybe that’s this perfection about knowing yourself too well that I don’t like. When the analysis is too clear and you still play on the edge without the danger of the fall.
I then saw Thinky Pain, the 2013 special and I didn’t like it, I was not surprised, after 15min I was already annoyed, but I wanted to see all of it to be sure. Very quickly I noticed the “you know" being repeated every 5 minutes, when Marc, unsure of the laughing matter of his show, knowing that his podcast/stand up audience should already know his life and all, and then be ready to laugh because they do “know”.
The whole audience is his audience, 80% of it I'm sure are WTF listeners. It’s already a win, but it’s not. Here transpires the subjectivity of a podcast groupies listening to the voice they are used to. And I am too, but I can be critical. I had the same problem with Maron, his tv show, I felt after 2 episodes I knew already everything, because I listened to the podcast and already heard the anecdotes behind the scenes of each episode.
Even the way he sits on the stool annoyed me, like an old grumpy man not even able to stand correctly, sitting on the edge, not fully on, like his show, not stable, unsure.
As he does for WTF, it’s almost like he didn't prepare too much his stand up routine and that works great for the talks, not so much for a show.
To me, he makes one hell of a podcast but a mediocre stand up.