Marc Maron Reveals Secrets of His New Show, Stage Cats and Podcasting (Q&A)
The "WTF" comedian tells THR television can be a "pretty powerful and funny" storytelling avenue.
Marc Maron is going from podcast king to the small screen Friday, when his IFC show Maron premieres.
The stand-up comedian’s scripted comedy draws from his life – cats, ex-wives and famous comedy friends and all. He tells The Hollywood Reporter though there’s very little he hasn’t covered on the microphone during thee years with his WTF podcast, there’s plenty of things he can express on television he can’t convey on the mic.
“A podcast is very intimate. People listen by themselves,” Maron says. “But I think to actually see things play out is it’s own thing and can be pretty powerful and funny.”
Find THR’s conversation with Maron below.
The Hollywood Reporter: Did you have trepidation about acting for this?
Marc Maron: I’ve done a bit of it in my past and I've been told that I had a knack for it. I wanted to be good, but I basically showed up and focused and listened and relaxed with it. I think I did alright.
THR: This show will likely be a homerun with your podcast fans. Were you thinking of them when you made it?
Maron: I just did what I always do, which is draw from my life and show up and do it. I hope the podcast audience likes it and I hope a larger audience likes it. Right now it seems more people like me or respond to me than they used to [laughs], so hopefully it will have a little bit of a broader appeal. If I had some sort of magical method to bring in more people, I probably would have engaged in that magic earlier.
THR: In the show, you have scenes in which you are recording the intro section of your podcast. Is that improvised?
Maron: [On the podcast] sometimes I’ll have little notes -- names of things I want to hit. But usually I don’t work from notes. In the show, the pieces of me talking alone on the mic and the pieces of me talking with people on the mic are the loosest parts on the show. There’s definitely a little room for some improvising with people playing themselves.
THR: With this show, are there things you can say which you can’t get out through your podcast or your stand-up?
Maron: Many of the things that happen in the show didn’t happen in real life, but they could have. It’s a way to sort of move through those emotions and possibilities and act them out. It’s a completely different medium. A podcast is very intimate. People listen by themselves. With stand-up you’re with a group of people but you’re getting laughs. But I think to actually see things play out is it’s own thing and can be pretty powerful and funny.
THR: There is an episode where your father is a total pain for you. Do you have limits to what you would show on screen as far as personal stuff?
Maron: When you’re dealing with a scripted piece, it is a fiction. There are elements of people and elements of my life. There are fundamental differences between the way Judd [Hirsch] played him [Maron's father] and the events that have happened. A lot of this is heightened and fictionalized, and I’ll probably have to make that point to my father as well.
THR: The cats in the show—they aren’t you’re real cats are they?
Maron: My cats are fairly impossible to work with or even to handle. But so are stage cats, oddly enough. There are a few scenes with cats, but throughout the series it’s more of a suggestion of cats. Even when a cat handler brings cats, they’re still cats and they don’t know where they are and they’re not trainable, so you hope for the best.
Maron: You made this show and you wrote a book over the last year or so. How did you have time to do that?
I was fortunate I had the podcast as a resource. There are very few things in my life that I haven’t covered over the last three years on that mic. I have a fan who sort of obsessively transcribes my monologues, so I had thousands of pages of me talking about stuff. It was kind of an encyclopedia of me in the last three years. That was very helpful in figuring out what stories stood out and thinking about the way I told stories.
I had really given up on any of this stuff happening for me when I started the podcast. It’s all very exciting and shocking, and I can’t really believe that it’s happening.
THR: In the first episode, you confront an Internet troll who has been bothering you. Do people like that really get under your skin?
Maron: That’s based on a real story. I didn’t track the guy down, but we went back and forth for months. It’s kind of tragic really.
THR: How did you feel at the end of that?
Maron: It went on for too long. The guy who attacked me, initially he was going through a bad time and his life got better. There was some contrition on his part. I’m not sure what I was looking for, but I ended up saying “I’m glad everything worked out for you.” I don’t know what you’re trying to do with those things. You’re kind of negotiating with someone to like you. It takes a long time to realize that trolls do it because it’s fun to them. They’re just looking to get a reaction.
THR: The show takes place during the early days of the podcast, before you’ve reached the level of success you have now. For the show to be funny, do you feel like you need to limit the amount of success your character can have?
Maron: With me in real life, whatever success means -- financially or culturally in terms of visibility -- my life doesn’t change that much. I’m not a big spender. I don’t live extravagantly. Nothing has changed that much other than I feel a little better about myself. If by success you mean, is it going to be difficult to transition in the show if we get a second season and if I’m happy? Maybe. But I’ve still got a few seasons in me that can come from the more unhappy version of me.
THR: You’ve had some touching interviews with legends such as Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner on your podcast this year. How do you prepare for those interviews?
Maron: Generally I’m not a big “prepare” guy. I find the conversation becomes more immediate if I’m not loaded up with questions or things. You want the conversation to flow. But when you’re dealing with people who have monumental careers and are part of the history of modern entertainment, you have to decide where you’re going to hang out with them in their memory. We’re not going to cover everything, so where do we start? And also to be gracious and to be respectful.
Maron premieres at 10 p.m. ET on IFC Friday.
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