How I'm Living Now: Marc Maron, Comedian

Marc Maron - Getty - H 2020
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With the pandemic keeping him at home in Los Angeles, the standup and 'GLOW' star opens up about putting together the new 'WTF' garage, revisiting classic films and learning to embrace Instagram Live.

With production grinding to a halt in the face of the novel coronavirus, the entertainment industry has found itself navigating uncharted territory. To offer a better sense for how, The Hollywood Reporter is running a regular series that focuses on how Hollywood's top writers, actors, directors, executives and others are living and working in these challenging times.

Marc Maron was due to start production on the fourth and final season of GLOW the same day the shutdown went into effect, and since has been quarantined in his Los Angeles home with girlfriend Lynn Shelton (who has also directed several episodes of GLOW) as the two "test the parameters of our intimacy." As his new standup special End Times Fun — which coincidentally centers on the end of the world — hits Netflix, Maron tells THR about reluctantly running outside, rocking out to his record collection and recording his hit WTF podcast amid the pandemic. 

What does your day look like now?

Usually I get up and if I'm planning on exercising that day, I will put gym clothes on in the morning and then try to figure out a way to get myself out and running. They closed all the trails so I can't hike, can't go to the gym, so I've been running. Then other days I put on just regular clothes — I always make a point to get dressed like it's a regular day and engage in the day like that. So I get up, I make tea, I have something to eat and then, like, I figure out what I need to chip away at. I put on some music, I've been listening to a lot of records, and there's still a lot of things out in my new [WTF garage] studio that needs to be put together and things that need to be hung up and that need to be organized. I've been keeping oddly pretty busy. And cooking, a lot of cooking.

What’s been the easiest adjustment so far? And the hardest?

It's weird as a comic and somebody who came up as a comic, having your days open to wander around and think is not an alien form of life for me. The hardest thing to adjust to — outside of the revelation of what's really happening outside of my house and in other people's lives and around the world; there's a sort of challenge in really adjusting to that mentally and emotionally, empathetically, on a day-to-day basis for a half hour or an hour or so — is not being able to impulsively do things to distract yourself. I'm a guy that I don't mind going to the supermarket for one thing or going to three different stores, I usually shop at three or four different places. I go to Whole Foods, I go to Fish King, I go to Trader Joe's for one or two things, and just having all this stuff fairly convenient to me, it's just sort of odd how much time we spend kind of like "I'm just gonna run over there and do this." And now that's a no-no, there's no more running over there to do anything. So I think that's the hardest adjustment, to realize, "Maybe I'm not going to get avocado oil today, we'll have to wait until we need enough stuff to require a run outdoors among people." Trying to limit that is really kind of a hard adjustment. It's not bad but it's kind of counterintuitive.

What were you supposed to be doing right now? Were you filming GLOW yet?

I was literally beginning to film episode three — which in this season is the first one that I was appearing in — and I was set to go to set and they pushed my shoot. They started shooting episode three and I was supposed to shoot at night on that first day, and they said, "We're pushing it." And then the next day they shut it down. So I didn't even start shooting yet.

What have you learned about yourself in this period?

I've learned that I feel pretty good about what I've done in my life and I'm OK. I don't really have a difficult time not doing much. I'm fortunate that I have a little bit of money saved and I'm not freaking out about that, but I'm OK just kind of doing this and that, listening to records and playing guitar and organizing things and taking a walk or run and hanging out with Lynn, I'm cool. If there is a great thing about doing nothing during a pandemic it’s, like, no one else is really doing anything either so you're not trying to keep up with anybody, really. As somebody who performs and someone who is a public personality and somebody who does things for public consumption, there is that moment where you're like, "Do I need to be doing the live Instagrams? Is that what people are doing now?" Even in this pandemic there's this [feeling] so often, like, "I'm not keeping up." So that's the surprising thing — and it's not that surprising because I kind of knew it — is: I feel OK. My work is done for now. And now I just have to try to do the right thing for myself and for everyone else involved this, stay in touch with people.

But I also realize that for a while there I talked like I was kind of getting out more and being more sociable, but I don't know if that's true. I think that I'm fundamentally a fairly kind of self-centered, self-involved person who, if I have a choice, I don't really want to check in with my family or friends. So that's been something interesting to find out.

What are you watching, reading, playing or listening to as a reprieve?

A William S. Burroughs novel from the '80s called The Western Lands and Hunter S. Thompson's Generation of Swine collection. And in terms of listening, I have a lot of records here and I kind of run the gamut — the other day I listened to a bit of Patsy Cline, I listened to Aerosmith's Rocks and I've been listening to Mdou Moctar and then listening to some Cure, so kind of mixing it up. And we've watched The Wages of Fear, A Place in the Sun, we watched The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Antonioni's The Passenger — a lot of Criterion Collection viewing. We seem to watch John Oliver, he's doing a wonderful job, and we're watching Better Call Saul as it unfolds, and Fosse/Verdon we're watching as well right now.

What have become your go-to comfort foods during the quarantine?

We’re doing a lot of cooking — making stock, eating fish and vegetables, eating very healthy. There’s not that much garbage in the house, we’re trying to get out and buy fresh proteins when we can. I froze a lot; I was a little late to the stockpiling but I did manage to freeze a lot, and there is a fish market by my house called Fish King that seems to be oddly the safest place to shop in terms of everybody there is wearing gloves and masks and they're only letting a few people in at a time. So we're trying to every few days go pick up fresh fish and chicken there.

Are you dusting off any old hobbies or finding new ones?

I tend to move toward the guitar and I've been running because I can't hike, which I don't love. I wouldn't say dusting off an old hobby, I'd say that's a new necessity. I was regularly doing this hiking trail like two or three times a week but they closed the trails, so now I've been forced to run on asphalt, which for a guy my age can jangle the bones a bit. So I've been running, which is getting me out of my neighborhood which is good, but no new hobbies really — I'll go out in my garage studio and play my guitar loud.

What cause is most important to you right now?

I'm going to do a benefit streaming thing for comics who are out of work. And my heart goes out to — I wish I could help and will probably figure out a way to help more — the health professionals who are underprepared because the functionality of our government is so disrupted by the current administration that it just kind of upsets me and saddens me. And I'd like to help out more; I should try to figure out how to help out more. In a lot of ways I’ve tried to with the podcast and certainly then sort of my venturing out onto live Instagram and stuff to try to make people who are isolating and alone to feel a little less so. Everyone's scared and weirded out.

What kind of changes are you making to recording your podcast during the quarantine, are you doing all of the garage interviews via video chat? 

I haven't really done that a lot yet. We had some interviews banked. Also, podcasting is somehow listed under essential services in the media area, so we are allowed to do that. I've created a pretty safe space [in my garage studio] — I have hand sanitizer, gloves, alcohol spray. People come by themselves, and I'm willing to interview [in-person], and I've done a few like that. I don't know how long that'll hold up for, but we'll get to like the third week of April in terms of the few I've done during the quarantine, but also the ones that had been stashed, but then we're planning to make a shift into recording through video chat and figuring out how best to get a good sound quality for when we have to start doing that.

Your Netflix special focuses heavily on the end of the world. What's it like to have it come out during this time? 

Well, it was sort of great timing for me, bad timing for the world. I'm glad it's out there; it's the best thing I've ever done. It is prescient to a degree — the world was ending when I did it in October as well, but not as succinctly as it is now. I did talk about the catastrophic events that bring people together, not knowing that we'd be living in one of them when it released. It seems to be giving people some kind of deep relief that is not necessarily a distraction but has a more revelatory effect in terms of the way that humor works, when you're talking about real things and scary things and providing some comedic relief around those things and get comfortable when people are terrified. I've never been one to completely invest in blind distraction, but there's plenty of that around — I don't have to do it.

You talk about something terrible bringing us all together. Do you think this pandemic is doing that? 

Not really. I explore the reaction of people to the terrible thing in the special, which is the sky being on fire, and it seems like the different reactions I characterize are happening in relation to this. I don't know, I guess time will tell how this plays out, but it does seem to be being politicized and there are definitely partisan points of view and delusional perceptions around what's really happening. You wonder, once it affects everybody, or if and when it will, will really determine how collective the experience becomes and how much it brings people together, but it just seems like the culture is very committed to being divided and it's very saddening because it doesn't help anything.

What's atop your to-do list when this is all over? 

Get back onstage and do some comedy. But I'm surprisingly OK in a way — I'm not freaking out about it, just knowing that the special is out there and having done that work I got a lot of closure and completion around that work. Now everybody's work is going to have to shift in relation to this thing, if and when we get out of it. It's hard not to be talking to people and crowds, but we can hop online and do a live thing and share our thoughts in a way. But it'll be nice just in general for people to be around each other and not afraid of each other. Hopefully we'll get back to that.