Marc Maron Talks Maron series premiere, debuting Friday May 3rd on IFC
WTF host Marc Maron is finally coming to TV this Friday, May 3rd, with his new sitcom Maron, which finds the comedian upsetting any balance in his life with everything from a visit from his dysfunctional father living in an RV to complicated feelings about his ex-wife and various attempts at dating that continue to challenge his ability to commit.
His compulsive need for human connection is only matched with his uncanny ability to make disastrous choices. Consequences of which always end up as fodder for his popular WTF podcast. Whether dating a dominatrix, sponsoring a recently sober ex-con or tracking down an internet troll who blasts him on Twitter, all of Marc's life experiences are met with his unique brand of cynicism, self-obsession and heart.
We're big fans of Marc, and it was an honor to chat with the best interviewer on the planet. He had a lot to say about his long-awaited foray into scripted television. Here is our conversation.
So you don't mind giving your cell phone number out to complete strangers?
Marc Maron: Eck. Not really.
I won't call you again, or give it to anybody else, I promise.
Marc Maron: It's all right, buddy. What's on your mind?
Well, I want to talk about your show. First of all, it was weird for me to see the show after listening to the podcast for so long. It didn't look anything like what I had in my mind...
Marc Maron: I have not heard that. What? The garage didn't look like anything?
Not what I pictured in my head. I actuate it to old timey radio, and the serials that people used to listen to. I have a vivid imagination, and in my mind, I pictured the garage differently. This must have been what it was like for someone to go from listening to The Lone Ranger to seeing it on TV.
Marc Maron: It's weird. They did a really good job of capturing the garage. That is just a small little garage that is cluttered with my books, and filled with Marc Maron paraphernalia, from all my life. Hold on one sec...
Is there an airplane going over your house?
Marc Maron: No. I'm actually in Indianapolis. Just doing some...I got a fucking...Hold on, I'm sorry...
There's a giant airplane going over the house just as you said to hold on...
Marc Maron: Anyway, look. I get what you are saying. I think a lot of people had that general feel about me, even what I look like. There is that. That happens when you do radio. People are surprised that I look like this, or that I sound like this in person. But oddly, we couldn't shoot inside my house. It was too small. It was impractical. But they rebuilt my house, they made a slightly bigger house that looks like mine. It was about a half a mile away from my actual house. For me it worked out pretty good. And they were really painstaking about getting the vibe of the garage and my home, to a certain degree. I think they did a good job with that. The home is nicer, and decorated as I would have mine if I had the wherewithal to decorate a room.
The first real question I had for you when I saw this show, and I hope this isn't a touchy subject matter...But Boomer...Is that Boomer in the opening moments of the first episode? Or is that an actor cat?
Marc Maron: None of my cats are really that...My cats are slightly feral. They are not manageable cats. Honestly, actor cats are not that manageable either. So, you know Boomer is obviously gone now. But that wasn't Boomer. That is a cat portraying Boomer. That cat is a slightly...That cat works as an actor. He's been on some cat food commercials.
Did you go in and pick out the cats that you wanted on the show? Did you want them to look like Boomer and Monkey, and La Fonda?
Marc Maron: We took a look at the cats. The issue, really, is...They are not easy to work with. Cats are cats. They can be slightly manageable. As the show goes on, you will see that there is a 'suggestion' of cats. More than actual cats everywhere.
When you have a lot of people coming on, playing themselves, is it hard to cast a character like your Dad? Especially when you have such a well-known sitcom and character actor such as Judd Hirsch filling the role?
Marc Maron: Well, I think it's a little tricky, but I think people are suave enough to know. You have people playing themselves. I think Judd Hirsch has been out of the cultural eye for a while. He is portraying my father. I think it reads like that. I never looked at it like, "Why is Judd Hirsch amongst all these other people?" I never thought about it that way. I'm not worried about that. I think he does a great job with it.
Maybe I worded that wrong. I think he does a fantastic job. He never took me out of the show, and I believed him as your dad. I meant more from the standpoint of having to cast that role. The challenge of doing that, making sure you got a well known guy like Hirsch, who wouldn't be distracting not playing himself. I don't know if I'm making sense.
Marc Maron: When we were casting for the father, we were looking at people who everyone is familiar with. From movies, and television, and its very interesting. The guys who are still working at that age are all guys you would recognize. We were lucky to get him. It definitely reads. Eric Stoltz is going to play a friend of mine. It's very interesting. Maybe it's just me, even when you are playing yourself, the story is what it is. You end up going after Eric Stoltz to play a character different from himself, and you believe it. It's a job, you know?
Bobcat Goldthwait isn't playing himself, correct? I haven't seen the episode, I've only seen the one picture.
Marc Maron: That's actually kind of interesting. Bobcat Goldthwait directed four of the episodes, and in one of the episodes, there was a need for a scene, where we needed someone who was known as a scream comedian clown, to do this scene. He chose, for the first time in years, to don the character that made him famous. He is actually playing himself as he was in the 80s.
How did you guys decide who was going to direct which episodes?
Marc Maron: We did the presentation with Luke Matheny, who directed this Oscar nominate short film a few years back. He was an interesting guy. A new talent. He directed four of them. He did a good job with the presentation, and we wanted to work with him more. He's a good guy. We were starting to think of other directors, and I thought of Bobby, because Bobcat Goldthwait has directed movies, he knows comics, and I thought he'd bring something interesting to it. He has his own vision. We were lucky to get him. Then Robert Cohen directed two. We actually considered him to be a show runner. He wrote for The Ben Stiller Show, and he was originally part of that crew. He had been around for a while. We had a relationship. And he wanted to get into directing, so he directed two.
Who directed the first episode?
Marc Maron: Luke.
Did you have him come in and set the tone for what you wanted to carry throughout the rest of the season?
Marc Maron: I think that's true. I think we did do that. I think we all really knew the tone. The tone comes from the story. It also comes from what that single camera will give you. It's a filmic feeling. There were some decisions to be made about how cuts are going to work, and what not. As the primary need, to get the proper tone, you really need to make sure you have enough coverage. So you can work in the editing room well. To have a director that is going to visualize how things are going to work, when you get into the editing room, you want to have some choices. I think Luke was there to set the tone. But I also think the tone was there all along.
Right now, there is so much good TV on. Specifically, when you have comedians who are playing themselves on a show. You have these great series coming from Louie and Jim Jeffries on Legit. Did you look at some of the other shows currently populating the landscape, and get an idea about how you wanted to take this in a different direction? For me, who runs a TV site, there is a worry...I love your radio show, and I wasn't sure how this would be different. When I saw it, I was like, "Wow, he pulled it off."
Marc Maron: It becomes sort of a discretion about comics on television. You always have a comedian playing some version of himself on television. That is not unique. It has been going on for years. On network TV, and traditional three camera shoots, and then when Seinfeld ended, Larry David started doing single camera stuff. It really comes down to...Comedians playing themselves with their own point of view on television is not unusual. Comics being themselves in a somewhat heightened reality of their own lives is relatively new. Probably starting...On Seinfeld, he is certainly playing a comedian. What it comes down to, I don't think any of us studied...With Jim Jeffries, I don't watch his show...But with Larry David, and Jim, and Louie, we all use the single camera mode. Outside of that, I just knew that the decisions we made, and what I wanted to do with my show...We knew the episodes would be story driven. I wasn't that concerned or in need of shooting my stand-up. I had a unique ability to use celebrities in the way that I do in my life, which was an element we wanted to showcase. We could have them appear on the podcast, and use them in a different way, and it could edge into the narrative. We also had some signature ideas around how I communicate. I think that me, Jim Jeffries, and Louis C.K. all have different styles, in terms of how the shows are shot, and how we do the comedy. So I was never that concerned that they would be similar. I know that people are going to seek a comparison. All in all. You watched it. You watch a lot of television. I think they are all very different shows.
They are all completely different. I don't know why I was worried about it beforehand. I want to see the show be good, and I want to see you and the show succeed, because I am a fan of yours. There's that worry, like, "This idea has been done. What new can they bring to this sitcom genre?" But you guys have succeeded. I say guys, because I don't know how many different people have worked on the show. You succeeded.
Marc Maron: Right. Well, that's good. I'm happy to hear that. It was about having faith in the material. Just because culture demands that you compare...We live in a 'Troll' culture, where people want to compare and create competition where there isn't any. I live a different life from Louis C.K.. I probably live a very different life from Jim Jeffries. So it was really kind of honoring where I was coming from and what my life looks like. And building a show around that. And knowing that was going to be very different. I was never concerned about it. The things that anyone shares in any show, like the emotions, or the situations that people get in...Some of them are general, and I don't even really see any of that. Louie is its own thing. Legit is its own thing. I'm happy that I'm my own thing. I feel that, its no concern of mine. I know that question will come at me. But that's what it is.
I was listening to the Jimmy Walker show that you did. Earlier on in that show, you were talking about Maron, and having to watch your own performance. You've done 10 episodes. How do you think watching yourself in those 10 episodes, and over analyzing your performance, will affect or change the way you approach the character of yourself if you do a season 2?
Marc Maron: My feeling about it is, this is new to me. All of it. I just want to do the best we can, and I feel we did do the best we could with what we were working with. That's my acting, and the writing staff that we had, which is small, with the money that we had. I don't feel insecure about it. The thrill for me is that we did a pretty amazing thing, given the opportunity that we had. I think, if the network is excited about it, and they want to give us more, and they want to give us more support...They were incredibly supportive...But creatively, with a little more money, we could definitely challenges ourselves even more. I would love to challenge myself more as an actor. To look at these first ten, I can go, "When I do this, this, this, it seems to work. These parts of my personality seem to be more open to that..." I'm completely open to that. I'm not stubborn. I enjoy the collaboration. I know that I am new to this medium in this way. I am new to acting, and scripted comedy in general. I am completely excited to evolve, and see what works, and see what doesn't. I want to try and grow the show in those ways. I am absolutely open to that.
In terms of IFC, it seems like they allow for more growth. Unlike some of the networks, they are not going to cut you right off. They will give you a couple of seasons to let the show evolve...
Marc Maron: They were great. They were unbelievable. Everybody was great. The production studio, the network, it was all very diplomatic. There is nothing in the show that I don't want in the show. There is nothing that they made us take out that I am upset about. It was all very diplomatic. There were conversations about all the notes. We defend what we thought needed to be defended. We dug in where the logic was sound. It was all very collaborative. And it worked out well. They are very encouraging, and very open. It was an amazing experience. I have limited experience with the bigger networks. I have written some things. I had some script deals that didn't get made, for whatever reason. There was one situation, I don't remember which network...Maybe it didn't even get that far...Where the executives would chime in, and you were trying to accommodate a lot of speculation about what should be in a show. That makes it very difficult. You just see your vision get amputated. Then having things that don't fit get put on it. Noting like that happened here. It was all very exciting. And collaborative. And diplomatic.
You're known for talking to comedians. And you have mostly comedians guest starring on this first season. But I love your shows, where you sit down with musicians. And I especially loved the conversation between you and Jack White. Do you think you'll have him, or any other musicians on in the second season?
Marc Maron: I think that is a great idea. I would love to get a musician on the show. And Jack White would be awesome. We didn't try this time. We were focusing on people I get along with. People that have some juice of their own. We only had 6 and a half weeks to shoot ten episodes. So we talked to a lot of people. No one said no. A lot of people couldn't do it because of scheduling. When you are on that type of shoot, you say, "These are the two days that we are doing this." It became a little tricky in terms of outreach for guests, just in terms of scheduling. But yeah, I would love to have a musician on if we do another season. That would be great.
This whole Jay and Jimmy thing was going down at NBC, and in the midst of that, rumors swirled that David Letterman might be leaving. Is there any chance that you would be in the running to replace him?
Marc Maron: I don't know. I don't think I'm at that level. It would be a very interesting, amazing thing if I were. I don't see it. Maybe someone's got some plans somewhere. I don't think it's with me. But I'm flattered that you think that I am.
I mean this honestly, and sincerely. I have been doing this for almost ten years, talking to people and interviewing them to promote their stuff. And you make me want to quit my job. Because I don't think there will ever be a better interviewer than you. Spanning all time.
Marc Maron: Ah, that is very nice, man. I appreciate that.
I honestly mean that. I'm not just trying to kiss your butt cause I'm on the phone with you right now.
Marc Maron: That's alright! Let them know over at CBS that I'm open to auditioning.
The Louie episode didn't scare you away from that at all?
Marc Maron: I don't know...That episode, if anything, reveals...Not a reality of talk shows. But a reality of politics in showbiz. What happened in that episode is not an unusual thing. Whether it be a movie, or a sitcom, or anything else. To play that trick, and pit people against each other, and force someone into renegotiations. It's just a reality of the business. And it's a little brutal. I think Louie played that very well. I sort of had that empathetic experience when I auditioned for Saturday Night Live. They revealed to me afterwards that I was brought in to shake up Norm McDonald and his negotiations. When you realize that, or that is how you've been played, it really is sobering in the nature of the business, and that it really is a business in that very few of us have much power. Its one of those things. I do a podcast, and I have full power over that podcast. It's a great thing. But its one of those things. You get moved around a big board for big money, and they are seeing if they can get people to look at things long enough to buy them. That's show business.
Maron debuts with /shows/maron/Internet Troll on Friday, May 3 at 10 pm, only on IFC.