Marc Maron’s career has spanned more than two decades. In that time, he’s done standup around the globe and he’s been on Conan more than any other comedian. He hosted clip-show “Short Attention Span Theatre” during the formative years of Comedy Central and shared stages with some of the biggest names in mainstream and alternative comedy. Somehow, Maron achieved all of this without becoming a household name.
Of course, you don’t rack up a resume like Maron’s without gaining a following. However, when he found himself jobless when his hosting stint with radio network Air America ended, he decided to go in a new direction. That direction was away from what the corporately owned executive run entertainment industry had previously given him for work, and in to the realm of the then-new format of podcasting.
For those not in the loop, a podcast is a spoken- word audio program, distributed on the Internet through iTunes. Many radio shows have gone digital and now allow their listeners to download episodes, but many have been digital-only since their inception. Through this relatively young medium of podcasting, Maron was able to free himself from the restrictive influence of TV and radio censors all while remaking his career from the ground up. He was even so bold as to name his show ‘What The Fuck?’ or WTF? in polite company.
“My career kind of dried up a bit and I had just gotten done working for a radio and streaming video show that went down the toilet.” Maron recalls.
Broke, jobless and in what he referred to as a ‘Bad place’, Maron was able to use a technicality to grab himself some free studio time for his new endeavour.
“They didn’t really kick us out of the building, so we broke in to the studio with our security cards and started doing these podcasts,” Podcasting had been around for a while, but in 2009 the format was beginning to take off with a number of comedians and personalities producing their own shows.
“…I didn’t listen to podcasts, but I knew that [Comedian Adam Carolla] was doing it, [Comedian Jimmy Pardo] was doing it… and [Director] Kevin Smith were all doing it… so I said ‘look, we’ve got the access so let’s try it.’”
Since then he’s logged 356 episodes of the podcast. He’s interviewed some (if not all) of the biggest names in comedy, and in the process he’s produced some of the most compelling spoken-word entertainment since the early days of radio. His list of guests include Conan O’Brien, Judd Apatow, Robin Williams, Louis CK, and Patton Oswalt.
WTF has shone new light on his career, and gained Maron an army of passionate new fans. These new fans show up at his stand-up gigs and the live tapings of the WTF podcast with baked goods and fan art. Maron has a special relationship with his fans, because they are responsible for funding the show. Yes, the podcast is free, but in addition to special “premium episodes” there is an assortment of ways that listeners support the show including donations.
So now that Marc Maron has rebuilt his career from scratch using the Internet and this new medium of podcasting, he’s finally going to be able to tell his story on some older formats. After years of being criminally ignored, Maron recently finished the first draft of his book, and expects his first scripted television show to premiere on IFC in 2013. That’s all pretty good for a guy who conducts most of his interviews in a garage in Los Angeles California that he calls “The Cat Ranch”.
Catch WTF with Marc Maron as part of the Vancouver Comedy and Arts Festival on February 16 at Venue.
By Jaron James
Photos: Dmitri von Klein (B&W), Seth Olenick (colour); retrieved from WTFpod.com