Marc Maron isn’t for everyone. More accurately, and as the stand-up comedian, podcast pioneer, and personable interviewer has told his fans on more than one occasion, he’s barely for himself. Before starting his now infamously well regarded bi-weekly podcast WTF with Marc Maron, Maron was a struggling comic, twice divorced, who had seemingly burned down more bridges than he had established connections within the entertainment industry. His was a well regarded and respected voice of the stand-up comedy racket for several decades, but as an individual he was marked by an insatiable neediness that left many would-be friends and mentors alienated and ostracized.
All of the things that make Maron hard to work with have resulted in a humbling that finally led to WTF with Marc Maron, a podcast that has since gone on to become one of the most frequently cited and well known productions of the medium. Following Maron’s confessional and intimate approach to the celebrity interview, several would-be podcasters have sprung up over the course the past half-quarter-century hoping to ape his style, to both greater and lesser success. But what makes Maron such an inimitable talent, both as a stand-up performer and by extension a podcast host, is in his learned ability to empathize and connect. If it weren’t for nearly thirty years of spiritual humbling that Maron had to go through over the course of his stand-up career, he wouldn’t be such an interesting and emotive podcaster to listen to on a weekly basis.
Last week, Maron announced the cancellation of his eponymous TV sitcom Maron on IFC to some notice. While the show never generated the numbers that some studio executives might wish for, the program received plenty of glowing emails and notes of thanks from Maron’s many fans, as read aloud by the show-runner himself on his podcast. But, again, Maron isn’t for everyone, a fact that quickly became apparent when a writer for the popular industry trade publication The Hollywood Reporter erroneously reported that Maron had been cancelled by IFC. Presumably, a member of the news staff forwarded the information bearing a headline loudly proclaiming cancellation after quickly skimming a transcript or misinformed summary of Maron’s standard preamble to his weekly podcast from Tuesday July 12, 2016. The offending journalist then more than likely supplied a perfunctory post for publication and distribution, and the resulting rift it created between Maron and the supposedly venerable entertainment industry outlet was accordingly scolded.
But what is far more telling about this brief altercation between Maron and a popular entertainment website is how far outside the mainstream a show like Maron really is. Concluded by the choice of its lead performer and creator after four seasons on the air, Maron managed to wed the liberally confessional nature of Maron’s much beloved podcast to the more conservatively structured format of the situation comedy. What resulted was a program that held many of the same character traits of its titular protagonist and namesake, namely the predisposition towards alienating and ostracizing potential viewers not already on board with the comedian’s unforgiving and self-effacing style.
Over the course of four seasons, Maron tracked a fictional doppelganger whose life and outward personality served to match the real life Marc Maron in much the same way that Curb Your Enthusiasm served to lampoon the real life Larry David. Getting off to as rocky a start as Maron himself did when he first started WTF with Marc Maron, the first season saw Maron on the show forced to come to grips with his past behavior in order to move forwards, both professionally and personally. As the show continued into season two and three, Maron began to find its legs as a sit-com, and Maron became a better actor and writer for television. Everything in Maron’s life leading up to the final season of Maron served to perfectly encapsulate all of what has made WTF with Marc Maron such an enduring facet of the contemporary cultural zeitgeist. Covering the fall-out from a drug-fueled relapse instigated by the conclusion to the show’s third season, season four of Maron capably managed to offer rehabilitation, renewal, and recovery for both the fictional Marc Maron depicted on the program and the real life podcaster striving to share a personal life lesson already familiar to many a WTF with Marc Maron listener.
The fact that Maron was concluded after four seasons by the singular choice and creative discretion of its chief show runner speaks to the singular appeal of the stand-up comedian in question. Maron isn’t one to produce content for content’s sake. On his podcast this past week, the comedian made it clear that the decision to end the show following the airing of the final two episodes of season four was one made by himself and himself alone, and a means by which Maron could provide a more meaningful and definitive end to the program for himself and his most devoted fans.
Marc Maron still struggles to find absolute satisfaction in much of the work he does. On a regular basis in the opening fifteen to twenty minutes of his podcast, the comedian will lament all of the ways in which he might hope to better himself or overcome any number of perceived professional and personal shortcomings, real, exaggerated, or imagined. And this is also his premiere gift to his fans. WTF with Marc Maron provides its listeners with a voice whose personal hurt, frustrations, and depressions mirror their own without self-censorship or political equivocation. Maron is a situation comedy for those who feel caged in by the canned dialogue and neatly-packaged jokes of more popular fare like The Big Bang Theory or Modern Family.
Marc Maron isn’t for everyone. But he is for a select group of disillusioned and isolated individuals whose angst and hurt has been largely ignored by the mainstream entertainment industry. Maron is crass, profane, and impolite when he is being his most brutally honest, a virtue that shines through on WTF with Marc Maron and Maron. Maron might not be for everyone, but for the people who he really speaks to his voice and stand-up persona is a godsend, and for whom Maron will forever hold a special place within the upper echelons of the situation comedy genre as a collective whole.
Featured Image: IFC