Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Bob Odenkirk & David Cross
January 30, 2012
"People that love Mr. Show, love it so much they watch it real closely and get way into it. So there’s a place in their mind where we’re standing next to each other on stage doing a show." – Bob Odenkirk
"People always ask me, 'When are you and Bob going to do something? Are you ever going to do something again?' There never really is an assumption that we had a falling out or anything. I think people understand we have these two separate lives and we live on two different coasts. But we’re always looking to get together and work again." – David Cross
Publicist: Bob and David are both on the line. I will give you about a three-minute heads-up when you’re almost ready and done.
David Cross: Can you give me a five-minute warning on the three-minute heads-up? Is that cool?
Bob Odenkirk: And I need somebody to call ‘places’.
GM: Places! Here we go.
BO: Okay, I’m here. I’m in my costume.
GM: How are you guys?
GM: I was thinking, all you’ve done as individuals over the years yet you’re still kind of connected. It’s always Bob & David.
BO: Well, I mean legally we are, but is that what you mean?
GM: Yeah, legally. No, with the fans. You’re a comedy team even though you haven’t worked together in years except for occasionally. You’re still that to a lot of people.
DC: You can speak for yourself, Bob, but I don’t think we ever considered ourselves a comedy team in the classic kind of Martin & Lewis, Abbott & Costello, Nichols & May way.
BO: I think myself alone, I’m Abbott & Costello.
DC: I’m actually half of a person so we’re two and a half people, which predates Two and a Half Men by a good decade. But people always ask me, whenever I do any press for anything, or if I’m just in a bar, “When are you and Bob going to do something? Are you ever going to do something again?” There never really is an assumption that we had a falling out or anything. I think people understand we have these two separate lives and we live on two different coasts. But we’re always looking to get together and work again.
BO: Also the people that love Mr. Show, they love it so much that they watch it real closely and they get way into it. So there’s a place in their mind where we’re standing next to each other on stage doing a show.
GM: I read an interview with you two in Vanity Fair. I think it was pretty recent. It really drove home the point that entertainment is so fractured. Because in my world, everybody knows Mr. Show. You guys were talking about how it’s a business and it was a cult show, so you understand why it got cancelled. I turn on a network talk show or Saturday Night Live and I have no clue who the lead guest is. So it’s always a bit jarring when a Mr. Show or Arrested Development gets cancelled.
DC: That’s because you keep watching Mr. Show over and over and over again. Your point of reference is from the mid- to late-nineties. Justin Bieber wasn’t even born yet. You’ve really got to get out there and peruse a couple Us Weekly’s.
BO: I agree, Guy. I think there are so many channels that entertainment itself is split into a million billion pieces and you can just be well known in one and not known at all in the others.
GM: It seems like a disconnect, though. It seems like it’s more popular; it’s not just a cult thing.
BO: You work in the comedy scene. So I don’t know. What’s the biggest thing you’ve done, David? Chipmunks?
DC: Oh, easily.
BO: I’d say Breaking Bad is hugely bigger than Mr. Show.
DC: Oh, by far. Definitely.
GM: But do they know you as Bob Odenkirk or is it, “That’s Saul. That’s that guy.”
BO: They go Saul Goodman. They don’t know me at all.
GM: And by the way, my son loved the Chipmunk movie.
DC: Well, that’s who it’s for. So that’s good.
GM: Your website is gone, you guys. What happened there?
BO: That was my fuck-up. That was my fault. I don’t understand how it works. I don’t know what a server is or why you have to pay somebody for it or where you pay or how you contact them. So what happened was the subscription ran out, I guess. Is that what it’s called? And I guess some companies just buy random sites and then they put their information up. So if you go to bobanddavid.com… I’m going to go there right now and look. They’re selling pharmaceuticals or something. I’m going to go see it. Hold on… (to himself, typing) bobanddavid.com… Something happened to it… Oh, it’s for sale! Holy shit! You guys, it says it’s for sale!
DC: How much?
BO: I wonder how much. You’re right, they’re going to try to get loads of money out of us. So some shitty company did that to us. They just grabbed it up.
GM: Any plans to relaunch another one?
BO: You know, I have a site of my own that I barely keep up. I don’t really know what to do with a website so I just can’t do it.
DC: I think, for myself – and this probably has a lot to do with my age and my background as a stand-up – just writing anonymously in a vacuum where people comment their own stupid bullshitty things where they’re trying to be funny or mean or whatever, is not appealing to me in any way. Whatever I would throw out there on Twitter – and I don’t have a Twitter account or a website or Facebook – I’d rather just say it on stage or write it down somewhere else other than this. It’s just not very appealing to me, the kind of fleeting, empty, not a real kind of interaction. And I think that probably has something to do with my age and [being a] stand-up.
GM: You guys are doing Mr. Show here in Vancouver.
GM: But you’re doing sketches.
DC: It’s important to make that distinction. Bob and I are hosting the gala at the festival. There will be stand-ups. We’ll be fucking around. We’ll be doing some kind of very loose sketch stuff but it is not in any way, shape, or form Mr. Show.
BO: David and I have done a lot of this stuff, too, before we did Mr. Show and during Mr. Show and after. Like David said, it’s loose kind of sketch-like improvisational scenes and some hosting duties that, again, are us goofing around and having a good time. We have ideas and pieces we’re going to do. It’s not like we’re just riffing up there. But yeah, it’s not a constructed Mr. Show. And we have guests who are great. We have amazing guests that Will Davis let us choose. These people are all people that we love and want to share with the audience.
DC: It’ll be great and a lot of fun and people will be happy but they should know they’re not getting a Mr. Show revival at all. We’re hosting, we’ll be doing stuff, and it’s important for people to know that going into it otherwise they’d be, I think, seriously disappointed. But it will be a really fun show.
BO: John Ennis from Mr. Show will be there. And we have Josie Long from England. She’s an awesome comic. And Nick Thune from America. Marc Maron, who’s an old friend of both of ours, will be tearing it up with the introspection. You know who’s on the show?
GM: Who else?
BO: Chelsea Peretti. I thought maybe you had a list. Matt Braunger. David, do you know Matt?
DC: Yes. And these guys will be doing stand-up, you know? And Bob and I will be interacting. It’s that kind of show.
BO: We’re going to heckle. Garfunkle & Oates are on the show, too. You know Garfunkle & Oates?
BO: So it’s a great show. I mean, if it was just those acts it would be an amazing show. But then you add in that David and I are going to be SCREWING AROUND – put that in bold caps – with John Ennis, and there’s a chance, I’m just going to warn you, that there will be a reunion of April Wine.
DC: A slight chance. We’re working on it. Fingers crossed. No guarantees but that’s something we’re working on.
GM: This show is specifically written for Vancouver, right? It’s not something you’re doing elsewhere.
DC: Specifically for Vancouver. It’s a one-off. It’s only for Vancouver. We’ll be doing it in the Vancouverosian language so even people from America won’t understand it. It’s specifically for Vancouver. There will be Jap-a-dogs and Granville Island pops.
BO: And if anybody from outside Vancouver tries to enjoy the show, we’re going to have some surprises for them that aren’t going to be real pleasant.
DC: Yeah, there’ll be an alarm that goes off, too, that will isolate them and highlight them and they’ll be escorted out in a very brusque manner.
"Anybody, your bestest buddy in the world is going to irritate you in some way or fashion. Working on those shows was very, very intense." – David Cross
GM: I heard talk of Mr. Show 2.0. Is that something you’d like to get off the ground?
BO: You know, we don’t really talk about that. We did a show together for HBO three years ago that was kind of neat but it wasn’t really Mr. Show 2.0; it was a pretty different show.
DC: I think you might be referring to our conversation about that experience about how we went to HBO after that. We tried to put that show together and we sort of pitched this idea and we used the term – or somebody else actually used the term – Mr. Show 2.0 because that’s kind of a shortcut to describe what it was, which was Bob and I doing sketches. It wasn’t Mr. Show but I think that’s what you might be referring to.
BO: Oh, yeah, yeah. We did have a pitch to them of a pretty loose kind of sketch show that we offered to do that they passed on. But we still like writing together and performing together so you never know what’s going to happen. But right now if you like us and us working together you gotta go to Vancouver and go to the gala.
GM: Clearly you don’t get on each others’ nerves when you work so irregularly together. But when you were working together all the time, was there stuff about each other that just drove you nuts?
BO: Oh, sure.
DC: But that’s going to happen to anybody. You know, when we’re working together we’re not 9 to 5 and then going home; we were working ten, twelve, fourteen hours a day, sometimes six days a week. Anybody, your bestest buddy in the world is going to irritate you in some way or fashion. Working on those shows was very, very intense. And Bob and I had a lot of roles. It wasn’t just acting or writing and producing and editing; it was all those things all the time. Plus dealing with a lot of kind of precious personalities within our writers and actors and stuff. Including ourselves. But nothing titillating.
GM: You guys are also going to be on the live WTF. I know you’ve been on it individually in the past. And you’ve known Marc for a long time. Are you surprised that he’s the guy to bring the comedy community together?
BO: I’m not surprised. I think Marc has got a good vibe for getting people to sort of relax and talk seriously. As much fun as it is to joke around in interviews and stuff, which is really a lot of fun and a natural thing to want to do, it’s also, I guess, kind of cool for people who are fans of comedy to kind of get to know the comedians as people. And he’s just very good at that. I’m glad people noticed he was good at it. And I think podcasts and what they are and how people enjoy them is particularly conducive to what Marc does, which is taking his time and hanging out. Even a talk show on TV, they kind of rush through their five minutes and they have a job, which is usually to plug a movie or a TV show. You don’t really get to know people. And I learned recently that people who listen to podcasts want them to be longer. They want them to be as long as they can be. A lot of times they’re listening on a drive so it just lends itself to taking your time and having a conversation. And Marc’s great at that. He’s like a therapist but he has no degree.
GM: Yeah, he’s like the modern-day Dr. Katz.
DC: I agree with everything Bob said. I might be a little surprised – I don’t know if that’s the right word – that he took the mantle and ran with it, but he’s kind of the perfect guy for it. That makes total sense.
GM: I agree. I haven’t missed a show since the beginning. But what I mean is you’ve known him from when he was more of a prickly character and if you were thinking of him back then…
DC: No, for sure. Before he sobered up and everything, but that was a long, long time ago. I never would have guessed in a million years first of all that podcasts would be invented – I would have had to be very prescient for that – that he’d be the guy. But once he sobered up and everything, yeah, it makes total sense.
"Dennis was a very early supporter of the show. There were a handful of guys – Garry Shandling specifically, and Bill Maher and Dennis Miller – who went into HBO and said, 'This show is great. You gotta pick it up. You gotta keep it on.'" – David Cross
GM: I saw a video of you guys when Mr. Show was first coming on the air and you were on the old Dennis Miller show. David, you’ve talked about him since. You seemed to get along so well back then. Have you run into him since?
DC: Dennis was a very early supporter of the show. There were a handful of guys – Garry Shandling specifically, and Bill Maher and Dennis Miller – who went into HBO and said, “This show is great. You gotta pick it up. You gotta keep it on.” I don’t really know Dennis personally beyond that world. And I’ve really met him maybe three times. Whatever my feeling about his politics and his stance, that’s separate from those other things. But I haven’t seen him in a long time. Also, I live in New York and he lives in Santa Barbara. Bob might have run into him since then, I don’t know.
BO: Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t see Dennis. I did actually listen to his radio show but he was talking to a bunch of Saturday Night Live people that I knew. So that was neat. But I guess he’s like a right wing guy now. I don’t really know.
DC: Who did he endorse? He came out and endorsed Cain. Herman Cain, with literally zero ideas; just a bunch of silly rhetoric and blustering. So, yeah.
BO: I don’t know what’s happening with him. I can’t really comment on him. He was always very nice to me and gave me opportunities to perform on his talk show. Before I was even at Saturday Night Live, he would do jokes that I sent to him, which was really cool and meant a lot. When you’re waiting tables it’s neat to see your stuff make it on the air.
GM: A couple years ago I saw his stand-up and it was refreshing to see that in his whole hour-long set maybe only five minutes was political. So what we see on the talk shows is horrendous but…
DC: He has a radio show, too. A syndicated, five days a week radio show and the majority of it is political so it’s out there. Again, you can agree with it or not or think it’s funny or not, it’s all subjective.
BO: I like listening to Glenn Beck.
DC: They have a country & western duo.
BO: Have you ever listened to him, David?
DC: Not on his radio show, no.
BO: It’s the best. It’s so funny. It’s craziness.
DC: Personally I’m a Mark Levin fan because of the way he talks…
DC: Because of his faux-quick to anger, his righteous indignation. He ramps up. He goes from zero to a hundred in seconds. He’ll hang up on a caller and just go off and it’s all kind of premeditated. Or if not premeditated, he’s just putting on a show. He cracks me up. Mark Levin is I think my favourite of all those guys.
GM: And before we get hung up on, is the large part of the draw in coming to Vancouver the other guests Will brings in? It’s a nice hang for you guys.
BO: It’s a great hang, yeah. I’m going to bring my daughter with me. We love that city. And then of course these comics. Yeah, it’s a big attraction for us. I haven’t seen Josie Long since I saw her in Montreal about nine years ago. Or maybe it was about six years ago. I don’t even get to see a lot of these comics regularly. I see Nick Thune at the UCB. So yeah, getting to see the acts that we love and the fact that they let us choose who’s on the gala was a great plus for us. For me.
DC: Not for me. I’m just about Japadog and that’s it. That really is all I’m interested in. And, I don’t know, there’s an okay poutine place in the West End. That’s about it.
GM: I heard Japadog has expanded to New York.
DC: Yeah, St. Mark’s.
BO: What is it?
DC: Japadog, I think I might have told you this, is the best hot dog you’re ever going to have. They just have a few carts and then there’s that one small place where you walk through a door. It’s the best hot dog you’ll ever have. And they just opened one up here in New York on St. Mark’s.
BO: Okay, I’ll check it out.
DC: The end.
GM: The end. Thanks a lot, guys.
BO: Hey, Guy, thank you.
BO: See you at the show.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Marc Maron – January 29, 2012
"I’m still fundamentally self-involved. I think what I have now is I feel like I have my place in the community. I don’t feel like I’m banging my head against the wall or desperate in any way or angry at my place in the world. So I think if anything I move through the world with a little more grace and a little more confidence." – Marc Maron
Guy MacPherson: How are you?
Marc Maron: Uh… I’m all right. I overslept a little and I’m doing shit. Every day’s fucking busy. Been running around a lot. How you doing?
GM: I’m great. I can imagine how busy you are. And you’ve got a real team around you now, too. It used to be I would just call you up. Now I’ve got to go through channels!
MM: Well, I mean, the benefit is… I’ve never been a guy that really understood why people need channels. I mean, you could have just emailed me but it really just comes down to [the fact that] I’m unable to contain my schedule. Like, I’m unable to deal with anything other than on a day-to-day basis without getting completely overwhelmed. So the filter is really just about, you know, how do I schedule shit? I just can’t do that basic thing for myself anymore.
GM: I totally understand because I have a fraction of what you have and my wife needs to tell me what I have coming up because I never seem to remember.
MM: Yeah, it’s horrendous. It’s like I want to do as much as I can and talk to people – certainly you – but I can’t look at my schedule anymore or I’d never be able to get out of bed.
GM: I did email you and it went directly to your publicist.
MM: Yeah, I just sent it over to her and told her this guy, I like him and we’ve talked before.
GM: I put in a little dig at publicists.
MM: Oh, yeah, she definitely registered that, which I thought was funny.
GM: You told me once years ago before all this happened to you that you were a little too available, to fans and to anybody. Is that still the case?
MM: I don’t really know, you know? One thing I’m starting to realize is that I’m doing it the way I do it in the sense that I don’t know what other people do. I try to be as present as possible. I’m doing bigger shows now. I’m doing meet-and-greets. I basically sell my own merch and sign things and take pictures. I try to respond to emails especially if people have a certain amount of need to connect and it’s something I can handle. I have to filter emails from, like, ‘Hey, great show, buddy. I just really enjoy it. Keep it up.’ And then people who are like, ‘I’m having this problem and I don’t know how you got sober.’ Or ‘I really want to try to do stand-up.’ Stuff that I can handle that people seem to be struggling with. I don’t go too in depth. I don’t build up too big a rapport but I try to at least say this is what I did or try this or that. Just an acknowledgement thing. With sobriety I generally try to be a little more proactive because that’s part of being somebody in recovery or staying sober: you’re there for people who are trying to do that, steer them in the right direction. Without it getting too personal, you can sort of give them some advice. So if it’s stand-up advice or advice around needing help with that, I try to get back to people. It gets a little tricky because my show is so open and I’m fairly transparent and I deal with day-to-day stuff and with my own struggles that people do have a fairly intimate relationship with me. It’s just one-sided. So I try and be as gracious as possible. And these people who enjoy me and who know me in a real way, to have that one moment with you where you’re meeting them after a show and they’re like, “He was a fucking dick”; I don’t think I’m a dick. I do think sometimes I’m a little overwhelmed. But I try to [be available], I think is the point but it becomes difficult because there’s only so much of me to go around.
GM: You have a little more understanding of people with fame now that you have a level of it yourself more than you’ve had in the past. Sometimes we get an impression of a celebrity but I’ve always thought it’s more the perception that has changed rather than the actual person who becomes a celebrity.
MM: That might be true. To some degree. There’s a part of all of us that you sort of hit a wall with. I think that moment where you’re like, ‘How do they expect me to deal with this? Don’t they know I’m overwhelmed with stuff? I’m overwhelmed with expectation or people who want to connect.’ You gotta battle with the fact that no, they don’t know that. When somebody sends you an email they’re not thinking necessarily that you get a million emails; they’re just sending you an email. Or they’re wanting to have that moment. You don’t want to get frustrated because they’re not necessarily aware of that.
GM: You talk on the show about being a changed man now. You’re a more generous colleague to your fellow comics, not so fuelled by jealousy. Is that maturity or is it a result of your success and the respect you now get?
MM: I think it’s a mixture of both. I think when you struggle for a long time and you’re not getting results that on a day-to-day basis you feel like you’re failing and it’s hard to have pride without it being bitter. I think what you’re holding onto, and anyone who pursues something and it’s not working out or they’re not getting the attention they think their work deserves, your pride becomes angry. And then it becomes more about ‘where the fuck is mine? How come fucking people don’t get me’ or whatever. I think most people, once they get mature realize their limitations and have a certain pride and ownership in who they are and what they’re doing. I think that’s part of maturity. I don’t think that it necessarily happens to everybody. I’m not saying that all grown-ups are mature. But I think the fact that I feel comfortable with myself and I feel appreciated definitely has helped that. But believe me, it’s still there; it’s just not driving my sense of self. As soon as I feel good about something and somebody says something good about someone else, I’m still like, “Oh shit, can’t I have one second where I feel like I’ve made it somewhere?” That’s still in my own head, you know? But it’s gotten better because I feel comfortable. I feel present. I feel seen. I feel validated. I feel finally that 25 years and change of work is now sort of coming together in a weird way, in a unique way. My stand-up really has never been better, I feel better on stage, I don’t have any real fear. And to be honest, man, to spend your life wanting to do a theatre, wanting to be able to sell a thousand tickets and not really knowing at different points of your career whether you can handle that, I mean that’s the weirdest thing about it, Guy, is that I couldn’t have handled what’s going on right now ten years ago. There’s just no way. With the amount of self-consciousness and self-abuse that I was going through and the amount of fear I was dealing with, there was no way I could have showed up for what’s going on right now at another point in my career. I did the shows in Boston. I don’t have time to be afraid anymore. And I’m not really afraid of being on stage and I know that my comedy’s in a good place and I’m in a good place so I can walk on stage in front of a thousand people and do an hour or an hour-plus and actually be thrilled about it. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced… These are people that are coming to see me or coming to see the What the Fuck show because they want to see see those things. And it’s pretty thrilling to be able to perform for a bunch of people that want to see you. And not go out and do a room where more than half the people have no fucking idea who you are. That’s the big reward.
GM: But you still like performing to those that don’t know you, right?
MM: I think that’s the job of comedians but I’m just saying that the perk of it now is that I never thought I would have a small theatre of people who wanted to see me. It didn’t feel like it was going to happen. I just started to believe that was too weird or too different and that it was always going to be like just a percentage. I like the challenge of it. It’s a great feeling when someone comes up to you, like it happened in Salt Lake City, some older guy with his wife, a guy I would never assume, if I looked at him, would ever get me. He said, “That was the best show I’ve ever seen. I never heard of you before coming here.” I mean, that’s tremendous. To me, that’s the real job of doing stand-up on some level. But having the support has also enabled me to take new chances, to open my heart a little more, go new places with the comedy. It’s an amazing thing. And it’s a pretty tremendous feeling. But I do think things happen when they’re supposed to happen, without being too spiritual about it. And I don’t know that it’s necessarily some sort of synchronicity thing but there must have been a reason why this didn’t happen before: because I didn’t have it in me; I didn’t have the feeling necessary or the craft in place or I was consumed with some sort of paralyzing fear that mutated my ability.
GM: If this success and respect had come in your 20s you think you would have just spiraled out of control with drugs, moreso than you did?
MM: No, no. I think I would have fucked it up. You know, I still fear fucking it up. I had opportunities in my 20s. And when I look back at them, I was fuelled by a certain spite. I had big enough management and I was a unique comic voice for a pretty long time but I was more than willing to let people think… Most of the time people in the business, they don’t have any fucking idea about anything. You’ve got to show up with what you do and they’ve got to see it sitting in somewhere. So I think for a long time I had a certain anger, I was neurotic, edgy, whatever the fuck you want to call it, but they would try to package me in their head. They’d be like, “Oh, you’re the angry guy” or “You’re the neurotic guy” or “You’re the political guy.” You’re this guy, you’re that guy. And you just sort of roll with that. You’re like, “Okay, that seems good.” But I always knew it was limiting. Even seeing me do five minutes of stand-up on TV, that’s not really necessarily a great indicator of what I do. So now with the podcast being the sort of bedrock which I’m pulling from, people that know me from that podcast, they know me. They know the full range of what I’m doing. I was never able to be sort of a caricature of myself, which is really what makes you a more efficient product, show business-wise. So when I got opportunities in the past, there was part of me that was always like, “Well, this isn’t really what I do. I need to do more.” And there was also a time where I really couldn’t see myself as a refillable vessel, as somebody that people could write jokes for, because I had such a defined point of view. I mean, I’m pretty good at delivering jokes if somebody writes them for me – I’ve had that opportunity on television before – but how do I really represent myself? I could never figure that out. And it just turns out in the last quarter of my career here, or whatever it is, I’ve created something on my own that really embraces my full personality.
GM: You’ve got to be so proud of the show. But how much of that is tied its reception. That is, if you were doing this same show but banging your head against the wall trying to get listeners, would you be as proud of the product as you must be now?
MM: No. I mean, look, I’m the first guy to say that I was poorly parented by selfish people and that there’s part of me that was always seeking some sort of “you’re doing good.” It’s hard for me to give that to myself unless it’s supported by hundreds of strangers. I mean, I am a comedian. So I would say if you want to set up that scenario where I’m doing this same show and nobody’s listening to it, no, I’d be fucking miserable and it would probably be a different show.
GM: I mean if you had, say, thousands of listeners instead of the 250,000 you’re getting each episode.
MM: Some of them are getting 300-plus-thousand. We just had a bump in the numbers for some reason where it’s getting up around 700,000 downloads a week across the catalogue… Uh, you know, it’s weird, man. Like, I’m happy about it but I don’t think I really on a day-to-day basis think about the scope of that. I mean, because the weird thing about doing a show like this is that I’m not reading ratings, I’m not in that competition. I’m still a guy sitting in his house and when I go to work I’m going out the back. That’s what I’m doing. And part of that, because it’s such a unique medium and no one really knows where it’s going, I mean, I can see the number of listeners and stuff, but it’s very weird when you’re running your own business in show business that me and my partner have had to figure out how to make this lucrative in a way so we can earn some money, because we’re putting a lot of work into this, and you’re becoming a small business person on top of doing the comedy and everything else. That’s been a unique thing. But I think, to answer your question, I’m thrilled at the success of the thing but I don’t think on a day-to-day basis I fully really realize the success until I go out and do two nearly sold-out shows in Boston or somebody recognizes me at an airport by hearing my voice, by overhearing me on the phone, or I have people recognize me on the street now from my podcast, not from television. That’s pretty profound, the familiarity people have with the show. When I go out and say that’s my show people go, “Oh, my God, I love that show. You’re that guy!” It’s pretty amazing. But I don’t know that I would have persisted.
GM: But it’s far exceeded your expectations.
MM: I didn’t have any. I was desperate. Look, when it comes right down to it, after the divorce and after all that other bullshit, I was sort of lost. My management had sort of hung me out to dry and I wasn’t selling tickets. I was just desperate. I had no expectations, no plan. I really didn’t, man. I’m just fucking glad it worked out. I just really had no fucking idea. We didn’t know what the show was going to be, really. I wasn’t doing it to get people. I didn’t know the power of podcasting. All I knew was that I was good at radio and it was a natural medium for me and that these other guys were doing them, like Pardo and Carolla and Smith, and I’m like, “Well, let’s try it.” I felt like wouldn’t it be great if I got a radio show. That’s a horrible place to be after doing the type of comedy I did for as long as I did it and then all of a sudden I’m like ‘it would be nice if I got a daily radio gig.’ I mean, radio’s just a wasteland. But I always thought like, well, I’m getting old. You don’t have to look good; you just have to be able to own that mic. Maybe this is the way I can just put myself out to pasture, is to find some sort of radio nook in the culture somewhere and do that. But you know, if you have to hang your hopes up on something like that it’s horrendous. Yeah, so it’s all a big surprise and I’m fucking thankful that it went the way it did. I can’t picture the other way because it didn’t happen. It’s just a sad image.
GM: As someone who’s been there from the beginning and heard every show in order, I think it’s a shame when listeners cherry-pick episodes based on who they like or the big names because I take away as much from the guests I’ve never heard of or guests I didn’t like before. You talk about the numbers, do you become a slave to them in the sense of booking guests and who might draw the biggest numbers?
MM: No, no, no. I don’t look at those numbers. It’s weird, I tend to sort of obsess about my iTunes ranking, which is an algorithm, which is meaningless, really; it doesn’t represent anything. I don’t ever look at the download numbers. I’ll ask my partner how an episode did and generally he’ll say, “Yeah, it’s doing what they do.” And some do more than others. But no, I never judge on that. I’m the same as you – I get just as much, if not more sometimes, out of people that people don’t know. And I’ve still got a lot in the can. I’m not icing people. If I don’t put someone on – because a lot of people want to go on – so if I don’t put someone on it’s really because I really don’t know that guy and I’m not necessarily sure that I would have a lot to talk to them about for an hour, you know? Or there’s an occasional case where, you know, that guy’s never been anything but an asshole to me and I’m not sure I want to be a friend. That happened. But usually I don’t judge them on what I think are going to be big numbers. I’m thrilled when we get somebody that will be big numbers but I’m not pursuing people for that reason at all. I never have.
"I’m completely vulnerable to being a fan and having that moment, thinking that they’re different. Ever since I was a little kid it’s always hard for me to separate when I develop a relationship with a character or an actor or something from afar, it’s hard for me. And I’m not ashamed of that. I’m glad I let that out." – Marc Maron
GM: It seems you get a little more jazzed for the big names, though. Is it a different mental preparation?
MM: It makes me a little more nervous because they’ve got more of a plan. They’re used to being public personalities. In my mind it’s harder to have a regular conversation. I get excited with comedy heroes. I’d never met Steven Wright, really. I’d never talked to him. I didn’t know he could have a conversation. I was thrilled about that. Or Richard Lewis. I mean, I don’t think I get excited about people because of what you were saying, because they’re going to bring in a lot of numbers. I’m excited when I get somebody that I think will. Like today we’re going to put Jimmy Kimmel up and I’m supposed to do his show today. So that’s exciting to be on a TV show where a guy owns this thing and I’m on it today. And I’m curious to see how that pans out. And I’m certainly excited when I get somebody who’s got maybe 4 million Twitter followers, what that episode does. But generally I’m thrilled to talk to big comedians and certainly people that I respect. You know, Richard Lewis, Zach, Jonathan Winters, Robin Williams, Steven Wright. Even Russell Brand, who I didn’t know. Well, I didn’t know his comedy at all. This fluke-ish opportunity came up for me to talk to him. And I really didn’t know anything about him and I went and saw his show the night before I interviewed him. And I think a lot of people think poorly of him. But I tell you, I had a great time talking to him. The banter sometimes was like, ‘Wow, we’re really riffing.’ He’s a riff guy. I don’t know ultimately how deep I got with him; he seems pretty adept at talking about himself in a very personal way about fairly dark things. He’s equipped to do it. He knows how to do it. It’s something he does. But I have a slightly, maybe, co-dependent interaction with people. I think it’s from having a fairly unpredictable, explosive father to where you’re sort of ready to emotionally interlock with people with big personalities. And sometimes when that happens you just sort of feed the momentum. It’s kind of fun. And I had that with Russell. I thought it was kind of fun.
GM: Yeah, it was a great one. I had the exact same impression of Russell Brand. I’d seen him on talk shows, didn’t like him, didn’t like the look. Saw him in a couple movies. Then I went to see him live a few months ago and he really impressed me with his intelligence. He’s just a funny guy. And I loved the episode you had with him.
MM: Yeah, it was good times. I had no idea what to do. He’s got an almost dangerous charisma. It’s kind of interesting. He’s a boundary-pusher on a personal level. When you talk to him, his charm and his intelligence is kind of menacing and I think he knows that. He digs that. So you just kinda got to stay in the saddle with that and not get run over by it.
GM: Well, you’re kind of a boundary-pusher in a personal way, too.
MM: No, no, I know, that’s why it was exciting. It’s like we were having some sort of weird, exciting joust of some sort.
GM: When you have actors on like the Breaking Bad guy or Jon Hamm, it seems a little incongruous that a guy like you, in show business for so long, would be star struck. And especially with your disposition.
MM: Yeah, but that’s definitely part of me. And it’s a real part of me. I’m completely vulnerable to being a fan and having that moment, thinking that they’re different. Ever since I was a little kid it’s always hard for me to separate when I develop a relationship with a character or an actor or something from afar, it’s hard for me. And I’m not ashamed of that. I’m glad I let that out. Because that’s part of why I like it. As much as I’m bitter about – or was bitter about – my own place in show business, I love movies, I love comedians, and I love being taken away by movies and characters and comics. I realized it the other day when I was on the plane watching a movie. It wasn’t even that great a movie but I was just so thrilled to be taken away by a performance by Steve Carell or Ryan Gosling or any of these people. I know they’re just people but there’s part of me that doesn’t want to believe that.
GM: It’s interesting because stand-ups, to me, are way more worthy of respect than actors, who just read other writers’ lines and attach some fake emotion to them. But you seem to afford more respect to the actors.
MM: Well, I think I am a comic. I understand comics. I don’t know if that’s true. It’s not respect; it’s awe. It’s just awe. I don’t know that respect is the right word because ultimately what happens is I get let down. There’s no way to win that. With comics, I’m never let down. But when I finally realize that actors are just people, I’m like, “Ugh, God.” And sometimes they’re not the most deep people. It’s usually better if they’re not. To be a good actor, to inhabit a role, it’s better if you’re not bringing a lot of intellectual baggage to it. But I think it’s not a disappointment I experience but there is something. When I talk to Jon Hamm or when I talk to Bryan Cranston, and those are two characters that they play that I definitely have a relationship with and I enjoy watching, but you have to deal with the mild disappointment as you adjust to them as people. You know what I mean? I think I would go more with fanboy than respect because I don’t think I respect actors more than comedians. I do know comedians and I think that we’re kindred spirits but I do tend to put actors on a pedestal. But as I talk to them I have to learn my lesson that I’m not talking to Walter White, I’m not talking to Don Draper. And I think I address that in those conversations.
GM: I think I figured it out. When you said to Steven Wright that you’d seen him all these years and you kinda thought that’s who he was, and when you see the actors and think they’re the characters, it’s because you’re such an honest performer yourself – there’s a bit of difference between you onstage and off, but essentially that’s you – so maybe you project that onto others.
MM: Yeah, maybe. I don’t know. That’s an interesting question. I’m surprised at how much of a… Like, I just had this fucking feeling on the plane when I was flying back from Boston and I watched that Crazy Love movie, which has a pretty ridiculous ending but I was very invested in the fantasy of it, in the guy who got divorced and all that bullshit. There’s still part of me, even moreso now, I’m less critical… I can say something’s a bad movie, but I like being taken out of my reality and living in the reality of a good movie or even a mediocre movie or a television show. I have to cop to that at some point. I’m so up in my head and so living with my own emotions, if somebody can take me out of that, I think on some level I have a tremendous amount of gratitude. (laughs)
GM: You talk about listeners having never heard you do stand-up. They come to see you only having listened to your show. And you define yourself as a stand-up; you’ve been a stand-up for your whole life. Have you thought about the possibility that when it’s all over, you’ll be remembered first as an interviewer, a type of journalist, and second as a stand-up?
MM: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I’ve had to think about that. And, you know, I gotta live with that. It doesn’t always go the way you think it’s going to go, you know? But I know I’m doing good stand-up right now. And I know that either way, I think I’ve done something with interviews in a public forum that is unique. I see people trying to copy it and I think it’s uniquely mine. I’m happy to have been part of this sort of nascent surge of podcasts and seemed to have defined a little corner of podcasting in a way. I gotta be proud of that. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s an odd thing. Like, I do have that moment with people when they go, “I love your podcast” and I’m like, “Well, did you like the stand-up?” I do have that feeling, but I don’t say that. Look, it is me and those conversations couldn’t exist without me. It’s just a surprise turn of events that it is what I’ve become, what’s been the most significant accomplishment. It’s not that it bothers me… well, maybe it does a little, but what are you going to do, you know? It’s like I’m doing something that’s uniquely mine and it involves other people. That’s not so hard. I can live with that.
GM: You say people have tried to copy you. I haven’t heard anyone, or if I have they’ve done such a poor job at it that I haven’t registered it.
MM: Yeah, that might just be in my mind. Certainly I didn’t invent two people talking. I am me and I make that a prominent part of my interviews. I’m not that concerned about it. It’s an on-going lesson in keeping your mouth shut about what I perceive as this or that. Because I’m still paranoid, I’m still weirdly competitive in some ways, and self-involved. The hardest thing for me, and the biggest difference between now and whatever I was when I was younger is that there’s some things you don’t need to say. Things are okay. My insecurity does not have to have a voice in some situations.
GM: I’ve been doing my show since 2004 and I like to joke on it that you stole my essence.
MM: Oh good.
GM: But I can’t even approach what you do because I don’t bring myself into it like you do. And that’s the difference. And that right there in a nutshell is what you do, in a really positive way. It’s amazing how people open up to you. Now it must be that your guests know what to expect. Do you feel you’re getting more well-prepared opening-ups?
MM: I think there’s a bit of that, depending on who it is. But I think that what’s evolving is that there’s a comfort level to it – if it’s going to go there that they can do it. Some people are sort of like, “This is the story I’m going to tell about me; this is like a WTF type of thing.” I think that happens a bit but I’m starting to think that when you sit down for an hour and have a one-on-one conversation that no matter what you expect or what you think’s going to happen, something different will happen. It’s just sort of allowing yourself to have the conversation. I think I created a comfortable environment for people to do that.
GM: You’re the real life Dr. Katz.
MM: Yeah, kind of. I don’t know how therapeutic [it is]or how skilled I am. An hour of direct, connected conversation, authentic conversation is a risky but very nourishing thing for the human heart. I just think that the therapy model, which gets kicked around a lot, that seems more like a practition, more what someone does because they’ve got problems. I think people underestimate the power and significance of just connected conversation. You live in a world where you’re isolated by technology, by your career path, by your fears and that’s a real loneliness that you have among other people. And just the fact of talking to somebody for even twenty minutes, it does something to the heart. And to witness that, to be part of that, I mean, this is what people are supposed to be doing. This is how we see ourselves outside of ourselves is by empathetic listening or being present for somebody else’s conversation or feeling. That’s what human beings are supposed to be; that’s what makes us interesting and good and gives us hope. And I think that has diminished in our culture to such a degree that it’s troubling. So I think a lot of times it’s not really about asking questions, it’s about having an authentic conversation. It really helps me. If I go for a couple weeks without having an interview, I’m jonesing. I need to get out of myself, I need to hear somebody else’s problems.
GM: Have you learned anything in general about entertainers (mostly comics)? Everyone’s an individual, but you hear a lot about the damaged psyche of comics, but I tend to think that’s a lot of hyperbole. Is there any truth to it?
MM: I think you’re right. I think the idea that the comic is fucked up is at least 50-50, but it’s not untrue. But it’s not true in all cases. The one thing I’ve learned, and sort of resonates, is that the ego of the performer is a delicate thing and that when you have conversations with performers you sort of get a sense of the design of that ego with each individual. And the only thing I’ve learned is that if you see the weak spot, if you see the vulnerable window, if you see that chink in that armour and you sense it – and it’s not hard to sense after you talk to somebody for a little while – you better be careful about going around there. And if you’re going to do it, be respectful and be sensitive to what you’re doing.
GM: And empathetic.
GM: You’ve talked about not having a lot of friends. I imagine now people treat you a little differently, your colleagues as well as others. Do you have more friends now?
MM: I say that because I’m still fundamentally self-involved. I think what I have now is I feel like I have my place in the community. I don’t feel like I’m banging my head against the wall or desperate in any way or angry at my place in the world. So I think if anything I move through the world with a little more grace and a little more confidence. So I think I’m probably a little funner to be around. I still wish I had some more friends. But it’s hard to find time. I still really consider a lot of times even when I don’t know somebody that well and they come over to talk to me for the podcast that, like, my friend’s coming over. There’s definitely that feeling. I assume a relationship with a lot of the people I interview that they don’t know about. I think a lot of people do that with me, too. I really assume that I know people and most of the time I don’t. It’s pretty spectacular!
GM: Todd Glass came out on your show recently. I had a guest on my show last night who’s a gay comic and we talked a bit about it. He had met Todd before, been in the same car with him, talked to him and he said he had no clue and said usually has good gaydar so much that he knows when someone’s gay even before they know it. But he had no idea about Todd Glass. Was this news to you on the show?
MM: Oh, no, he told me ahead of time. We had to work up to that. He had decided that he had wanted to do it and he wanted to do it on my show but there were a few months there of “I gotta get a few ducks in a row, I gotta make sure my partner’s cool with it, we’ve got to go discuss this externally to make sure we can handle it, and I want to do it but I want to make sure I’m in the right place.” There was a bit of lead-up. My position was when he called me saying he wanted to do that on my show, I was like, I’m flattered and I’m honoured that you want to do that and whenever you’re ready we’ll do it. And I was nervous. There was a lot of energy around this thing and a lot of burying emotion and I just wanted to make sure I handled it appropriately. I was a little nervous. Then I remembered it’s Todd so it’s going to be a whirlwind so just kinda strap in and be respectful and feel him out and try to keep some focus. So yeah, I knew, but I didn’t know before he told me.
GM: You think it’ll affect his stand-up?
GM: I mean in a positive way?
MM: I think he can walk through the world a whole person. You know how much energy goes into being closeted that long and to have a system of hiding that. That becomes your instinct, to hide something. That’s second nature. I mean, we all do it to some degree but to do it on that big a level, the amount of maintenance and energy that goes into that, and fear, it’s like you’re half a person. So whether or not he talks about it or not on stage, it doesn’t matter. He can now walk through the world a whole person. So that’s going to change your disposition. Fundamentally, publically, he’s a new person. He doesn’t have to address it at all. He doesn’t have to hide it.
GM: He probably will have to at least mention it in passing, anyway.
MM: I’d imagine. And I think it would be amazing if he were to address it specifically in the way that he handled it and who he is, I think, somebody who doesn’t culturally identify publically as gay and everything that comes along with that to talk about it like, “I’m just a guy and I just like guys. That’s it!” To do it like Todd Glass does it would be profoundly powerful and unique. I don’t know if he will choose to do that. That’s up to him.
GM: Prior to that announcement, he was probably thought to be in the truth-telling mold, an open, honest comic as opposed to a Steven Wright-type whose jokes, as he says, are his wall to hide behind so we don’t get to know him. So we probably thought we knew Todd Glass pretty well.
MM: I don’t know if that’s true. Do you really think that’s true? I think that Todd Glass is a guy that is just insanely funny and all his energy and all his mania was really just sort of like, “I’m funny now! This is going to be funny! We’re doing this now!” I think he’s really like that but I definitely think he was more known for being uniquely and persistently funny in almost a super-hero kind of way. He’s definitely a comic’s comic and everybody loves him, but the truth that he was not on everybody’s radar and he is as funny as he is means that something was not quite hooked up and hopefully that’ll hook up now.
"I think the problem with being too honest or too raw is that you don’t really have control over that monster. And it’s a very exciting thing to watch once or twice but as I’ve said before, you don’t see any blurbs on posters for stand-up shows that say, 'Draining! Two stars!'" – Marc Maron
GM: I’ve kept you on the phone long enough, but first I asked my tens of Twitter followers if they had any questions for you, and I got some. So if you don’t mind… This one says, “When does he think he’ll be okay? Does he have to do the podcast for another twenty years? When’s retirement?”
MM: (laughs) Look, I don’t really know. I like doing the podcast, I’d like to see it grow. I do have moments where I feel like I’ve run out of life to talk about, but I don’t know that that ever happens. I would like to see if I can make something happen in another medium before I die. There are certain opportunities that have eluded me. I’ve never been on television or in movies in any real way, and that was sort of part of the dream. So I don’t have any plans on retiring. I don’t really know if I’ll ever be okay. I’m better than I was only because I’m more of myself. But, you know, trouble persists.
GM: Next one: “How did the food gifts from fans start?”
MM: It started a long time ago. When I was on Air America there was a woman in Portland, Oregon, who started baking things for us. And we talked about it on the air. So I think it goes back to Air America. There were a couple of fans who did some baking and then I talked about it and it just became a thing.
GM: “What kind of car does he drive? Also, does Jessica want to get married to him?”
MM: I know that Jessica wants a baby. Marriage, we don’t talk about that much but I hear the baby thing. The car I have is a 2006 Camry that could use a little body work.
GM: I don’t know why they asked that. “I’d like to know if he thinks it’s possible to be too honest on stage. Are there some things an audience isn’t ready to hear?”
MM: Yes. Yeah, because when honesty is raw a lot of times the laugh you get is nervous laughter. But when you get a little distance from it or you kind of mould it a little bit so it’s not nervous laughter but it’s a laughter of identification. I’ve done both. And I still do both. Sometimes you can be honest and it’s not inherently funny other than people can’t fucking believe you’re talking about it. To make it truly funny in a repeatable way, you can’t be living in the rawness as immediate. When I was doing the one-man show about my divorce I was workshopping it in New York and it was not really meant for public consumption in the press but Time-Out New York had seen it and they said, “What’s great about this show is Maron has no hindsight and you feel like he’s working through the problems right in front of you.” Yeah, well that’s great, I’m glad he had that experience but that doesn’t mean that it’s a repeatable experience, you know what I mean? You don’t want your act to hinge on the fact that you’re completely emotionally devastated and out of control. At some point you’d like to be able to do that material with a certain amount of distance but still have the same impact. I think the problem with being too honest or too raw is that you don’t really have control over that monster. And it’s a very exciting thing to watch once or twice but as I’ve said before, you don’t see any blurbs on posters for stand-up shows that say, “Draining! Two stars!” Certainly there is, but I think it’s important to put it out there in that form if for any other reason to begin moulding it into something that you can depend on and have some safety in as a performance piece.
GM: “Does Maron ever play guitar on any of those WTF musical bumpers?”
MM: No. I should. I’m going to San Francisco this weekend and Behrendt’s having me on his Bring the Rock show again so I’m going to sing in public again and play. Yeah, I should make some bumpers. I don’t know why I don’t. I’ve got too much going on and I don’t know how to use GarageBand in that way.
GM: You’re doing a book, too.
MM: Argh, fuck. Yeah, okay, I gotta… You know, I’ve got a good chunk of it done. It’s a lot of original essays and there are a lot of speeches that I’ve pulled from monologues. That’s the thing about it, everyone knows about everything. But there are some things that they don’t. And I’m still trying to organize that. I’ve got another month and a half to dump a big stack of shit on my editor’s desk and let him start to hammer away at it.
GM: When’s it expected out?
MM: The first draft is due March 15. Expected out? Who the fuck knows? Then there’s another nine months turnaround, I think.
GM: Alright. I look forward to seeing you again.
MM: Yeah, it’s great. We’ll hang out, get something to eat.
Labels: Marc Maron
Labels: Mike Storck