Podcasts are still on the fringes of popular media, but they are growing in popularity, by the day it seems. I would say at this point WTF with Marc Maron is leading the way. It’s one of those “Chicken and Egg” scenarios. Maron is a great interviewer, but I would say it’s his range of guests which puts him in the lead. His guests have ranged from little-known comics, to A-List actors, all the way to the President of the United States of America. Yeah. He did that.
Maron is best known as a stand-up comedian, but has also written, produced, and done some acting (Almost Famous, Louie), as well as having his own show, Maron. He is also very clued into politics, society, and culture though. For about a year and a half he had a nationally syndicated radio show called Morning Sedition.
Maron is an odd guy, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. When I first listened a few years back (podcast started in 2009) my first thought was “Damn, I thought I had some issues.” He would wax on how he had a weekend of killer sets, but the venue spelled his name “Mark” on the marquee and it made him question if he really is that popular, or mainstream. But as I listened more, I found him to be insanely genuine, and refreshing.
He has no qualms about bringing up his previous marriages, or relationships. Maron is also very open with his past substance abuse, and jumps at the chance to discuss with guests who have gone through similar challenges. This really gives you a new perspective on his interviewees. The most recent to touch on that subject being with John Larroquette.
It’s a fairly straight forward format. Maron does an intro with an update on his world, such as upcoming shows, what he did over the weekend, cut himself (a few weeks ago), bought a new guitar, or whatever is on his mind. He also gives some perspective on the interview. He’ll go over how he thought it went, the main themes, if it took the person awhile to agree, and so on. I’m the type of person who loves as much information as possible, and it’s a great way of setting the table.
As previously mentioned, his range of guests might be the most diverse, or at least rival whoever has the top spot. Regardless of guest, if it’s their first time on the show, it’s usually an origin story. Maron wants to know where and how they go their start, going back as far as childhood. He is very adept at uncovering influences, both positive and negative, and why certain choices were made.
Again, I think this is due to his willingness to put himself out there. He can identify with what a lot of people have gone through, and that creates some common ground for people to let their guard down and expound on something they might not do with say a 60 Minutes or 20/20 style interview.
I think the location also has a lot to do with it as well. While it’s a recording studio, it’s in Maron’s garage. I imagine you feel like you’re just hanging out at his house, having a coffee, talking with you new, or old, buddy Marc. Oh, and did I mention he got THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA?! Not a Presidential candidate, not a former President, the sitting President. Insane. I highly recommend that one, obviously.
As good as it is, I’m not sure I can recommend every episode, but that’s just because of the variety. I love listening to comedians discuss their past, and their approach to comedy, however, I realize not everyone does. But if you’re curious this podcast has something for everyone.
I do highly recommend you listen to any of the episodes with people you recognize. For example I went back and forth if I should listen to the episode with Katie Couric. I ended up listening and now look at her in a whole new way. One of his most recent episode was with James Hetfield of Metallica, whom I had just heard give a three hour interview on Joe Rogan’s podcast. This was a very different interview, with so much more revealed.
So my advice on this one is subscribe and choose which ones you want. He’s closing in on 800 episodes, so there’s definitely something in there for you (note: at a certain point old episodes are behind a pay-wall). While every episode isn’t great, I will say it, mainly because Maron will never admit it, he is probably the best interviewer I’ve ever heard.