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April 30, 2018 | by  | in Arts Podcasts |
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WTF with Marc Maron

“Hey folks! Alright let’s do this. How are you what the fuckers, what the fuckbuddies, what the fuckineers, what the fuckadelics, what the fuckocrats, what the fuckpublicans, what’s happening?” So runs the anthemic beginning to a typical episode of Marc Maron’s twice-weekly podcast, WTF.

Each episode, the California comedian and actor talks with a figure of varying celebrity: from Bruce Springsteen and Jennifer Lawrence to stand-up comics known only to the local scene. He’s not in a studio — instead, his guests, including former Vice-President Al Gore and then-President Barack Obama, make their way to the hills of northeast Los Angeles to be interviewed in Maron’s garage. (The Secret Service had to put snipers on the neighbours’ roofs).

Maron begins each show with a monologue, a take on what’s happening in the news and in his life. When the actual interview begins we enter it mid-stream, as though we have just entered the room. We take our seat on the worn-out cigarette-burned sofa, and listen to Jeff Goldblum’s stories, watching Maron bounce off him with a pop culture knowledge valuable on any pub quiz team. After Jeff leaves, we stay for Maron’s hot take on it all. He jams on his 1986 Fender Strat and calls “Boomer lives!”, his sign-off an unfading call to a cat long-lost.

There are lots of people who interview famous rich (mainly white) people. But not many interviewers would get up mid-interview — mid-sentence — if they thought their cat Buster (missing for three days) had finally returned. Not many would spend more time on their guest’s daddy issues than their new movie — or admit they hadn’t actually seen the whole thing.

Maron’s past has given him a pool of experiences, and his comedic ramblings, as well as entertain, teach a moral lesson: “don’t be disconnected from the humanity around you”; “don’t take people for granted.” These are mistakes he’s made in the past, and they form lessons he can pass on. He’s had issues with anger, self-belief, drugs and alcohol, his father. He’s got grudges, people have got grudges against him. He’s had to apologise to Kumail Nanjiani, he’s had to hash it out with James Franco. But over time you see him improving, repairing, teaching — and you learn from his example.

In the last year and a half the term “WTF” has taken on new meaning for Maron. He’s not a massive fan of the man in the big oval office chair. The idea fills him with dread and he’s not afraid to hide it. An interview with Will Arnett in February 2017 was punctuated every 20 minutes or so with a check for breaking news of nuclear war with North Korea (we’re okay, for now at least). And yet through his own obvious existential terror he’s able to entertain, to extract a story, to find the joke and riff on it.

He doesn’t interview enough women (and this might be to do with Hollywood in general as well). Instead his guests tend to be straight white American men. He also probably doesn’t prepare enough. But he’s able to extract stories from his guests their publicists must shake their heads at. He’s able to fill his garage with laughs. He’s able to relate to a spoon. And at the end of the day, he’s entertaining as anything. I’ll be heading along to his garage next week. I reckon you should come along.

“Boomer lives!”

Ones to listen to: President Barack Obama, Sir Ian McKellen, James Franco (allegations of sexual harassment kept firmly in mind), Lorde, Billy Crystal, Sacha Baron Cohen.

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