I’ve been listening to WTF with Marc Maron for nearly a decade, checking in for the first time after the death of Robin Williams to hear to his previously aired interview with the late comedian. I was hooked. Over the years, I’ve had an interesting relationship with Maron. In the beginning, it was thrilling because the podcast interview format was mostly new to me (I was listening to Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist podcast, as well), and it was fun to get to know Maron.
That is until it wasn’t. His interviews continued to be good, but Maron’s cranky narcissism and persecution complex began to wear thin. After he landed interviews with Barack Obama and then Lorne Michaels, however, Maron exorcised some insecurities, and when he began dating Lynn Shelton, new aspects of his personality began to surface. The angry, cynical crank mostly melted away and left, in its wake, a more thoughtful, introspective, and weirdly pleasant guy. When the COVID lockdowns began, Maron kept a lot of us company during our isolation.
Unfortunately, only a few months into the pandemic, Shelton died suddenly because of undiagnosed leukemia. Maron, who did not take much time off, was a wreck on his podcast. He’d cry occasionally, get choked up frequently, and he would frequently process his grief with celebrity guests. It’s been nearly three years now, and during that time, Maron has continued to evolve as a person, and now he’s one of my favorite people. It’s been illuminating to listen to him process his own loss during a period in which many of his listeners also experienced loss, and his interview with Andrew Garfield is one of the most remarkable hours of podcasting I’ve ever heard.
I used to skip the first ten minutes of every podcast where Maron would talk about himself. Now, it’s often my favorite part of each episode.
Maron has a stand-up special out on Netflix this week, and ahead of it, he gave an interview to Jesse David Fox over on Vulture. He talks about processing Shelton’s death, how he developed his latest special, and why he decided to act in To Leslie. It’s a phenomenal interview, where Maron also takes aim at anti-woke comics (as he has also done on his podcast, calling them the new hacks.
I’m just saying that they [anti-woke comics] are hacks, and it’s an angle. That’s really the big unsaid thing, is that anti-woke is the new hack. You’ve got like-minded people who fill these rooms because they don’t know how to assess funny unless it’s bullying, or unless it’s in totally bad taste. There’s no nuance to it. A lot of people who are not innately that funny become comics, and they can become good comics if they can figure it out. But this is just an excuse to ride the momentum of an audience that’s been built on these premises. For a bunch of freethinkers, they all think the same thing, and it’s like three things that they poke at, and it’s hackneyed. They are the hacks, and they are the groupthink victims. It’s really kind of profound.
I do believe that there are lines now in terms of comedy, and that they do function somewhat on political lines. Many of these comics do not see themselves as right-wing people, they see themselves as “libertarian,” but they are so easily appropriated by right-wing thought, right? There are these weird tribal lines being drawn, and the old-school kind of progressive nature of sensitivity — but also taking shots at everybody — is sort of falling to the wayside of people going, “Fuck you, I’m entitled to do this because of this and that, or free speech and anti-censorship.” So that ideological place is a front, and it’s enabling a lot of really uninspired, untalented people to perform.
Joe Rogan and Ricky Gervais seem to fall under the “untalented” category, while Chappelle and probably Louis C.K. are currently in the category of “uninspired.”