The Popculturist is a new review column by Mike Sakasegawa who stands at the place where pop culture and art meets human creativity and human foibles. Read on as Mike celebrates the best and talks about the rest…
There’s something about funny people that has always been fascinating to me. A truly funny person has that combination of intelligence, insight, and charisma that is immediately recognizable and impossible to ignore. I think, too, part of the allure is the recognition of a skill or talent that I don’t have, myself, but that I respect and admire in others.
I bring this up because over the past week or so I’ve been working my way through the archives of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, and I’ve been reflecting on why I got so hooked on it so quickly.
The premise of the show is relatively straightforward. Maron, a stand-up comedian and sometime radio host, interviews other comedians and comic actors, talking to them about how they work, what they’re like, and so on.
Given that the host and most of the guests are comedians, you might be surprised to hear that the show isn’t particularly funny. That is, there are funny or lighthearted moments, but in general the interviews aren’t played for laughs. Rather, it’s more like listening in on a conversation between two friends, or possibly even a therapy session. You hear comics talk about their youths, their reasons for getting into comedy, and how they work. Maron knows many of his guests fairly well, so often there are reminiscences of things they’d done together in the past.
Now, if the show only functioned to give you an insight into the minds of the guests, that would be plenty interesting. But there are two other aspects to this podcast that push it over the top into the “must hear” category for me.
I mentioned that Maron often knows his guests. Even when he doesn’t, though, it’s clear that they move in the same circles—they know the same people, have worked in the same clubs, and have many of the same experiences. What becomes clear as you listen to a few episodes is that comedy is a community, to a far greater extent than most other forms of entertainment. Everybody knows everybody, or at least knows of them. Like many communities, it’s hard to get in, and within the community there are factions and grudges, but at the same time there’s a general feeling of respect and protectiveness of each other against outsiders. It’s the kind of thing that, to me, seems both intimidating and alluring.
But the single thing that keeps me coming back to this podcast is Maron, himself. Unlike most interviewers, who work to draw as much out of their subjects as possible while revealing nothing of themselves, Maron is a huge participant. Both from his introductory monologues and the conversations with his guests, you come away learning as much about him as them.
He’s an interesting guy—at times narcissistic and self-loathing, abrasive and sometimes even mean, but self-aware enough to know these things about himself and good enough to try to be a better person. In some ways, the show is as much a journey of self-improvement for him as it is anything else.
Of course, the show isn’t for everybody. As you might guess from the title—or if you know anything about Maron’s comic work—there is a lot of, shall we say, “colorful” language. Moreover, the intensity of his demeanor will be off-putting to some. But if you enjoy good interviews and have an interest in comedy, you may find this podcast worth your time.
The WTF podcast is available via iTunes or at the show’s website.
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“Marc Maron” Entertainment Studios
Mike talks about his recent obsession with the WTF podcast.
Podcast, WTF, Marc Maron, comedy, comedians, interviews.