‘WTF’ Comedian Marc Maron, Success on His Own Terms

You can never say the name of comedian Marc Maron’s show on the radio, and maybe that’s the point. He doesn’t need the public airwaves.

Maron broadcasts his “WTF” podcast out of a homemade studio in his garage twice a week, sitting down with some of the biggest names in comedy — Danny McBride, Judd Apatow, Conan O’Brien, Robin Williams, just to name a few.

“[Robin Williams] is a very sweet man,” Maron said. “He’s a very giving man. He’s actually shy in a way.”

Maron is regularly one of the top 10 podcasts on iTunes, with about 700,000 downloads a week. In fact, he recently posted his 300th episode.

His show is so successful, he put out a box set of his first 100 interviews in April and he sold a scripted show based on his life to the Independent Film channel, which will debut next year. He also guest starred on an episode of “Louie,” comedian Louie C.K’s dark comedy show on FX.

“I had no expectations,” he said. “I just knew I was pretty good on a radio mic and that I could really be who I am.”

As a stand-up comic, Maron started doing open mics in the ’80s, developing a style that’s been described as “somewhere between Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce.”

“I’ve been doing stand-up comedy for half my life,” he said. “I did my graduate work in chopping line of cocaine for Sam Kineson, and I was spit out by Los Angeles. I had gotten all screwed up on drugs.”

Maron brings these highs and lows to his interviews.

“I don’t call myself a therapist. I don’t call myself a journalist, but I’ve had to do that at times,” he said.

In one episode of “WTF,” Maron confronted comedian Carlos Mancia about allegations of joke stealing.

“This guy was vilianized for joke stealing and I had to be journalistic in that one and be more aggressive in my questioning,” Maron said. “That set a precedent. People will be like, ‘you kind of went easy on Ben Stiller,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m not interviewing war criminals here.’”

At other times, Maron seems more of a father confessor.  Norm Macdonald told him about his struggles with gambling addiction. Rainn Wilson, who made a name for himself playing Dwight Schrute on “The Office,” talked about his beliefs in the Ba’hai religion.

“Todd Glass came out on my show and that was phenomenal,” Maron said. “He asked me, he wanted to do it on my show, and I said, ‘I’m honored and that would be great.’”

In 1995, Maron shared a magazine cover spread with Louie C.K., Dave Attell and Sarah Silverman, up and comers all at the time. They went on to big things. Maron didn’t. He never got the sitcom, or the movie deal or the Vegas gig.

“The podcast… wasn’t a Plan B,” he said. “It was a last-ditch effort to do something. I ran out of Plan B’s.”

Now, 25 years later, Maron has become an overnight success and his podcast has reinvigorated his career on his own terms.

“I feel like I’ve created something that I have control over which is rare in the system and I’ve done that out of the system,” he said. “I would like to be in a movie. I would like to be on television, but I think I’m more well-known now for what I’m doing in my garage, which is fine. It’s good. I’m happy that people like it and yeah, I don’t know, I’m selling tickets.”