In Episode 245 of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, comedian Todd Glass came out of the closet. It was an amazing hour and a half of podcasting and one that highlighted all the reasons that Marc Maron has the strongest interview program (radio, television or podcast) around right now. WTF is now a very popular podcast and I don’t think many people would argue about the quality of the podcast but there are a few strengths (and weaknesses) that Marc has that give more to the interviews than any other host can.
Marc knows absolutely everyone in comedy. The guests of WTF are either his friends, sometimes very good friends, or acquaintances who don’t really like him or feel like Marc doesn’t like them. Marc has a lot of history in stand-up comedy and has been an institution during critical times in comedy in critical cities (San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York). I challenge you to find another interviewer with as much hands-on experience and knowledge of the topic of the guest’s profession. Only years of failure to “make it” in a profession that only showers the select few with rewards before a turn to the DIY method of podcasting can provide a host with this extensive knowledge and experience. Marc knows comedy, he knows comedians and he’s ready to talk about it.
In any other interview or journalistic piece, this intense relationship to the medium and many of the people involved would completely bias the interview. And WTF is no exception. The interview is not about the interviewee for Marc. It’s all about him. In fact, the interviewee has to fight to get himself heard many times. The first ten minutes (in which Marc regales us with his neuroses du jour) is merely a precursor to an hour of Marc using the interviewee to bounce his own neuroses off of them and possibly relate. Many times, the comedians on the podcast are friends. They know Marc and know how to relate to his neurotic mirror method of interviewing. Other times, the comedians are not friends, or even better, old enemies. They don’t know how to deal and it can get awkward. Either way, it’s compelling and the edge gives you a much better insight into who these people are.
As I said before, Marc knows comedy. He’s lived it for half his life. He’s comfortable crafting a joke and comfortable on stage. However, anyone who is even a fair weather listener of the show knows that Marc has no idea how to live a normal, anger-free life. Therefore, in his interviews he gets to the basic interview questions: start in comedy, big break, career choices. However, we very quickly get to how the guest was feeling at the time, any neuroses, any father issues (Marc’s big on those), any debilitating fears, any anger issues in an attempt for Marc to see how other people may have dealt differently (well) or similarly (poorly) in relation to himself. Marc loves to talk about his own feelings, and this gives us a good comparison to the guest. The big question running through WTF is basically “How (did you do this/are you feeling) compared to how (I did this/I’m feeling)?” It provides for a much more raw, personal interview than any Ira Glass or even Jesse Thorn can provide.
All these ragged, completely unprofessional interview techniques came together beautifully in Episode 245 to create an awesome podcast. Marc and Todd have been friends for a long time, and Todd chose this location to come out. That alone shows the trust and friendship among the two. Todd spoke about not being able to hear about gay kids committing suicide anymore without thinking, “When will I have some blood on my clothes?” Pretty heavy stuff, huh? But a perfect complement to Marc’s neurotic, confused-about-who-he-is, why am I so angry about everything?, interview style. He let Todd say anything he needed to say and brought it back home, back to comedy, back to Todd’s life, and especially back to himself. It’s raw and heartbreaking and hilarious. Pure WTF.
This podcast shouldn’t work, and with anybody else at the helm, it wouldn’t. But Marc lets himself get out of the way for just long enough to create the most compelling interviews with the people behind the comedy.