Marc Maron made his career by making his private life public. A standup comedy staple since the ’90s, Maron is an expert at mining killer material out of his own anxiety and pain. His groundbreaking podcast WTF with Marc Maron features intimate monologues that range from getting over a breakup to updates about the lives of his cats. It’s only fitting that Maron plays a slightly fictionalized version of himself on his IFC television show Maron.
But he cares just as deeply about other people’s personal lives. On WTF, Maron encourages his celebrity guests to shed their public personas and tell their real stories. On stage, he focuses on connecting with individual audience members.
Maron performs at the Barrymore Theatre on April 16 as part of his “Maronation” tour. He spoke with Isthmus about his continuing relationship with Madison roaster Just Coffee, the upcoming third season of Maron, Madison jazz legend Ben Sidran and finding the special moments.
You’ve spoken highly of Madison in the past. Are you glad to be coming back?
Oh, yeah. I love that part of the country. Good people, great food. The Comedy Club on State was really good to me. You’ve got good comics there. I just rarely get the opportunity to go to that area.
Can your sponsors at Just Coffee get comps to the show or do they have to pay?
They can definitely come to the show. They’ve been loyal sponsors for a long time and I’m so grateful for that. I’m going to check out their new digs while I’m there.
Season 3 of Maron is coming out in May. Is it all finished or is post-production work still going on?
We just finished editing, and it was definitely the best season we’ve done. Everyone was in a groove. I was more comfortable, the writers were more comfortable. I got a better sense of who I was on the show and I got better as an actor. We departed from my real life a little bit more, and took some liberties, which was a bit of a relief. I think people are going to enjoy it.
You wear a lot of hats on that show — writer, executive producer and you are in almost every single shot. Was it easier to balance all those roles this time around?
I don’t know if it’s gotten any easier. We shoot an episode in three days and, as you said, I’m in every shot, so I’m memorizing between nine and 15 pages of script a day. I directed and wrote the last episode, too. I signed up for this and I knew what the job was, but it is a lot of work.
You shoot a single-camera, 22-minute episode in just three days?
Yeah, it’s crazy, dude. We shoot two episodes at a time over six days. But the crew is amazing; it’s a creative collaboration. Luckily, we were able to keep most of the people from season 2, so we all work together really well. It’s the only way we could do it. I’d love the money to do an extra day on these, so if you know anybody, give them a call.
What topics are you covering on your “Maronation” tour?
The regular Marc Maron topics: existential dread, anxiety, anger, love, childhood, ice cream, religion. A pretty standard Maron menu. There’s a lot about Marc Maron in there.
You are experiencing a career high right now with the podcast and the TV show. What keeps your standup sharp when you’ve got everything else going on?
Standup is what I set out to do. It is incredibly rewarding to be at a stage in my career where audiences come out to see me and I’m not just some random headliner. For the most part, it’s about being up there making something happen, having room to engage the audience. I’m not just up there running through material. I’m trying to connect.
Is that harder to do now that you are mostly playing in theaters instead of clubs?
The challenge is capturing that intimate feeling, the spontaneity — that connection with the audience you get in a small club. I try to stay focused on creating a special moment for myself and the audience, one that will never come again.
WTF has a lot of those special moments, for example the episode with Ms. Pat. The conversation goes to a new level and moves beyond a standard interview. Can you feel those moments when they are happening?
Oh, sure. I can feel it. I can feel myself getting choked up with tangible emotion. I know that’s when we’re doing something great, because if I can feel it, I know the listener will too.
The guests on WTF have diversified beyond comedians; you’ve had a lot of musicians and directors as well. How do you determine if a guest is going to be a good fit for the podcast?
We have a booker now but I also get suggestions from friends and fans. If I think there’s a good story there, I instinctively say yes. I just got pitched Boz Skaggs, and he is one of those guests who I think will be great but never would think to have on.
I love Boz! He went to college here at UW-Madison.
Yeah, I interviewed Ben Sidran, the jazz great who played with Boz Skaggs and Steve Miller when they were all going to school in Madison. I only did that interview because his son kept bugging me. I wasn’t really aware of Ben before I had him on the podcast but that was one of my favorite episodes we ever did. He had stories, dude.
Ben Sidran is still around Madison all the time.
Makes sense. As I said before, it’s a great town. A real creative place. I’m happy to be back and hope people come check out the show.