Last night I sat up listening to the 500th episode of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. The WTF podcast by comedian Marc Maron is always worth checking in on, at 500 episodes now you’ll find he’s talked to just about everyone in stand-up comedy and many of the biggest names across TV and film acting, musicians too – including Nick Cave, John Cale, Iggy Pop.
The interviews with musicians are sometimes a little awkward – Maron is a fan, he can play a little, he collects music but because he eschews essential interview prep (or at least claims to) he can get a little lost. There are some cringe moments where, when talking to Benmont Tench, he just got out of his depth trying to discuss blues, or when he told Stephen Malkmus in the most demented fan-boy tone that CCR’s music “really stands up – on vinyl!” But he got a better interview out of Cale than I’ve ever heard and though the Cave interview was awkward it still revealed plenty.
Maron’s great skill as interviewer is the way he gets a conversation flowing – takes it away from the PR-shill but still moves through the timeline picking off key moments.
So for his 500th episode it was anyone’s guess who the star/interviewee might be. In the end Maron chose to focus on himself – it’s his podcast after all. But he did introduce filmmaker Steven Brill (a director of several films and writer of a few hits too). Brill was Maron’s first comedy partner and old friend. A recurring theme of the podcast has been Maron patching up with old pals, or confronting his demon’s through the mirror of a guest.
It also, in the best possible way, celebrates itself. The 500 episodes is a towering achievement and through it – through the course of these twice-weekly episodes – Maron has subjected himself to close audience scrutiny. He’s had career benefits – a book, TV series, increased demand and audiences at his stand-up – but here he’s able to show the toll that it takes. He gets very personal. He is very revealing. He gives so much of himself to these interviews, in these interviews. And that impacts.
There’s a huge emotional weight in the 500th episode. And to reveal more would ruin it. And it’s best to leave Maron to tell the story – to encourage you to listen in. He’s becoming a master storyteller through the art of interview, through the opening monologues too. He’s engaging in some new form of therapy, replacing addictions – and his drive (and need) for the show and to offer something through it is inspirational.
I was a fan of the show for a while. Then I switched off. Perhaps partly because I didn’t enjoy all of Maron’s book (though I did like some of it). Then, just recently, I’ve found myself newly enthused. Hooked on the show in fact.
The 500th episode was very special indeed.
I’d suggest that you start with the 500th and work back. Or if you’re already onto it you’ll be lining up the 500th anytime now. Trust me, it’s worth it.