Arts Desk

Marc Maron Finally Has a Career, But He’s Not Necessarily Happy

Marc Maron is doing well. If you asked the influential stand-up if he'd be in this place three years ago, he would have said no. He probably would have screamed no, actually. He's a passionate man. That passion has led him to a super-successful podcast, a critically acclaimed new album, another book in the works, a television pilot, and sold-out stages across the country. Is he happy? Maybe.

Washington City Paper: Do you think about who is in your crowd when on stage?

Marc Maron: Of course I do. I find that a lot of time people are either seeing me or comedy for the first time, even people not that much younger than me. There's always the question if they've seen my older stuff. I don't know how familiar they are with my stand-up. Some of the podcast topics are evolving into stand-up material. It turns out, for most practical purposes, I was off the radar for most of my career. More fans of the podcast are coming around, and the old radio fans are a different crowd, and they're loyal, and my comedy fans... up until recently, weren't that present, or else I'd be further along in my career. A lot of my crowd is usually intelligent, isolated, emotionally troubled. I can't pinpoint a demographic. My crowd ranges from 14-year-olds to 70-year-olds. I'm not a dudes' dude, I'm not an idiot, it's not an evening of family entertainment. I'm fairly specific in the sense of who I am emotionally and what I talk about. Those qualities aren't relative to age.

WCP: Are you enjoying the stand-up?

MM: I am a stand-up comic and it's always what I wanted to be. Doing the live WTF and doing the podcast and listening to people is very different than stand-up.

WCP: Will you be able to do as much stand-up if your sitcom gets picked up?

MM: It's a problem I more than welcome.

WCP: Who are some of the guys that you based your career on?

MM: I didn't have a career, dude. I'd been banging my head against the wall for years trying things. It wasn't some sort of voluntary renaissance man. Up until I did the podcast, I didn't have a career. I couldn't get booked. My manager gave up on me. I lost the radio outlet I was doing work for. I went bankrupt. There's no career plan.

WCP: I understand that from your perspective you didn't have a career, but from an outsider's perspective, you had something, you had put your mark down on people's lives...

MM: Alright, alright, alright, I understand from where you're sitting... I'm not trivializing anything and I'm not feeling sorry for myself. But when you use the word "career," it has to imply someone is making a living. The careerist's mindset—the people that plan their careers, say, "I'm going to take these steps to make a living." That's what a career is. How my career looks from the outside? Yeah, I had a relationship with Conan [O'Brien] and they'd put me up three or four times a year, but is that a career? The way my career sort of came together is that I took all the opportunities I could take, but none of them necessarily leveraged into earning a living. It was very fragmented. Until I took a job at Air America I wasn't earning a living. Whatever respect I got from other comics didn't put asses in the seats. Some of that was virtue of the fact that I don't have the wherewithal or foresight of a Doug Stanhope to do my own thing. People didn't lock in to what I was doing until I started this thing in my garage out of complete desperation. I'm fortunate that that gave me a careet in this new medium but it wasn't a plan. Despite some people knowing who I was, I was always struggling.

WCP: Is that struggle good for you?

MM: I seem to work better being up against the wall, it's how I write jokes, how I write books, how I take action in my life. And out of that core desperation, pretty good shit comes. But is that a way to live a life? I hope I can change it a little bit.

WCP: You seem to be doing really well.

MM: Yeah, things are different now.

Maron performs at 7:30 p.m. and 9:55 p.m. tonight and Saturday at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse, 2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington. $22. (703) 486-2345. As of publication time, tickets are still available for tonight's early show.

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