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Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Talking to Marc Maron About IFC's 'Maron', Directing, and the Future of 'WTF'


Marc Maron's IFC show Maron returns for its second season tonight, and the show looks a little different than it did when we last saw it. IFC upped the show's episode order from 10 to 13 for season two, Maron is casting more of his standup peers on the show, and the new season finds the fictionalized version of himself he plays growing slightly more successful as his podcast and career start to take off. On top of that, Maron is now a season more experienced as a writer/actor, and he's adding director to his resume, as well, making his directorial debut with the show's comedy world-centric season finale.

I had the chance to chat with Marc Maron on the set of his show between scenes a couple months back, and we discussed the new season, why he's filling his show with more standups, and his future plans for the podcast that started it all.

How did the writing process for the new season go? What were your goals going into season two?

The writing process went great because we'd all worked together before. There were four of us originally [on season one], me and Duncan [Birmingham] and Michael [Jamin] and Sivert [Glarum]. I brought in Dave Anthony, who's a comic and a guy I've known for years, and Robert Cohen, who's another guy that I've known for years, so we had a little more juice in the room; there were more guys. I had a bunch of story ideas, and for some reason, it was pretty miraculous and beautiful that within the three months, we were able to break 13 stories and get all the scripts written before we even started shooting, which is a big load off my mind.

It was only the second time I'd ever done anything like this, I have no experience writing for television or acting for television except for this show, so what ultimately happened, our agenda was just to honor the fact that my [character's] life is a little different. It's not a lot different. Things are starting to happen. I'm a little more successful than I was the first season. The idea was to capture me at that level, in between success and nothing, so the feeling of what's happening now, it's a new experience that I'm starting to feel a little bit of success in my life. Then, there was also the issue of figuring out what to do with the relationship that was established last season 'cause we didn't want it to become a romantic comedy. We wanted it to honor my life, so we had to temper that. But I think, in terms of stories, we took a lot more chances, and the writing was a lot more fun. It was a little easier in the sense that there was a lot of material to draw from. We really went some different places this time. I think the comedy's better, and I'm feeling better about my performance. It's been good, man. It's been a good time. And I'm not one to have a good time.

So you just feel more adept to making a show after the experience of the first season?

I don't think I feel adept at anything necessarily, but I do know that a lot of the things coming into the first season, having never done it before, that I was freaking out about, I'm not freaking out. Just naturally. Just because it was all new to me. So now, it's not like it's old hat, but there are certain things. I can put a lot more focus on the performances. 'Cause for one, last season, we didn't have all the scripts done when we started shooting. As a writer, I'd have to meet with these guys and do reworkings of things in the middle of shoot days, which is a little crazy. So, having them all done and having faith in the staff on all levels and all the people on production in every way and everything and having worked with them – they're a great team – that freed my mind up, and I'm just trying to focus on the performances and the dynamics of the show.

And also this season, I've chosen to use a lot of comics around because I know these guys. Dave Anthony plays my friend in several episodes. Andy Kindler is back as my friend. But even in smaller parts, I use people like Tig Notaro, Dean Delray, Moshe Kasher. I like having comics around because they're my people. And that's made it good. And all the guest stars who have played themselves have been great. We mix that up a little too.

How so?

Well, CM Punk's on one. [Laughs] What else? There's a few more kinda comedy-driven [strories]. [In season one] outside of the guests on the show, we didn't really get into the world of standup as much, but this year, we did a little bit. There's an episode with Caroline Rhea, where I sort of show that I do have this podcast but I am a comedian. There's a little bit more of that. Not on a performance level, but just on the life.

Like backstage stuff?

Backstage stuff, but also just the life. There's one episode focused on going on the road. There's another episode around Caroline Rhea, who's a comic, and just our relationship, but a little more of it is in that world than last year.

There are so few movies and shows that represent the standup world. Do you feel any sort of responsibility to the community to convey something like the road accurately?

Well, I mean, the road experience, that's sort of a more abstract episode because it goes in and out of a certain crisis I'm having on the road. I think that just by having comics around and exploring relationships between comics and stuff… I felt some sort of pressure, but I wasn't worried about it. There's one episode that I'm actually directing, the last episode. I don't want to tip it at all, but it's definitely comedy-specific. I guess the answer to your question, yes. I did not feel pressured. I didn't need to feel pressured; I life the life. I just wanted to get it right.

What made you want to make your directorial debut this year?

I think the opportunity more than anything else. Everybody who does creative things, certainly in this medium, you think, 'Well, I'd like to direct.' I had the opportunity here, and I had a crew that I really trust, both production-wise and in terms of the guys behind the cameras and everything else. I have a relationship with them, so I think it would be a fairly supportive opportunity to do it.

Have you done anything to gear up for that?

Yeah, I've panicked. And I paid a little bit more attention to the language of what they're saying. "Is this dirty?" "We're gonna do a hinge?" There's some talk. You know, close-ups and not close-ups. Yeah, I've been paying attention, but I've got a great DP. Joe Kessler's pretty amazing, so I trust that we'll pull it off.

How are things going with the podcast lately? Do you have plans to keep that up at the same rate?

Oh yeah, yeah. We keep going. Two a week. We're sort of amping up a little more. My partner, Brendan McDonald, is now full-time on the show, and we're gonna do some more premium content. Once I'm done with this, we're gonna do some of the stuff that we used to do, some road trips. I'm also branching out to different types of guests, which I find exciting. So, no plan to pull back on that.

So you're going to bring the show back to its roots a little bit?

Well, I think the bigger issue is to stay engaged and find new guests who I can actually learn new things from. I speak with a lot of kindred spirits and a lot of people within my world, but I sort of feel like getting out of my world a little bit and talking to different [people]. 'Cause I have different interests. I've been talking about doing this for a while, not necessarily changing the whole thing around, but there are certain types of visual artists, different types of performers, and different types of performers and writers too that aren't in my world. I get out a little bit, but I'd like to get out a little more.

[Marc gets pulled away to run lines for his next scene.]

This is the trickiest part about this. When you shoot one episode every three days and you're in every scene, it's crazy. You're out of your mind all the time because there's no downtime so you just go from one scene to another, and by the end of the day, it's like my brain is… I can't even explain it. Like, I don't do drugs anymore, and it's pretty rewarding to work 13 hours and then at the end of the day to crash and do it again.

The new season of Maron airs on IFC Thursdays at 10, starting tonight.

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