Marc Maron on Comedy Podcasts, the Time Magazine 100 List, and Partisan Political Radio
The comedian turned podcaster has a rep for digging deep with the guests on his podcast. New episodes are uploaded to his site twice per week, and no matter the guest -- notorious joke thief Carlos Mencia, author/musician/L.A. Weekly columnist Henry Rollins, Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips -- the results are insightful, odd, funny, and often incredibly revealing.
Hearing his voice on the other end of the line was strange. It felt a little like I was a guest on his show -- but as expected, he was candid and open about everything we discussed, from the recent Onion A.V. Club article that suggested there simply were too many comedy podcasts to his thoughts on political discourse to his exclusion from the Time Magazine: 100 Most Influential People in 2012 list (like Governor Jan Brewer, he was included in the short list but didn't make the final cut).
Your podcast is really doing well right now. I read something not long ago that kind of speculated that at this point, there are just too many comedy podcasts.
Yeah, well, I have a problem with that speculation. You might as well source it if you're going to talk about it: It was from an article written by Scott Heisler at the Onion A.V. Club [see: Are We Nearing Comedy Podcast Overload]. The thing is . . . right now, you know how many people listen to podcasts. My belief is that when the Onion A.V. Club -- which has a very specific audience and is a very insulated opinion machine -- says things like that, all it does is reveal their elitism. To say that there are too many comedy podcasts when the medium is just taking off is incredibly condescending.
Really, the medium is brand new; we don't even know where it's going to go. Most people don't even know how to get a podcast, and most people don't even know what they are. So to start saying things like, "Uh, I don't know, I'm starting to get a little tired of this," [it's like you're saying] things like that in your house. So my feelings are, go outside. To say there are too many based on the 10 comics you listen to is crazy. There's thousands of podcasts out there. There's got to be some really interesting stuff out there. There's got to be a guy in his basement doing something that's interesting. I just don't know where the lack of fascination plays into this. Instead of saying "I'm getting tired of this" at the beginning of the medium, at the beginning of an explosion, something that is very exciting, why don't you put some energy into going and digging up a weird one? That whole premise is based on ten comedians.
Why not embrace something for longer than two weeks? Go out and find new cool shit. Or at least say, instead of saying there are too many, say "I hope this medium encourages people to go out and do interesting things." I'm just at this juncture in my life were I'm having a hard time with the hunger for content versus the ability to respect and get excited about achievement and offer criticism. In order for them to keep getting clicks -- this goes for anybody, you just churn through stuff -- I just think that's detrimental. Am I being weird or what?
No, that makes sense.
I'm not trying to pick a bone. I don't want a war with the A.V. Club. They've been very supportive of me, and I like and appreciate them. It's been a long time since there's been a new medium that's had as much freedom and possibility as podcasts. I mean, video is video. You've got YouTube. And then there's blogging, but for somebody to take a mic and dump shit out into the word for people to get in a very intimate way and have that thing get blown wide open, it's fucking exciting. A lot of people are trying to figure it out. Why at the peak of something is someone going, "Eh, there's too many"?
That's interesting -- comedy podcasts aren't a style or genre, but a medium.
I don't even know that what I'm doing is a comedy podcast. The question raised, which isn't really so much about podcasts -- the crux of the piece, really -- is that he was basically complaining that he was getting too familiar comedians he liked. And that they overexpose themselves in different formats. Like, if he hears something talked about in a podcast, and sees me working on a bit based on that topic, then sees it again, it's like, ruined for him. The bottom line is, outside of Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, there's a lot of people in the world who never see me live. They're not going to hold me responsible [for that]. They're not going to come to a show and say, "Eh, I kinda heard him talk about that." But I mean it, I like them a lot. I'm not trying to pick a fight.