Q&A: Marc Maron on podcasting, standup and thoughtful critics

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WW: You've talked about how you handle e-mails and feedback on the show before, since you're the host, the producer and the everything else, is that a necessary thing to do?

MM: Yes. I don't like putting it that way, like "Oh my god, here they come again," because I really enjoy it. I'm very grateful. It has taken me a long time to appreciate people liking me -- I'm a little nuts, so I try to be as gracious and attentive as possible. I get a little exhausted emotionally and I can't answer as many emails as I used to because more of them come and it makes me feel bad. But I try to show up for the fans because they definitely show up for me. But they've got to stop giving me so many cakes.

WW: You have received a lot of amazing gifts over the years -- do you have some favorites?

MM: Some guy made me a "What the Fuck" ceramic mug and it was so great -- I just loved it -- he knew what he was doing, used some of the art from the podcast -- it was a guy in Portland and it was filled with some homemade pickles and stuff. I liked it so much that I had him make me like twenty of them to give out to guests sometimes.

I had some pies that were brought to me in Connecticut that we just fucking amazing. I like original art -- I've recieved paintings of myself -- I got one made out of beads. I definitely respect the compulsion to do that. A woman sent me a sculpture of a little monster inspired by my heart-hands bit and that was very great.

WW: Is that normal?

MM: No, I don't know if it's normal. I know people get some things. But I think there are a couple reasons. I tend to operate in a fairly low-level cry for help and I think some people want to help me, but I don't really feel like that's the tone I'm taking. I honestly think its just an appreciation -- like you said, if I inspire creativity, then people want to be creative and share it with me. I get a lot of knitted goods -- I got a great hat that I like. A lot of this stuff is made by people with a lot of heart and I guess I inspire that in them -- it's a beautiful thing. I think it's also because a lot of people can't afford to donate to the podcast and this is a way of giving back.

I'm perfectly willing to barter like that. I swear to you man, I was in the Mall of America. This dying dinosaur of a -- what would you call it? Have you ever been to the Mall of America?

WW: Yeah, it's terrifying.

MM: So, yeah -- so after the show, I'm outside the venue, in the Mall of America doing barter for my CDs and people are giving me knitted goods. I thought, "this is beautiful, I'm bartering in the Mall of America."

WW: And the show just got picked up by PRI, right?

MM: Yeah, there's a story behind that. Myself, Jesse Thorn and Nick White edited a ten-part series to be made available for public radio. These are episodes that are edited from the original a bit, or paired up with other shows. Public radio stations can go and pick it up if they're interested.

WW: Are you trying to figure out how to make money on the show, or just sustain it?

MM: Well, you know, it's a full-time job. If you want me to be honest with you -- yes. All of us podcasters -- we're kind of tight, we kind talk to each other -- I think everybody is trying to figure it out. We want to keep it free so everybody can get it, but we still want to make a little money off of it.

WW: I think that's the nature of most Internet based businesses at this point.

MM: Yeah, we're trying to figure it out. We started doing selective advertising, we have apps, donors, we're figuring out a lot of different ways to do it. Like, today's episode was sponsored by IFC for a film they have opening next week. We're starting to find people that want to be part of the show. The IFC was great and they sent me to a sneak-peak of the movie and I actually liked it so I could do a real plug for the movie -- not a pretend one.

WW: Have you ever thought about expanding beyond comedians as far as guests are concerned then?

MM: Yeah I imagine that will happen. I definitely want to. One of the reasons why we've been able to make this work is because we don't have a real staff so it's all my own outreach and if I don't know how to get at somebody I can't do anything. It's amazing how difficult it is to get to some people because their managers or their agents or their publicists just don't see podcasts as a viable outlet. There's so many people that are just stuck in old-timey, media-outlet minds that they just don't realize that I have hundreds of thousands of people downloading it. Sometimes I don't think they even put it in front of their people, so I have to find a way to get to people that's more personal.

It's probably important to note that people who know my show know what kind of conversation they're going to get into and some people don't want to have that conversation.

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Thorin Klosowski
Contact: Thorin Klosowski