Marc Maron On ‘WTF,’ St. Louis And The Magic Of A Good Conversation
LA-based comedian and podcaster Marc Maron is back on tour, and this week he’s headed to St. Louis — appearing Thursday through Saturday at the Helium Comedy Club in Richmond Heights.
As Maron refines his latest stand-up material, the Midwest stop is part of his current focus on “doing certain clubs in certain markets where I don’t have a huge draw,” he said Wednesday on St. Louis on the Air.
“Missouri in general, I don’t think, is a Marc Maron state. … There are people in St. Louis where, when I do the type of shows I do, and people know where I’m coming from intellectually and politically, you do get the sense that [for] most of the people there, it’s almost like a safe space,” the comic said with a laugh.
He noted that his style of show has never been about taking the audience on an escape from reality.
“It’s more like, ‘Let’s go headfirst into the reality [of contemporary life] and see if we can put it into a perspective that we can handle,’” he said. “So I’m not everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s definitely an engaging hour or so that I’m working on right now.”
Maron has been keeping plenty busy during the COVID-19 pandemic, even before this return to the road. For 12 years now, he’s hosted deep-diving conversations with fascinating humans, mostly from the comfort of his LA garage, and that work continued without major pause the past year and a half.
Twice a week, as Maron drops new episodes of “WTF,” the comic’s show still feels fresh — and still reaches millions of listeners each month.
Maron released his 1,261st episode earlier this week, the number itself a striking reminder of the show’s persistence over the course of that time. And even as film sets and stand-up touring shut down early last year during the pandemic, the podcast carried on. Maron kept talking with actors and other celebrities — Yo-Yo Ma, Hunter Biden and Nicole Kidman, to name a few — and those public figures kept opening up to him in remarkable fashion.
“I don’t know how a conversation is going to go, ever,” he told host Sarah Fenske. “Because I don’t really set out to have control over that. So when the interaction becomes real, it becomes very apparent, and it’s exciting.”
Given his many years working in the entertainment industry, Maron’s guests on “WTF” are sometimes people he’s worked with before or has friendships with. Even in those cases, he said, the conversations are often full of new information and reflection.
“Usually a friendship is based on some sort of consistency and trust, but that doesn’t mean you know somebody,” he explained. “So really, it doesn’t matter who it is or how well I think I know them — it always really is sort of surprising.”
Maron discussed the loss of several of the podcast’s past guests, including comedian Norm Macdonald, who died Tuesday.
“I think that conversation and also the one with Robin [Williams] are totally unique in terms of who those guys were. I had never really talked to either of them at length, ever, and I didn’t really know Norm that well,” Maron said. “But I made the space available, and I was excited to talk to him. And the same with Robin.”
Maron said he isn’t sure what it is about himself that often makes his guests “kind of emotional and connected.”
“I am sensitive to who we are as comedians, [and] my sort of love and understanding of people who do this job, this craft, is deep,” Maron said. “And I have a certain amount of space in my heart to understand what brings us to this point, to be this profession, to be these kind of people.”
He also touched on his February 2021 conversation with the late actor Michael K. Williams, known for portraying Omar in “The Wire.”
“Him and I had the common language of sobriety to have a conversation about [addiction]. And in retrospect, in light of how he died, it becomes a very poignant and sad but exciting conversation,” Maron said. “I mean, he was very candid about having relapsed before, having struggled with sobriety, but also very much living in the day and understanding that that’s all he really had.
“And I think to lose somebody like that, who was that alive and that aware of the sickness of addiction, it’s powerful on a couple of different levels. I think it’s helpful as much as it is sad in retrospect.”
As to his own journey at present, Maron called it “a little exhausting to have a brain like mine.”
“But I seem to have a handle on it, “ he said. “I do get overly caffeinated. I drink so much coffee that I need a nap. … But I’m relatively safe. I try to stay away from the ice cream. There’s a place there in St. Louis — they send me ice cream sometimes. And it drives me nuts, because I love it, but I can’t have eight pints of ice cream in my house.”
Indeed, Maron received a gigantic shipment of ice cream from St. Louis-based Clementine’s Creamery last year.
“I give them to my neighbors sometimes,” he said of the pints. “Or I’ve been spending time with this woman, Kit, and you know, I’ll give it to her. … I ate enough of it to know that it was good. And then a lot of times I’ll just yell up — I’ve got a neighbor, Kelly, and she lives upstairs and if her window’s open, I’ll be like, ‘Kelly, you want some ice cream?’ and she’ll come down and I’ll unload some pints on her. It’s very good ice cream, but I cannot have that much in the house.
“Part of the compulsive problem or the addiction problem with me is that, look, if it’s out of sight, out of mind, I’m good, but if it’s in the freezer, it’s gonna talk to me.”
What: Marc Maron
When: 8 p.m. Thursday; and 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Helium Comedy Club (1151 St Louis Galleria St., Richmond Heights, MO 63117)
Proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a recent negative test is required for entry.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.